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Cipriano Named U. Distinguished Alum


Nurses have been in the room for every major transition in American healthcare--and President Donald Trump's efforts to "repeal and replace" Obamacare should be no different, according to American Nurses Association President Pam Cipriano.

Nurses provide a critical voice for patients during times of upheaval in healthcare, Cipriano told a crowd of University of Utah Health providers, faculty and students. 

"We need people to recognize that nurses are not only critically important to healthcare today, we are great decisionmakers," Cipriano said. "We are influencing not only health care policy, but policy where we live, work, play and learn. Nurses should be tapped for their expertise."

The national nursing leader was in Utah to receive the University of Utah's Distinguished Alumni Award at the end of Founders Week in a ceremony March 3. Cipriano, who received her Ph.D. in 1992, is the first nurse to be recognized by the university's Alumni Board.

In a speech that spanned the national nursing shortage, poverty, aging and an explanation of high-risk insurance pools, she provided a master class in health care policy.

"This is how we talk to our students about healthcare," said Assistant Professor Brenda Luther. "We want them to be able to think about these complex issues in this depth."

Starting with the suffrage movement, Cipriano said, nurses have been advocating for their patients--through then-President Lyndon Johnson's creation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs to President Obama's push for healthcare reform. And nurses are involved now.

"We want people to have access to health insurance because we want them to be able to get care," Cipriano said. "We know when people don't get care, they usually get sicker, their health declines and they become a problem not only for themselves, but for the healthcare system."

Cipriano noted the ANA's efforts to advocate for nurses practicing at the top of their licenses--working on a Virginia rule excluding nurst anesthetists from full practice authority, the Federal Trade Commission's requirement for supervision of some nurses, and glitches in the federal government's Medicare reimbursements for care provided by registered nurses. At the same time, Cipriano said, patient "consumer" voices are "absolutely critical" to the process of healthcare transformation. "That's the American way."

While the ANA gets pushback from some who believe it is too political or too liberal, Cipriano says she believes nurses must be engaged--especially now. "When you're advocating for patients, sometimes you have to be very bold with your words. We have a responsibility to protect those who can't protect themselves--to ensure that children get good care and people are able to have a dignified death," she said.

"We need to take the high road to make certain our words are heard."

University of Utah faculty members said Cipriano struck all the right chords for healthcare providers and nursing students trying to figure out what will happen in the wake of Trump's election to the White House and current upheaval in Washington, D.C.

Watch the video here: