Since 1996, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has been actively involved in the development of guidelines for telemedical practices. Professional nurses are omnipresent in the field of telehomecare in the United States, where distant, isolated, underserved rural areas are typical factors to be taken into account for the delivery of qualitative health care. The organization has declared multistate licensure for registered nurses as a key item to be dealt with in 1998. As a result, it is scheduled as one of the main topics at the ANA Biennal Convention, which takes place in San Diego at the end of June.
Nurses may be considered as telemedicine representatives by excellence. Therefore, the ANA has been insisting on careful legislation to cover delicate matters such as collective bargaining, nurse tracking in several settings, and data collection for workforce projections. All these subjects regarding multistate licensure policies have also been recommended to the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Both organizations have undertaken the task to design a licensure system at national level, comparable to the existing model used for driver's licenses. In this way, every state carries responsibility for the licensure of its registered nurses, including the exact determination of their scope of practice.
This NCSBN proposal, relating to conventional as well as telemedical care, was already discussed at the delegates' conference last January. The overall idea is to offer patients better access to nursing care. Next to this, the ANA is equally occupied at defining standards of clinical practice in telehealth. A wide range of official and (tele)medical institutions have been participating to an important ANA meeting in the spring of last year, to establish a number of multidisciplinary principles which will serve as guidelines. Currently, they are being revised. The final draft is planned to be presented for approval to the ANA board in the autumn of 1998.
Given the geographical conditions in a country like the USA, telemedicine forms an indispensable tool to optimise patient care but still, the ANA is convinced that telehealth should not replace direct, face-to-face medical practice just like that. On the contrary, it should be regarded as a way to make conventional care more effective and easy. As a result, technology is considerably changing the day-to-day nursing practice. Professional nurses in the field are in great need of specific guidelines in order to adequately use this technology. The ANA is fully aware of the impending reality and wants nothing more than to assist its members in an appropriate manner. You can find more news on the ongoing legislative work at the American Nurses Association's Web site and in the article of Kathy Kincade featuring in the Telemedicine and Telehealth Networks magazine.