FLOTUS for Obamacare

by Robert Costa

A snippet from the First Lady’s conference call today:

MS. BALL:  Kay Ball, and I’m Associate Professor of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.  And I want to say hello to the First Lady Obama and Dr. Wakefield.  And we’re on the campus right now, and I’m joined on this call with many of my nursing faculty colleagues.

So as you know, nursing is the number one trusted profession in the United States.  And because of this, we’ve been able to form a very strong bond of confidence with our patients and their families.  And we also know, as you said, that there are a lot of unhealthy lifestyles existing in America today and that many diseases and conditions today are preventable.  With all this in mind, how can nurses actively and collaboratively work with the White House to promote prevention and healthy lifestyles for all?  And how can we as nursing faculty help our nursing students carry this message into the future so it can be sustained?

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, Kay, thanks so much for your question.  Thank you and your colleagues for your work.  I think that it’s a wonderful question.  Let me just say that, first of all, you all are doing — already doing so much to partner and support this reform and the White House.  And I guess at first blush it’s just keep doing what you’re doing.  I mean, as you said, Americans rely on nurses for advice and for guidance, and I think the best thing we can do is make sure that people understand the prevention services that are out there; continue to educate people about the importance of disease prevention early on.

All of us have members in our family who are afraid of medical care.  They don’t go to the doctors, they don’t go to nurses.  Everybody here is nodding their heads in agreement.  We all have experienced that, and I think that sometimes a conversation with a physician feels a bit more intimidating.  But the folks in your profession can have the conversations and to just remind people that we can stop this train, many of these disease trains, from heading down the track.

And again, we’ve got to just let people know about these new health insurance reforms; that if people purchase plans now that they’ll receive the recommended preventative care with no out-of-pocket costs.  That’s really important for people to understand.  That’s one of the reasons why reform has tried to make these provisions easier to access.

And I would also just like to add that it’s important to remind patients that next year Medicare beneficiaries will get free preventative care as well under the act.  So that’s another benefit that’s going to come along next year.

So I think we’re asking you to spread the word, to use your — not just your professional channels, the channels that you have working with patients in a medical setting, but also your personal channels as well.  Nurses are regular folks who go to church and go to the grocery store, they have kids at school, they’re on boards.  Use those avenues as a way to continue to educate your communities about these reforms and to continue to push preventative care, because no longer will insurance be a barrier to this kind of care.

The stories that Jillian has told can be eliminated because of these reforms.  And I know that all of you who are working in labor rooms around the country know the importance, for example, of seeing mothers who have gotten good prenatal care.  Now they can do that, it’s easier, and we just need to — we need your help in spreading the word.

And another:

MRS. OBAMA:  Just one other thing, and I could have mentioned this in my answer — this is Mrs. Obama, Michelle Obama — but, you know, I would just encourage you all, particularly in these tough economic times, as we’re talking to young people and people, you know, who are looking for career changes — and this is something that I say to young people all the time — the health profession is the growing sector.  This is where the jobs are going to be.  And when I — I met a young girl through Make A Wish Foundation just last week, I think it was, who said she wanted to be a nurse, and I told her that that was an outstanding choice because she’d probably always work in this economy.

So I would urge you all to spread the word to young people and people who are looking for a career change, people who may be out of work and need to think about where the next sort of sector of jobs is going to be:  It is right here.  And again, with preventive service expansion, more nurses, more RNs, more certified nursing assistants are going to be needed to fill this void, which will be great.  And again, there are resources to get educated, to get your degree, to become a teacher.  This is where — this is the future of medicine in so many ways.

So we need you to help just spread that word to young people starting out, to people who are making the change, because we’re going to need nurses big time in the years to come.