Top officials charged with overseeing implementation of federal health care reform were among nursing leaders who spoke at the Evidence-Based Practice Conference held at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON).
Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, delivered a distinguished lecture on April 1 at the eighth annual conference, "Nursing Practice Based on Evidence: The Emerging Impact of Health Care Reform."
Frances Phillips, MHSA, BSN, RN, who is deputy secretary for public health services, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, reviewed widening roles for nursing as Maryland implements health care reform and urged nurses to become active as advocates. She participated in a panel, "Health Care Reform, New Directions in Community and Public Health."
Wakefield was welcomed by University of Maryland President Jay A. Perman, MD, who addressed the need for greater cooperation in health care delivery and education. The various disciplines should recognize their differences but "take advantage of these differences rather than letting them drive us apart," he said.
"We have the responsibility because we teach the next generation of health care providers," Perman said.
Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of UMSON, introduced the HRSA administrator, noting that Wakefield's presentation would give those in attendance a vision of where the nation's health care is proceeding. Allan, left, is shown in the photograph with Wakefield and Perman.
"The Affordable Care Act is very much about fostering a culture of wellness," Wakefield said, stating that the biggest responsibility given HRSA was to increase access to primary care.
Wakefield explained that under the U.S. Affordable Care Act, HRSA is responsible for leading 50 provisions and co-leading 16 others, assuming the process is not modified before the 2014 target date for implementation.
Wakefield told an audience of conference participants from around the nation that the act attempts to put into operation what nursing students learn in school. "That is," Wakefield said, "that investing in keeping people healthy makes a lot more sense than simply investing in caring for them after they become ill."
Recalling her days as an intensive care nurse, she said that all too often she was caring for people who could have been spared the economic, emotional, and physical toll of their illnesses and injuries had there been better prevention or a greater focus on community health.
Wakefield cited plans to expand initiatives such as community health centers, which employ 4,000 advanced practice nurses across the country. She also outlined educational programs to prepare more nurses who would deliver evidence-based primary care.
Speaking extensively on the role of interprofessional care, Wakefield said her agency is deeply involved in moving that agenda forward as "an underpinning" of the concept of care coordination.
"It implies cooperation and team building across health care disciplines and roles," she said. The federal government is interested in a broader research agenda on the topic, exploring "how best to train and teach interprofessional care and how best to deploy it in the health care system."
Among other top officials who appeared at the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System, was Cathy Rick, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, FACHE, chief nursing officer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She delivered the keynote address, "Leading Change for a Healthy Nation," on March 31.
Wakefield's presentation, the Commander Lura Jane Emery Distinguished Lecture, was made possible by the Commander Lura Jane Emery Seminar Series for Nursing Practice Endowment Fund.