In this new world of COVID-19 many of us are in situations we could have never imagined. We are stuck at home, ordering groceries and takeout online, classes and work have gone remote, and many of us have been itching to get outside. What about all the healthcare workers that are on the frontlines of this pandemic? They do not have the choice, and cannot stay inside their homes, work online, and get pizza delivery without a care. They are the ones in the hospitals and healthcare facilities working eight, 12, 14 hours or more in shifts caring for those who have COVID-19 or other serious illnesses. So, what is being done to help protect them?
Janet Monagle Ph.D., RN, CNE, Director of Endicott’s Ph.D. Nursing program and Susan Finn MSN, RN, nursing faculty member, actively participate and lend their expertise in the development of healthcare legislation being passed in Massachusetts by being a part of the American Nurses Association, Massachusetts chapter (ANAMASS). Monagle stresses the importance of belonging to an organization like ANAMASS, saying “We want to show our students how important it is to belong to these organizations that give us a voice. I really think we need to be involved in ANA Massachusetts as faculty, as nurses, and as students to voice our concerns and share our expertise and experience in the field.”
At the end of March, Monagle and Finn were at an instrumental ANAMASS meeting that helped pass emergency legislation to protect fellow nurses and other healthcare workers. The recent bill, signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on the night of April 17, offers important liability protections for nurses and other healthcare professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to doctors and nurses, the bill also protects EMTs and facilities like the field hospitals that were setup to meet the needs of the COVID-19 surge.
Monagle and Finn stressed that ANAMASS is working with the state government on many different bills to help improve the healthcare system and the way we treat our nurses. “COVID-19 has helped bring to light other bills we have been trying to pass, such as the Nurse Practice Expansion. Current practice is a nurse practitioner (NP) must have a supervising physician to practice in the state of Massachusetts. It can be very hard to find a new primary care provider (PCP) in urban areas and in rural areas, and if NPs could practice and be entrusted with the care of the patient where they need to, they would refer to a physician if need be. Also, we have lost some NPs to other states because it is their desire to provide care for their community directly and not through a PCP, and they currently cannot do it in this state,” says Finn.
To that very point, Governor Baker recently signed an executive order to relax statutory requirements to bolster the health care workforce as Massachusetts combats the spread of COVID-19. The bill authorizes "independent practice authority" for NPs, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialists that are board certified and have completed at least two years of supervised practice.
“With our involvement in ANAMASS we have the opportunity to make a difference for others, especially during this period with COVID-19. We can prove many of the reasons we need to make changes to pieces of legislation and better protect our nurses and healthcare professionals. It also is so important for us to show our students that we are actively engaged with our professional organization, working to change things for patients and in the community,” says Monagle.