alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

ONS is a critical voice in the advocacy arena, helping to steward bills that are important to the future of oncology nursing practice and successful patient-centered care. On October 28, 2019, two ONS priority bills—the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act ([PCHETA], H.R. 647) and the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 728)—passed the U.S. House of Representatives with unanimous bipartisan support.

Both bills have been at the center of ONS’s advocacy efforts to support the oncology nursing profession as it continues to tackle the challenges associated with treating and care for patients with cancer.

Passing PCHETA in the House

Introduced on January 17, 2019, the PCHETA bill became part of the House’s 116th congressional session. ONS worked with coalition partners to secure enough cosponsors for the legislation to move forward. As part of ONS’s 2019 Capitol Hill Days, oncology nurses from throughout the country met with their elected representatives to further education and support for PCHETA.

Authored by Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), and Buddy Carter (R-GA), this legislation would create programs to train the next generation of hospice and palliative care providers, educate patients about the benefits of hospice and palliative care, and expand research in these fields. PCHETA passed with 296 bipartisan cosponsors and endorsements from 54 national organizations, including ONS.

Elements of the bill include: 

  • Workforce training to ensure education centers, curricula, and teachers expand interdisciplinary training in palliative and hospice care and establish programs to attract and retain providers
  • Education and awareness efforts, creating a national campaign to inform patients, families, and healthcare professionals regarding the benefits of palliative care and services available to support patients with serious illnesses
  • Enhanced focus on research to direct the National Institutes of Health to use existing authorities and funding to expand palliative care research to advance clinical practice and improve care delivery for patients with serious illnesses

ONS’s work will continue in the Senate to secure bipartisan support to continue the legislative process.

Title VIII Nursing Workforce Funding

With overwhelming bipartisan support, House members recognized the important role of nursing in health care and pledged their support to further workforce funding by passing H.R. 728.

“As the proud husband of a nurse, I know full-well that nurses are the backbone of our nation’s healthcare system. Any challenge facing nurses hurts the well-being of the American people. Unfortunately, we are on the verge of a nursing shortage that will leave far too many without the care they need,” Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH), lead sponsor of the bill, said in a release. “I applaud the House for passing this important legislation and urge the Senate to act quickly so we can get it signed into law as soon as possible.”

The Title VIII Act will promote programs in nursing education, help prepare the next generation of nurses, and further support communities across the country. Lead sponsors of H.R. 728, along with Joyce, were Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), David McKinley (R-WV), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL), who is a nurse herself. Their extraordinary leadership and acknowledgment of nursing practice is a commitment to better quality health care in the United States.

Elements of the Title VIII Workforce bill include: 

  • Grants to career ladder programs to promote advancement for nursing personnel in a variety of settings, as well as cross training or specialty training among diverse population groups, and the advancement of individuals to become nurses
  • Reauthorization of funding at the Health Resources and Services Administration for nursing workforce, education, and training programs, specifically, $77,585,000 for advanced education nursing grants; $18,037,000 for nursing workforce diversity programs; $43,590,000 for nurse education, practice, and quality grants; $90,620,000 for Nurse Corps loan repayment and scholarship programs; and $29,640,000 for the nurse faculty loan repayment program
  • Recognizing the role of clinical nurse specialists and making technical changes to existing nurse workforce programs to recognize diversity in the nursing profession and nurses practicing in a variety of settings

Working together with representatives from the Senate, ONS will focus its efforts on bipartisan support and additional cosponsors for the bill.

Advocate for Change

For both PCHETA and the Title VIII Workforce Act, it’s critical that oncology nurses recognize their power to effect change and lend their voices to ONS’s ongoing advocacy efforts. By working together with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, nurses can provide invaluable guidance and education to see these bills become federal law.

Learn more about how to join your voice to cause at ONS’s Center for Advocacy and Health Policy.