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 WASHINGTON, May 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Registered nurses (RNs) believe almost unanimously that their skills and education are not being fully used in the current U.S. health care system and they are convinced that if they were able to work to their potential that health care costs could be significantly reduced, according to a new survey of 2,000 nurses conducted by the American Nurses Association (ANA).
 Today, as National Nurses Week begins (May 6-12), ANA released findings from the survey that focused on nurses' role in primary health care.
 "The message from nurses is clear," said ANA President Virginia Trotter Betts, J.D., M.S.N., R.N. "They believe that their skills are largely untapped and they are frustrated because they see how artificial restraints on their practice hurt the consumer by making basic health care more difficult to access and by inflating costs.
 "In this year of health care reform, I ask the nation not only to recognize what nurses do today, but also to recognize how much more nurses can do -- how better use of nurses will help to solve the health care crisis and bring cost-effective, quality health care to all," she said.
 Ninety-seven percent of respondents believe that nurses are not being used to their fullest potential in the U.S. healthcare system. More than seven in 10 think nurses are not used enough in patient education and counseling and believe that nurses should be permitted to work in independent, autonomous practice.
 Nurses who responded to the survey believe almost unanimously (95 percent) that better use of their skills and abilities would reduce health care costs significantly.
 Survey respondents believe that opposition by both organized medicine and individual physicians presents the greatest obstacle to a larger role for nurses, with lack of insurance reimbursement for nurses' services as the second greatest obstacle. Opposition by organized medicine was ranked as one of the top three barriers by 74 percent of respondents.
 Nurses believe that most patients would accept nurses as their primary health care provider. This is consistent with findings from a 1990 public opinion poll by Peter Hart that found that 54 percent of Americans think that RNs are not being given responsibilities equal to their abilities. The Hart poll also found that nurses are the health care provider that the public respects most -- 70 percent ranked nurses highest versus 12 percent for physicians.
 Primary health care is basic, initial health care for general complaints, frequently given in an ambulatory setting such as an office or clinic, and usually representing a person's first contact with the health care system.
 Studies have shown that 60-80 percent of primary and preventive care, traditionally done by doctors, can be done by a nurse for less money -- as much as 40 percent less per visit. Currently, there is a pool of 400,000 registered nurses who are either delivering primary health care or could be educated to provide such care within 12-18 months. These nurses could supplement the 206,000 primary care physicians currently practicing in this country.
 Leaders of ANA have had a series of meetings with Hillary Rodham Clinton and other members of the President's Task Force on Health Care Reform to call for universal access to a restructured delivery system, driven by patients' needs, with a priority on primary health care and a larger role for nurses. On May 5, the President and First Lady hosted a Rose Garden reception for nursing leaders in honor of National Nurses Week.
 Seven in 10 of the nurses who responded to the survey say they are willing to obtain further education so that they might be able to provide primary care as independent, autonomous health care providers. Education for an advanced practice nurse, such as a nurse practitioner, costs about four-five times less than physician training and can be completed four years sooner than physician education.
 More than 3,500 nurses responded to the survey questionnaire that was included in the March issue of The American Nurse. Survey results are based on more than 2,100 returns selected at random from all responses. The survey was conducted for ANA by Adler Opinion Research, Chevy Chase, Md.
 The American Nurses Association is the only full-service professional organization representing the nation's 2.2 million Registered Nurses through its 53 constituent associations. ANA advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Congress and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.
 -0- 5/6/93
 /CONTACT: Joan Meehan, ext. 244, or Kathryn Scott, ext. 242,

202-554-4444, both of the American Nurses Association/

CO: American Nurses Association ST: District of Columbia IN: HEA SU:

IH-KD -- DC020 -- 5456 05/06/93 12:38 EDT
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Date:May 6, 1993

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