Nurse practitioners (NPs) are key to improving the quality of care for their patients with cancer through advocacy—both in institutions across the country and in legislative offices on Capitol Hill. With the intent to remove barriers so NPs can help move the needle for healthcare policy, ONS’s Center for Advocacy and Health Policy held the summit, “Policy Barriers and Opportunities for NPs in Oncology,” on April 10, 2018, in Washington, DC.

The summit brought together more than 50 healthcare experts, nursing advocates, industry leaders, federal agencies, and patient groups alike. Sessions featured speakers from federal agencies as well as several Q&A panels discussing topics such as scope of practice, the positive contributions of NPs to public health, issues facing access to care for rural patient populations, and more.

“The policy summit findings reinforced the need to educate policymakers and the public on the important role of NPs and the value that they bring to our healthcare system and patients with cancer,” Michele McCorkle, MSN, RN, ONS chief strategy officer, said. 

Panelists described wide variations in state regulation of NP practices in the United States and the need to encourage more states to grant NPs full independent scope of practice privileges. This includes evaluating patients, diagnosing, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, managing treatments, and prescribing pain medications such as opioids. Panelists touted the Department of Veterans Affairs program to provide NPs with full scope of practice authority as a model for other states to adopt.

According to ONS President Susan Schneider, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, “This policy summit also served to encourage nurses to validate their skills with the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation specialty certification in oncology and ways to meet ONS competencies in cancer care.”

Working With Federal Agencies

Speakers from three federal agencies shared presentations with attendees. Jean Moody-Williams, RN, MPP, deputy director for the Centers for the Medicare and Medicaid Services, discussed the agency’s regulatory practices how it is streamlining systems to allow providers to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork. Cpt. Sophia Russell, director of the Division of Nursing and Public Health at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), spoke regarding the Title VIII nursing workforce programs and how the HRSA is focusing on nursing education. From the National Cancer Institute (NCI), ONS member Sandra Mitchell, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, research scientist, shared ways that NPs improve the reach and quality of cancer care for rural populations.

“The intensified focus by NCI, as well as other organizations, on disparities in cancer control outcomes in rural populations is timely. Both oncology NPs and primary care NPs have an important role to play in improving access, care quality, and outcomes for this underserved population,” Mitchell said. “NPs are particularly well suited to address some of the access barriers, including healthcare provider shortages with respect to both primary and specialty care. NPs have a focus on wellness and prevention, and they may be particularly effective in improving access to screening and in reducing cancer risk behaviors that are prevalent among rural residents, including tobacco use, obesity, and lower rates of human papillomavirus vaccination.”

Looking to the Future

ONS will host an advocacy day on May 16, 2018, just prior to ONS’s 43rd Annual Congress in Washington, DC. The event will include an advocacy training luncheon for 50 ONS members, along with visits to Senate offices. In the evening, a celebratory reception will be held on Capitol Hill with special ONS guests from nursing, cancer and patient advocacy communities, and more.

If you’re attending Congress, have participated in ONS Hill Days in the past, or are an ONS member with advocacy training, contact Dede Sweeney, ONS director of government affairs, at dsweeney@ons.org for more information about the advocacy day on May 16.

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