The Alabama State Nurses Association and The American Nurses Association have been with you, our nurses, every step of the way during the COVID-19 crisis. Nurses put their patients first and ASNA/ANA put our nurses first! As someone rightly said, “If our providers are not healthy (protected) then who is going to keep patients healthy? The following are examples of how ASNA/ANA has worked to help nurses stay safe and save lives:
In January, ASNA Executive Director, John Ziegler attended a two-day national leadership conference with other state nursing association CEO’s in Atlanta. Although COVID-19 was not yet a pandemic, the intra-net network launched by ANA has served as an essential communication tool between states as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed. Currently, there is a substantial amount of data and information flowing between governments, providers, nurse leaders and elected officials. ASNA set up a special Coronavirus response page on our website and pushed updated alerts via our email and social media to tens of thousands of Alabama nurses. Most recently, ASNA’s FB page had over 45,000 views related to our C-19 needs assessment survey. More than 1,600 nurses completed the survey. The responses are being tabulated and will be published to help policy makers hear directly from nurses the experiential efficiencies and inefficiencies of the COVID-19 response.
To view the ASNA Survey Data, click here.
In collaboration with the Alabama Board of Nursing’s request to the Governor, ASNA wrote a letter of support to Governor Ivey requesting the suspension of restrictions on advanced practice nurses during the COVID-19 crisis. Within 24 hours, ASNA received a response from the Governor’s Office to its letter of support. With strong leadership from the ABN, the request was granted via Executive Order of the Governor. A senior student nurse called the ASNA office and expressed trepidation over her school’s suspension of direct care clinical opportunities, without the possibility of using simulators to complete their training! ASNA leaders contacted the school and found that the administration was in the process of making simulators available. The ABN had eased clinical hours by 50% to help seniors as well. The student and her classmates were relieved, to say the least! (This is but one example of how ASNA members and staff have helped many individuals during the crisis)
ASNA responded to numerous media request in March and April. Nurses have been appropriately described as heroes and warriors in the battle against COVID-19. At ASNA’s request, Lamar Advertising placed billboards on I65 downtown Birmingham and on I565 in Huntsville. One FB post with a picture of the B’ham billboard received over 50,000 views and hundreds of comments. The Lamar CEO received an email from the CNO of a large employer of nurses, thanking him for displaying the message “NURSES SAVE LIVES!”
Collaborative COVID-19 Federal Initiatives: Alabama State Nurses Association and American Nurses Association
ANA Call to Action: for Congress to increase personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution for nurses and other frontline health care providers, which generated 330,983 messages to Congress from 107,868 nurse advocates. Congress included billions of dollars in the CARES Act toward additional PPE (see Legislative section below for more details) that will prove critical in protecting nurses on the frontlines of this pandemic. Your voices were truly heard! ANA Chief Nursing Officer, Debbie Hatmaker and other nursing leaders met with the President to advocate for supply chain issues that put nurses in danger and inhibit them from delivering appropriate care to COVID-19 patients.
- The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is adopting a new process to manage federal ventilator resources to ensure ventilators are shipped to the states in the amount needed to manage the immediate COVID-19 crisis. In the case of ventilators, immediate is defined as requirements necessary to sustain life within a 72-hour window.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the creation of the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP), to speed the development of safe and effective COVID-19 treatments.
- The administration has directed hospitals to begin daily reporting of COVID-19 information to CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including testing data from in-house labs, bed capacity, and supply levels. This information, which will not include personal identifying information, will be used to support federal response efforts and help direct resources according to data.
- CMS issued a blanket waiver to allow hospitals to provide benefits and support to their medical staffs, such as multiple daily meals, laundry service for personal clothing, or child care services while the physicians and other staff are at the hospital and engaging in activities that benefit the hospital and its patients.
- CMS is waiving the requirements that a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is under the supervision of a physician. This will allow CRNAs to practice to the fullest extent allowed by the state, and free up physicians from the supervisory requirement and expand the capacity of both CRNAs and physicians.
- ANA CEO Loressa Cole and CNO Debbie Hatmaker had an opportunity to virtually share nurses concerns with Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. Among the topics discussed on the call was the need to ensure guidelines for whistleblower protections if a nurse needs to speak out. As a result of the call, OSHA included a box on its whistleblowers.gov landing page that highlights that whistleblower protections apply to the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank Secretary Scalia for the expediency in addressing this issue.
- ANA Acting Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, Debbie Hatmaker, sent a letter to President Trump asking the Administration to ensure that personal protective equipment is available for nurses and other frontline healthcare providers and the Strategic National Stockpile is maintained with medical supplies. The letter also urges the Administration to put employee protections in place for nurses facing retaliation from employers during COVID-19 and to explore policy options around hazard pay.
ANA has urged the Congress and Administration to
- Prioritize testing and treatment of nurses, and other frontline health care providers, who become exposed to COVID-19, so those individuals can quarantine or can go back to work as soon as possible. Some nurses who are exposed are being sent home for 14-days without ever being tested!
- Pass the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act of 2020, legislation that would require the federal government to immediately ramp up manufacturing of medical supplies and create a coordinated procurement and distribution process to states and health care facilities.
- Instruct all manufacturers of respirators providing equal or higher protection as N95s, such as N99 or N100 filtering facepieces, reusable elastomeric respirators with appropriate filters or cartridges, or powered air purifying respirators, to sell their supply to health care facilities at fair market value.
- Provide incentives for employers to consider hazard pay for frontline health workers.
- Prevent nurses and other frontline providers from being forced to use their paid time off when they are furloughed from being exposed to COVID-19.
- Retrofit or repurpose closed or currently running manufacturing plants and put individuals back to work by manufacturing more PPE in the United States.
- Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop reporting requirements to better track shortages of PPE.
- Rebuild the public health infrastructure that was decimated after the 2008 financial crisis through budget cuts.
In other collaborative efforts, ANA and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) met with the Department of Health and Human Services, Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, in early April to discuss the needs of nurses as the government continues to respond to the pandemic. ANA and AANP both stressed the need for more PPE as well as the need to provide nurses in non-COVID-19 facilities who are being displaced, losing hours or employment. ANA further discussed the issue of retaliation against nurses who speak out about the conditions at their facilities.
To read the ASNA COVID-19 Response to AL Legislators, click here.