GGHSON Faculty to Represent Texas Nurses

GGHSON_4Faculty from the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing are making the voice of nurses heard in the state and the nation. Recently, three GGHSON faculty were elected to influential nursing associations in the state of Texas: the Texas Nurse Practitioners and the Texas Nurses Association.

Assistant Professor Christy Blanco, D.N.P., R.N., has begun serving her second term on the Texas Nurse Practitioners Board of Directors. Assistant Professor Clarissa Silva, Ph.D., R.N., and Instructor Rhonda Newsome, M.S.N., R.N., will join the Texas Nurses Association District 1 as incoming president and president-elect, respectively. District 1 encompasses El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, Presidio and Brewster counties.

While the Texas Nurse Practitioners specifically promotes the role of nurse practitioners in health care, the goal of both organizations is the same: to advocate for nurses as key players in the delivery of quality, affordable health care.

As representatives of their organizations, Silva, Newsome and Blanco will push forward important issues faced by nurses in Texas, such as granting full practice and prescribing authority for some nurses, and protecting all nurses from workplace violence.

Advocating full practice authority for APRNs

One public policy change that both organizations have pursued for years is the granting of full practice and prescribing authority for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in Texas. APRNs include nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

Currently, Texas law requires APRNs to enter into a contract with a supervising physician before they can practice to the full extent of their education and training. Both organizations believe eliminating this requirement will help improve Texans’ access to health care by making it easier for APRNs to open and operate practices, particularly in rural and underserved communities like El Paso, where there is a great need for health care professionals.

“There are 23 states where nurse practitioners have full practice authority,” Blanco said. “New Mexico has full practice authority, and currently there are four or five advanced practice nurses who have chosen to build their practice in New Mexico because they’re allowed to have full practice authority in New Mexico. So, El Paso is probably more disadvantaged because New Mexico attracts a lot of nurse practitioners.”

A bipartisan-supported bill granting full practice and prescribing authority died in committee during the Texas Legislature’s 2017 regular session. Silva and Newsome said the issue will be picked up again in the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 8, 2019. They will have time to energize their District 1 membership, currently at more than 300 registered nurses from across West Texas.

Preventing and reporting workplace violence

Safe workplaces for nurses is another major policy focus.

“If you work in an area like the emergency room or in a mental health facility, sometimes nurses take the brunt of anger from patients or their families, and it’s important that we have policies in place to ensure everyone’s safety,” Newsome said.

The Texas Nurses Association is pushing for legislation to create a statewide system to report injuries to staff in all mental health facilities. The organization believes that data collected by such a system will help Texas’ legislators and others understand the extent of workplace violence against nurses.

“We need better systems and better policies for preventing and reporting workplace violence against nurses,” Newsome said.

Often, nurses may accept that dealing with belligerent patients in a stressful setting is “just part of the job.”

“Many of us may not even report (workplace violence),” Newsome said. “And that needs to change.”

Growing representation

Another shared goal of the two organizations is to increase nurses’ involvement in policymaking. “The Texas Nurses Association is the organization that goes to the (Texas) capitol to bring nursing issues to the attention of our state senators and representatives,” Silva said. The more nurses get involved, the harder that voice is to ignore.

A major priority for Blanco will be incorporating more universities into Texas Nurse Practitioners so that faculty members can understand the legislative process and students can be more involved with policy and legislation. She said Texas Nurse Practitioners understands the health-care challenges in places like El Paso.

“What I love about Texas Nurse Practitioners is they understand patients’ needs, and they understand that Texas is not just Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. There are a lot of rural areas. And in El Paso, we’re far out here. We have a unique community that is really different from a lot of the rest of the state, and Texas Nurse Practitioners really considers that. They want to consider the unique needs of all areas. That’s why I’m really proud to serve on this board, to represent the El Paso area and the region.”

To learn more about the Texas Nurses Association, visit www.texasnurses.org.

To learn more about Texas Nurse Practitioners, visit www.texasnp.org.