National Nurses Day is celebrated annually on May 6 to raise awareness of the important role nurses play in society. It marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, which ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Nursing is now the nation's largest health profession, nurses have been rated as the most trusted professionals by Gallup for 11 consecutive years, and nurses are recognized as leaders in the health care industry who provide safe, affordable, efficient,and quality care. Nurses are first, and foremost, advocates for their patients, and The ultimate goal of all nursing is to achieve better quality healthcare for all.
Because they work so closely with patients, Colorado's nurses know as well as anyone that the current health care system is not working for all Coloradans. Nurses see the costs of our current dysfunctional system as experienced by the patients they care for:
- treatment deferred or coverage denied by insurance companies until it is too late
- costly insurance premiums and the cost of prescription drugs so expensive that they consume a family's entire budget
- Coloradans forced to use the emergency room for simple, non-urgent conditions because they cannot afford to see a health care provider.
The current situation is not acceptable. Although Colorado will see some improvements with the implementation of the ACA, health policy experts estimate that 400,000 Coloradans will continue to lack access to care. It is unlikely that the improvements with implementation of ACA will achieve nursing's ultimate goal. However, Health Care for All Colorado has a strategy to achieve that goal and Colorado's nurses have an opportunity to become involved in making it happen.
At the end of her life, Florence Nightingale said, "May we hope that when we are all dead and gone, leaders will arise who have been personally experienced in the hard, practical work, the difficulties and the joys of organizing nursing reform, and who will lead far beyond anything that we have done."
For decades, our national and state nurses associations and their members have been leaders in advocating for reforms that would guarantee access to high quality health care for all. In Colorado, in 2007, we co-sponsored, with Health Care for All Colorado, and submitted a proposal to the 208 Commission that was one of the five plans selected for analysis. Based on the analysis, this plan, the Colorado Health Services Plan, was the only method found to insure access to quality health care for all residents of Colorado, while saving the state and all its residents an estimated $1.4 billion per year.
I am calling on you, the nurses of Colorado who have done the hard, practical work, and witnessed the difficulties your patients are experiencing to join in the effort toward change. Please consider signing on to support "Health Care is a Human Right" and public good ballot initiative (initiative #12).
Judith Burke, RN