Legislation to benefit nurses and other clinicians will offer 'a lifeline to those who often put their patients before themselves,' NPPA president says.
New legislation passed by the Senate late last week may save lives among nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers overwhelmed by the relentless load of working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate, with clear bipartisan support, passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act last Thursday, which will earmark funding to provide mental health wellness to those frontline workers.
Among the bill’s provisions are:
- Establishing grants for training healthcare professionals on ways to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions
- Grant funding for employee education, peer support programming, and behavioral health treatment
- Creation of a national education and awareness campaign focused on encouraging healthcare workers to seek support and treatment.
"When you see statistics indicating nurses die by suicide at a considerably higher rate than non-nurses, you quickly realize the critical importance and timing of this legislation," says Jennifer Schmitz, MSN, EMT-P, CEN, CPEN, CNML, FNP-C, NE-BC, president of the Emergency Nurses Association, which supported the bill.
"Our country’s mental health crisis has only worsened during the pandemic, and emergency nurses can certainly attest to the stress, fatigue, and burnout they’ve experienced," Schmitz says. "Passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Act will deliver help to healthcare workers, ultimately saving lives and preserving their ability to provide the best care possible to patients."
The bill was named for Breen, a physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, who died by suicide on April 26, 2020 after working around the clock for weeks to treat COVID-19 patients.
She declined getting help for the stress and burnout she was experiencing because she feared seeking mental health help would end the only career she ever wanted and that she would be ostracized by her colleagues, according to the foundation established in her name.
"This historic pandemic has taken a heavy emotional toll on nurse practitioners (NPs) and other healthcare workers across our nation,” says April N. Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
"The importance of passing this bill can’t be overstated. By providing much-needed mental health services and support to NPs, registered nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers, we are offering a lifeline to those who often put their patients before themselves," Kapu says. "Taking care of healthcare providers’ mental health positively impacts their ability to serve others and will help prevent suicide among so many who are feeling extreme burnout."
The bill now goes to President Biden to be signed into law.
“Passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Act will deliver help to healthcare workers, ultimately saving lives and preserving their ability to provide the best care possible to patients.”
Jennifer Schmitz, MSN, EMT-P, CEN, CPEN, CNML, FNP-C, NE-BC, president, Emergency Nurses Association
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
New legislation will earmark funding to provide mental health wellness to frontline healthcare workers.
The bill was named for Lorna Breen, a physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, who died by suicide in April 2020.
It will provide a national awareness campaign to encourage healthcare workers to seek support and treatment.