Using AACN’s Bold Voice to Help the U.S. GAO Understand Nurses’ Experiences

Oct 19, 2020

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As our nurses know first-hand, the COVID-19 pandemic created an ongoing widespread public health and economic crisis. Because of this, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provided more than $2 trillion in emergency assistance and health care responses for individuals, families and businesses affected by COVID-19.

The CARES Act required the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to monitor and evaluate the impact of this aid on public health, the economy, public and private institutions. As part of this responsibility, the GAO reached out to healthcare associations, and AACN volunteered participate in a September 25 virtual interview.

AACN continually advocates for our nurses and seeks every opportunity to make our voices heard at federal government levels. During this hour-and-a-half interview, AACN President Elizabeth Bridges, Chief Clinical Officer Connie Barden, and Strategic Advocacy Team members Sarah Delgado and Melissa Jones responded to interview questions. The AACN team focused on the following points during the interview:

  • The best available evidence must drive all healthcare decisions. Decision-making must be based in evidence. If there is no evidence, a consistent rationale for action must be developed by scientific experts. Dispassionate discourse about scientific evidence is needed. Appropriate scientific discourse is essential and not being able to have these discussions openly and collegially is a challenge. Our AACN Position Statement, “Science Must Drive Clinical Practice and Public Health Policy,” explains this in more detail.
  • Healthcare providers must be safe. The government must prioritize healthcare workforce safety. Every action possible must be taken to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Personal protective equipment use should be based on evidence, not on supply. Contingency measures should be temporary and are not acceptable as normal practice. Nurses must have appropriate PPE to safely care for patients.
  • Nurses are on the frontlines and must be heard. We know how to care for patients who are critically ill due to COVID-19, yet nurses are not represented at the national level. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce and those most proximal to patients 24/7, nurses must be at decision-making tables.
  • All people must have equal access to healthcare. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing systemic racial, ethnic, geographic and economic disparities. As nurses we recognize that these disparities should be a catalyst for change at all levels of healthcare and public health efforts.
  • We are concerned about the erosion of trust in federal authorities and agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration. The duration and intensity of this pandemic can be highly impacted by the level of trust health care professionals and the public place with federal authorities. National leaders must be visible, public role models that reinforce trust in expert guidance.