Helping the Uninsured – Can Nurses Make a Difference?
Hundreds of children are born uninsured every year.
Scrubs: What would you recommend other nurses do to help patients navigate the system?
Jane: Nurses often know which patients are facing problems accessing appropriate healthcare because patients will share these troubles with nurses. Often, these people end up in emergency departments because they don’t know where else to go, or they have neglected a health problem for so long that they’re truly in dire straits, in need of hospital care.
Nurses can help close some gaps by being aware of what services are already available in their locales but may be in need of personnel. Nurses can further help by approaching policy makers (in government locally and at a distance, and in hospital systems) about gaps in accessibility of health services, with ideas for new programs.
The well child clinic in which I do some of my clinical work came about because of the efforts of public health nurses.
Scrubs: What are the most rewarding moments of your work?
Jane: Two things are especially rewarding. One is seeing that children are protected against preventable illnesses, which leads to better quality of life. Many people have forgotten or never knew of the terrible toll that can follow infection with polio, measles, chickenpox, etc. The second very rewarding aspect is having time to teach parents about health and child development. The time is not much, but it may be just enough to enhance parenting skills and knowledge for people who don’t have a lot of other resources for this.
Jane Cerruti Dellert, PNP, is a professor at Seton Hall University’s College of Nursing in South Orange, N.J. She works with children for a few hours approximately once a month in a clinic for children without health insurance, which is supported by county taxes and run by the local public health nurses.
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