URGES CONFERENCE ACTION ON NURSING SHORTAGE
As organizations representing cancer patients, providers, and researchers committed to ensuring access to quality cancer care for all people with cancer, we are writing to urge that a final version of the "Nurse Reinvestment Act" be developed immediately to ensure this important legislation can be signed into law by the President this year. In addition, we ask that the final version of the measure include the Senate-passed provisions (S. 1864) which prove comprehensive and provide additional resources and programmatic solutions. The House-passed bill takes important steps forward in addressing the challenges posed by the nursing shortage and we commend both the House and the Senate for taking swift action in passing bills late last year. By taking decisive action now with enactment of comprehensive legislation that seeks to stem the tide of the nursing shortage, we can help ensure that the cancer patients of tomorrow have access to the quality care they need and deserve.
As you know, a nursing shortage, the likes of which we have never seen, is anticipated to peak in the next ten years. This nursing shortage will have a significant and adverse effect on our nation's ability to deliver much-needed care to Medicare beneficiaries, especially those with cancer. Despite significant breakthroughs in the treatment, early detection, and prevention of cancer, two-thirds of new cancer cases strike people over the age of 65 and the number of new cancer cases diagnosed among the elderly is projected to more than double by 2030 as the Baby Boom generation ages. The impact that cancer has on our nation, especially on the Medicare Program, cannot be underestimated or overlooked. More than 115,000 nursing positions will go unfilled by the year 2015 - a factor which further exacerbates the challenge of a growing number of cancer cases.
Cancer is a complex, multifaceted chronic disease, and people with cancer require specialty-nursing interventions at every step of the cancer experience. People with cancer are best served by nurses specialized in oncology care who are certified in that specialty. We are very concerned the nursing shortage will result in an insufficient number of nurses trained in oncology which in turn, will impede the provision of quality cancer care exactly at the time when more and more people unfortunately will need such specialized health care services. To that end, we are hopeful that many of the newly available grants and scholarships will be awarded to individuals seeking nursing careers in oncology. We especially are hopeful that this legislation will help attract, train, and retain research nurses who are pivotal to completion of clinical trials that lead to better treatments. Moreover, we encourage Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services to take specific steps to encourage individuals seeking a career in nursing to enter these essential nursing specialties.
We must take steps
now to assure that intelligent young people view nursing as a desirable
career, and have access to training for such a career. In particular,
we must ensure that nurses who choose to specialize in oncology have the
ability to do so. While both the House and Senate measures take important
steps in addressing the problem, the Senate bill includes the resources
and remedies necessary to ensure that we will have an adequate and well-trained
nursing workforce well into the 21st century. Specifically, the Senate
bill expands education and training for current nurses, establishes a
National Nurse Service Corps, creates career ladder programs, provides
grants for nursing training in long-term eldercare, and offers incentives
for students to seek masters or doctoral degrees at schools of nursing.
These programs will benefit all nurses, including those currently in -
and interested in entering - oncology and clinical research.
House Energy & Commerce Committee
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