UNA on legislative wins, losses and future advocacy

The Utah Nurses Association (UNA) works to support legislation that assures nurses have the right resources to work to their full extent and to protect the overall health of all Utahns. Liz Close, PhD, RN, executive director of UNA, recently spoke with State of Reform about her organization’s advocacy.

 

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Close highlighted the importance of the passage of HB 287, which amends the Nurse Practice Act to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medicine without consulting a doctor or experienced nurse, giving the nurse practitioner increased authority. 

According to Close, this also increases access for those in rural communities where experienced nurses might not practice.

“It will help with retention of nurses in Utah and it will also help with access to care for all Utahns.”

The association also supported the passed HB 34, which requires the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) to apply for a Medicaid waiver or state plan amendment to provide reimbursement for facilities providing medical respite care to homeless people. This gives homeless people a place to access care post-hospitalization. 

“That’s a big win because that affects a lot of people. It’s also a pilot program, so they will have metrics to see what the outcomes are and if it is helping people.

However, there were bills they supported that failed, like SB 128. This bill would have extended family planning coverage to low-income women at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.

Another supported bill that did not pass is HB 117, which would implement reporting requirements for vaccine data and information on vaccinated Utahns. Vaccine data would allow UDOH to track inequities in vaccine distribution.

“It [the bill’s failure] was kind of sad because it is really a public health issue.”

Close emphasized that the failure of bills like these doesn’t only impact nurses, but every Utahn:

“The losses correlate with loss to the overall health of Utahns.”

UNA is looking to bring back the 2020 SB 105 in the future, which requires surgical facilities to develop ways to expel surgical smoke from the operating room (OR). Hospital associations are opposed to it due to its ubiquitous nature, according to Close. It is hard to know how much smoke is harmful or acceptable in the OR.

“People don’t think it is necessarily a problem.”