Donna Shalala Lends Her Support to Nurse-Managed Health Centers

One of the most common complaints about universal health care is that it will turn doctors' offices into overcrowded, beaurecratic nightmares resembling the DMV. These snide dismissals might be a bit overdramatic, but they aren't totally out of touch as the number of primary care physicians continues to dwindle. But proponents of health-care reform, such as Univeristy of Miami President and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, are looking to nurse-managed health centers to ease potential clogs. 

The plan, already in practice at 250 locations in 40 states, allows nurse practitioners to form the first line of health-care services, treating patients for common maladies and providing primary care services without a doctor. 

"While increasing access to health insurance will help improve access to health care, our nation's health-care crisis cannot be solved by insurance alone," Shalala said in a statement. "Enhanced nurse practitioner involvement in primary care has the potential to dramatically increase access to health care, improve care for patients with chronic diseases, and improve the efficiency of the health-care system, all by maximizing the use of our existing health-care resources. One option -- Nurse-Managed Heath Centers -- needs additional federal funding. Just as important, nurses need a seat at the table when true reform is being debated." 

Shalala is scheduled to meet today with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and other health-care reform advocates in support of the American Academy of Nursing and its "Raise the Voice" campaign. 

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Kyle Munzenrieder