By Stephanie Smith
Nurses support Kentucky residents in many ways such as at the birth of a child, in the emergency room or when the end of life draws near. They also serve as business and industry leaders, in academia and myriad of other roles. In addition, these 88,000+ dedicated Kentucky professionals advocate for legislation that impacts their practice and those in their care. And, they do not have to do alone – the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) advocates for them on the local, state and federal level to ensure the best health outcomes for residents of the commonwealth.
Delanor Manson chief executive officer, KNA, reminded all nurses that their voice matters, “As COVID-19 continues to ravage our state and our nation, nurses are in a unique position to influence lawmakers to craft legislation that will have a positive impact on how we care for patients, families and each other now and in the future.”
Manson added, “Our Governmental Affairs Cabinet works all year in concert with our board of directors and Sheila Schuster, PhD, our lobbyist, to develop programs such as our recent Town Hall Meeting Series to educate legislators about our priorities and the role of Kentucky nurses.”
The Governmental Affairs Cabinet Chair Brittney Welch looks to future activities, “This year we will host educational programs for nurses to help them understand how legislation works, how they can best reach out to lawmakers and the value of their input.”
KNA’s legislative priorities include:
Removal of CAPA-CS Requirement for APRNs Who Meet Criteria: This legislation will ensure that nurse practitioners can practice to the full extent of their education and training to increase access to underserved populations throughout Kentucky.
Legislation: SB 78 sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams – In 2020, Rep. Russell Webber introduced this bill with 40+ bipartisan cosponsors; it passed the House Licensing & Occupations Committee late in the session; however, the session ran out of time for further action. The 2021 bill will have the same language as HB 286, but will start in the Senate.
School Nurse in Every School, All Day, Every Day: This initiative ensures access to health providers for public school children throughout the state. Studies suggest that schools with a school nurse have higher graduation rates and better overall outcomes.
Legislation: There will not be a separate bill in 2021; however, there is a request for funding ($3 million) in the FY 2022 budget to underwrite a pilot project to place 50 school nurses full-time in the neediest schools in Kentucky and to monitor their impact.
Increase Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE): Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are specifically trained to care for victims of sexual assault. Care by these nurses results in better patient outcomes and higher conviction rates. Kentucky has a huge deficit in the number of these specially trained nurses which results in delay of care.
Legislation: Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson introduced HJR 121 in the 2020 General Assembly and it passed the House H&FS Committee; however, time ran out for further action. Rep. Stevenson has pre-filed the House Joint Resolution for 2021 as BR 840.
Evacuation of Surgical Smoke: Surgical smoke contains hundreds of carcinogens that puts patients and medical providers at risk. The KNA advocates for the use of smoke evacuation systems in all Kentucky operating rooms to ensure the safety of those who save lives.
Legislation: SB 91 in 2020 GA was introduced by Sen. Julie Raque Adams and passed the Senate but ran out of time in the House before it could be heard. Sen. Adams has pre-filed the same bill for 2021 as BR 441.
The Kentucky Nurses Association, established in 1906, is the only full-service professional organization for the state’s entire nurse population. In addition to promoting the essential role of the registered nurse in healthcare delivery, the KNA serves as an advocate for quality patient care in all settings.
-Stephanie Smith, MA, BA is the Director of Communication & Membership at the Kentucky Nurses Association/Kentucky Nurses Foundation/Kentucky Nurses Action Coalition.