CMS, HHS Issue Emergency Regulation Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for Healthcare Workers
In an effort to protect patients and control the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have issued an interim final rule requiring all staff at certain Medicare- and Medicaid-certified healthcare facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Maryland Governor Announces Steps to Increase Nursing Workforce Statewide
Out-of-state RNs can now practice in Maryland and certain qualified nursing students are fast tracking graduation, according to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s (R-MD) September 2021 announcements. The Old Line State’s steps will help increase the workforce and curtail the nursing shortage.
FDA Amends EUAs With Booster Doses for COVID-19 Vaccines
On October 20, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines to allow for the use of a single booster dose for certain populations.
State Cancer Registries Studies Find Nearly All Patients With Cancer Recovered From COVID-19
Many patients are delaying their recommended cancer screenings because of fear of death from COVID-19 coronavirus infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, those fears may not align with real-world outcomes, the agency said, when it reported July 2021 study findings from Arkansas and North Carolina.
FDA Authorizes Booster Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Certain Populations
On September 22, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use as a single booster dose administered at least six months after completion of the primary series in individuals aged 65 and older, individuals aged 18–64 at high risk for severe COVID-19, and individuals aged 18–64 whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk for serious complications of COVID-19 or severe COVID-19.
Biden-Harris Administration Invests in Health Care for Rural Communities, Provides $19 Million for Telehealth Opportunities
Despite its now-widespread use, telehealth still poses barriers for many patients, such as limited access in rural areas and privacy concerns. In August 2021, the Biden-Harris administration announced the investment of billions of dollars to meet immediate COVID-19 needs and help improve hospital care to rural communities. The funding includes more than $19 million in telehealth to improve the initiative in rural and underserved communities.
Nurses Humanize and Normalize Digital Health as Technology Becomes Part of the Care Team
COVID-19 forced healthcare providers to pivot to digital health, but an estimated 70% of patients still deferred or canceled their care, including routine cancer screening. Technology is an essential tool in cancer care, according to Abigail Baldwin-Medsker, MSN, RN, OCN®, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who presented a session at the ONS BridgeTM virtual conference on September 16, 2021.
6.8 Million Individuals Enroll in CHIP Prior to Program’s 24th Anniversary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra celebrated the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s (CHIP’s) 24th anniversary on August 4, 2021, a program that “for more than two decades, has been a lifeline for millions of children and families across America,” with an incredible announcement: in 2020 and 2021, CHIP provided more than 6.8 million enrolled individuals with coverage during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Nursing Shortage Is a National Crisis, ANA Tells HHS
The nursing shortage has reached dire proportions and more needs to be done to ensure the United States has the nurses we need to care for the public, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Nurses Association (ANA) said in a September 2021 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency to declare the shortage a national crisis and to take action against it.
Bridge Educational Gaps by Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Virtual Programs
From elementary to college environments, virtual education is now commonplace, and, according to Jillian A. Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, program manager at the Association for Nursing Professional Development, careful planning and creativity can make remote experiences just as—or even more—effective as traditional, in-person learning.
As the World Perpetually Pivots, ONS Has What Members Need
One of the many lessons we’ve learned since early 2020 is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. When COVID-19 vaccination rates climbed and infection rates declined in spring 2021, we all confidently looked to September for a return to prepandemic activities. However, the Delta variant’s rapid transmission in July and resulting surge in infection rates paused our plans as the United States reevaluated the safety of a full return without restrictions.
CMS Final Rule Improves Health Equity, Access to Treatment, Hospital Readiness, and More
To achieve value-based, person-centered care, the U.S. healthcare system must promote sustainability and readiness to prepare for future public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) said. In August 2021, CMS announced that the Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System and Long Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System final rule will take effect on October 1, 2021, in support of that work.
FDA Grants Full Approval for First COVID-19 Vaccine
On August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 coronavirus infection in individuals aged 16 years and older. The vaccine is still under emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals aged 12–15 years and as a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.
Bipartisan Senate Legislation Could Boost U.S. Public Health Preparedness
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has shed light on the U.S. healthcare system’s wide range of issues, from accessibility to barriers and social determinants of health. The country must respond with strategies to address future public health emergencies, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee said in an April 2021 letter.
Telehealth Is a Rare Bipartisan Advocacy Priority
Nursing has long been associated with healing hands. Laying hands on patients’ bodies is personal and intimate, providing comfort, soothing reassurance, strength, and hope. It builds a sacred trust that engenders care. When that foundational element of nursing was removed to follow social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, nurses found a new avenue to connect with their patients—through the use of telehealth.
U.S. Surgeon General Issues Report on Dangers of Health Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In today’s digital age of news, the public often struggles to decipher real science from misleading or incorrect information—and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has only magnified the situation. Seeing a detrimental impact to the health of the nation, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, issued his first advisory report of the Biden administration on the topic of misinformation in public health.
We Don’t Have a Crystal Ball, but ONS Is Prepared for Nursing’s Future
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was a wake-up call for preparedness: it caught society unaware and highlighted gaps in virtually every modern-day system. With those lessons learned, when the United States started removing pandemic-related public health restrictions and we began a return to “normal,” experts from all corners of society started looking to what the future will bring.
ONS Response to Mandated COVID-19 Vaccinations for Nurses and All Healthcare Professionals
On July 26, 2021, the American Nurses Association (ANA) signed onto a statement released by a large group of healthcare systems and other associations in support of healthcare employers mandating nurses and all healthcare personnel be vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus. This is in response to increasing circulation of COVID-19 variants and lagging vaccination rates. Although ONS was not listed on the statement as a supporting organization because of a late request, ONS agrees that vaccinations are critical for healthcare providers, particularly those caring for immunocompromised patients.
HHS Launches Network of Leaders and Organizations to Encourage COVID-19 Vaccinations
As of July 2021, more than 159 million individuals in the United States have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus, totaling about 48.1% of the U.S. population. However, approximately 173 million others have not, or suggested they will not, receive the vaccination. President Biden’s goal of having 70% of Americans receive at least one vaccine dose and 160 million adults to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, 2021, fell short.
Senate HELP Committee Reviews Federal Agencies’ COVID-19 Response
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “committed to continuing to advance the science around COVID-19, moving more vaccines into more communities—especially those communities most at risk for COVID-19 infection—and working to improve health equity,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said during a March 2021 U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing. She joined Anthony Fauci, MD, David Kessler, MD, and Peter Marks, MD, PhD, in sharing witness testimonies about their agencies’ response to the pandemic and how to better prepare for future threats.
CMS Extends Enrollment Period Access for Marketplace Coverage
Those without healthcare coverage can now purchase annual policies through state exchanges until August 15, 2021, under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS’s) extended Special Enrollment Period (SEP), ensuring continued access to affordable coverage for Americans during a time of healthcare uncertainty.
As Usage Increases, U.S. Senators Reintroduce Telehealth Access Bill
In a bipartisan effort that recognizes patients' concerns about telehealth’s accessibility, the U.S. Senate promoted legislation to reduce barriers to care. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), along with 50 colleagues, introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021. The bill would “expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.”
National Library of Medicine Director Recognizes the Role of the Nurse During National Nursing Week
Nursing is a calling, but sometimes the profession takes nurses into careers that are an opportunity to serve others without direct patient care. In a recent blog post, Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD, director of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Library of Medicine looked back at the roles she’s held. Brennan considered herself a “mother-daughter-sister-aunt-friend, and an advocate for self-care management education and support for all people.” But on top of it all, she is a nurse.
OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard to Protect Healthcare Workers From COVID-19
“Frontline healthcare workers have a nearly 12-times higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 compared with individuals in the general community,” according to the results of a 2020 study. Although U.S. vaccination rates continue to increase and infection rates continue to decrease, national government entities such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are releasing new guidelines to help protect those who are putting themselves at risk for transmission so they can care for others.
Challenging Times Require Bold Policy Actions
On April 28, 2021, in his first congressional address to the U.S. Congress, President Joe Biden proposed another major piece of legislation to put the country back on a path to enhance public health and promote economic growth. It was the latest in a series of bills from the new administration that have implications for oncology nurses and patients with cancer.
When Grief Goes Beyond Burnout, Organizations Must Intervene
“The Grief Crisis Is Coming.” So warned the headline of a New York Times editorial in which the author described the toll of losses from the pandemic on the individual level. She said that for each person who dies from COVID-19, nine loved ones have been left behind to grieve, according to the COVID-19 Bereavement Multiplier introduced by a professor at Pennsylvania State University. That number is conservative and does not consider the healthcare team that cared for those patients.
U.S. Rep. Underwood Pushes for Increased Access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
In May 2021, U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood, RN (D-IL), introduced the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Access Act that, if passed, would require private health insurance plans to cover three primary care visits and three behavioral health or substance abuse disorder visits per year without cost sharing. Underwood’s goal was to promote legislation that would make health care more accessible and affordable.
The Future of Nursing Charts a Path to Achieve Health Equity
Society in 2021 has been challenged by an economic crisis and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Today, nurses must have an arsenal of tools and knowledge—and the ability to adapt in unpredictable circumstances—to assist patients seeking health care.
Multimethod Approach Supports Providers’ Mental Health During COVID-19
Providing variety of methods and approaches allows healthcare workers to choose the best options for them to mitigate and treat psychological distress from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, researchers said in a preliminary report published in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.
Survey Results Support Predicted Effects of Pandemic Screening Drop
Clinicians are already seeing an increase in late-stage cancer diagnoses that they attribute to the pandemic-driven pause in cancer screening and treatment adherence, according to the results of a survey from the American Society for Radiation Oncology.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Fast-Tracked Our Growth as Nurses
For the past 15 months, healthcare providers across the country risked their lives to care for those who needed us most. After spending more than a year at the forefront of a global health crisis, many of us, naturally, harbor feelings of stress and anxiety. Now that the world is returning to something resembling normal, we can pause, reflect, and observe how much we’ve all grown throughout this experience.
Vivek Murthy Confirmed as U.S. Surgeon General, Again
Known as the nation’s doctor, the U.S. surgeon general provides scientific information and oversees the U.S. Public Health Service’s Commissioned Corps: more than 6,000 professionals who promote health across the United States. Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, who served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, once again assumed his post as the nation’s doctor in March 2021 and said he will prioritize addressing the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and opioid epidemic during his second tenure. Murthy was appointed during his transition as the chair of the COVID-19 advisory board.
Share These Resources to Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates
President Joe Biden committed to getting at least 70% of U.S. adults their first dose of the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine and achieve 160 million fully vaccinated American adults by July 4, 2021. However, one in five Americans reported that they aren’t planning to get vaccinated. To dispel public fear and increase understanding, several U.S. health agencies provided multiple resources to educate patients and providers on vaccine distribution and efficacy.
ONS Collaborates With Four Organizations to Develop Grief Resources
To address complex trauma resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, ONS collaborated with four leading organizations to develop and offer free innovative and educational resources about grief for frontline providers. Joining ONS in the endeavor are the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation (HPNF), Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA), Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN), and Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). The project, Dealing With GRIEF: A Series of 5 Short, Powerful Videos, was made possible by a grant from the American Nurses Foundation.
What We Learned When Adjusting Protocols to Conduct Remote Oncology Research
When the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic pushed oncology research to a remote, virtual format, the sudden adjustment was, in many ways, more convenient and more effective, but it also posed several challenges. During a presentation on April 27, 2021, for the 46th Annual ONS Congress™, two nurse researchers shared the lessons they learned when they adjusted their research protocols.
As Oncology Research Pivots in Pandemic, Here’s How to Maintain Consent and Ethics
As health care has made countless adaptations to forge on during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, oncology nurse researchers haven’t escaped the effects. During a session on April 27, 2021, for the 46th Annual ONS Congress™, Kathleen Calzone, PhD, RN, AGN-BC, FAAN, and Donna Berry, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, outlined specific ways researchers have pivoted with virtual approaches to continue their important work.
The Key to Managing Moral Distress During a Pandemic? Resiliency
Oncology nursing has always been a challenging career with many stressors, but the moral distress brought on by a global pandemic has increased rates of depression, anxiety, and professional burnout among nurses, Patricia Jakel, RN, MSN, AOCN®, and Devin Ballentine, RN, BSN, both of UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, said during a session for the 46th Annual ONS Congress™ on April 22, 2021.
WHO Campaigns for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Equity
More than 800 million COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. However, 54% of those have been in high-income countries, which contain only 19% of the world’s population, whereas lower-middle income countries have only 33% of the vaccines for their 81% of the population. Those disparities have serious implications and limit equal access to health care, including vaccinations. The World Health Organization (WHO) is campaigning to address vaccine inequity on a global scale.
Nurse Appointed as Acting U.S. Surgeon General
Three nurses serve in the U.S. Congress, and the profession briefly added one more federal representation at the agency level as well. President Joe Biden appointed Rear Admiral Susan Orsega, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, a nurse practitioner, as acting surgeon general while Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBH, who served as former president Barack Obama’s surgeon general, was waiting for Senate confirmation. The position is often referred to as the “nation’s doctor,” although Orsega was the third nurse to hold the title before Murthy assumed his current post.
Surveys Show PPE Is Still in Short Supply
A perhaps unexpected phenomenon the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic created around the world was countless supply shortages. Most at worst were inconvenient (e.g., yeast shortages from pandemic breadmaking) or humorous (e.g., toilet paper memes), but one that oncology nurses experienced far too close to home was downright deadly: lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for handling hazardous drugs.
Biden-Harris Administration Invests $10 Billion to Address Disparities in Vaccine Confidence and Distribution
The Biden-Harris administration to strengthen public perception of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines and ensure all Americans, including communities of color, those in rural areas, low-income populations, and other underserved communities in the pandemic response, receive their vaccinations.
NCCN Dr. Steven Pergam Educates Patients With Cancer on COVID-19
Steven Pergam, MD, MPH, associate professor of the vaccine and infectious disease division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, and infection prevention director at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, co-led a National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) committee that issued recommendations on COVID-19 vaccination for patients with cancer. He received his first Moderna dose on December 29, 2020, and has been dispelling fear and spreading education about the vaccine.
How Public Health Can Stop the Pandemic (Hint: It’s COVID-19 Vaccination)
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The mortality rate is devasting, the economic impact is jarring, and no one can pinpoint any date for its end. But new vaccines offer a glimmer of hope—but only if the country can settle discussions about achieving adequate vaccination coverage and strategies to distribute and inoculate hundreds of millions of people.
ANA Launches Nurse-Specific COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign
Nurses are a trusted resource for patient education and offer clarity during a crisis, whether it’s a cancer diagnosis or global pandemic. However, in a survey from the American Nurses Association (ANA), 30% of nurses said they have not received a COVID-19 vaccine, and a quarter of that percentage was still undecided about getting vaccinated. The two main reported reasons were fear of short- and long-term side effects (66%) and lack of information about the vaccines (50%). ANA’s new campaign educates nurses about those concerns.
U.S. Reps Introduce Bill to Support Frontline Workers and Families
More nurses are diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus than healthcare providers in any other discipline. Despite that sober statistic, very few congressional committees’ COVID-19 legislation proposals support essential workers like nurses. U.S. Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced a bill to address those concerns.
U.S. Rep. Underwood, RN, Highlights Health Priorities in Open Letter to Biden
After a contentious election season, U.S. Representative Lauren A. Underwood, RN, (D-IL) returned to Capitol Hill as a new subcommittee chair and the same drive to push forward on healthcare issues, most recently with an open letter to President Joe Biden.
CDC Campaign Fights Declining Cancer Screening Rates
Nearly 1.9 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in 2021. However, overall cancer screenings dropped roughly 80% in 2020 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and statewide stay-at-home orders. To combat the decline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) new outreach campaign reminds patients and providers of the importance of cancer screening.
Nurses Help NIH Clinical Center Kick Off COVID-19 Vaccinations
Is anyone a better champion of the importance of vaccines to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic than a nurse? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) doesn’t think so. During a late-December videocast at the NIH Clinical Center, prominent healthcare leaders, including nurses, received the Moderna vaccine to demonstrate that it is safe and effective and to encourage others to get inoculated.
COVID-19 Immunity Lasts Multiple Months, NIH Study Shows
Healthcare providers are one of the most at-risk populations for contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, a 2020 study of healthcare workers found that acquired immunity from an initial COVID-19 infection offers protection against reinfection for at least six months or asymptomatic infection in the rare instances where someone subsequently tested positive within six months of acquiring immunity.