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It’s been almost three years since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published the groundbreaking rule granting veterans direct access to nurse practitioner (NP) care. At the time of the ruling, more than half a million veterans were routinely forced to wait more than 30 days to receive care from the VA system, causing those who risked their lives on the front lines to wait at the end of the line for quality care once they returned home.
The VA decision was an obvious and necessary shift. Nearly 6,000 NPs practice at the VA, and the passage of the VA rule enabled these NPs to practice to the fullest extent of their education and clinical training. As a result, veterans now have direct access to NP care in the largest integrated health system in the U.S., serving more than 9 million veterans each year at more 1,200 VA health care facilities.
NPs are proud to provide veterans with high-quality, accessible health care. In fact, NPs not only treat veterans, but 5.5% of NPs are veterans themselves. In 2018, just over 2% of NPs were also active duty military.
Eliminating unnecessary obstacles for veterans to receive NP care is an important step forward for veterans — and all patients. It demonstrates the value of expanding health care access and improving health care outcomes nationwide to policymakers and the public — through policy that can be implemented without additional cost or delay. Today, nearly half of all U.S. states have passed legislation granting NPs full practice authority, giving patients direct access to NP care. It’s time for the remaining 28 states to follow this example.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) continues to work with elected officials at the state and federal levels, as it did with the VA, to remove obstacles that limit patients' access to care. In 2019, 30,000 new NPs will join the provider workforce, enabling even better access for veterans and civilians alike. From all of us at AANP, we thank our nation’s veterans for choosing NPs to be their trusted partner in health, and we thank all veterans for their service and dedication to our country.
NP Week is held each year in November to celebrate NPs as exceptional health care providers and to remind policymakers of the importance of removing outdated barriers to practice so that NPs will be allowed to practice to the full extent of their experience and education. Together, we can expand access for all patients by granting America’s NPs full practice authority.
This week is the perfect time to join AANP in celebrating more than 50 years of the NP role! Get involved by: