SILVER SPRING, MD—The American Nurses Association (ANA) applauds the unanimous passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (S. 610/H.R. 1667) by the United States Senate. This timely and critical legislation will help reduce and prevent mental and behavioral health conditions, suicide, and burnout among health care professionals, especially those who continue to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
“Nurse advocates sent over 6,300 emails to Congress in support of this bill. Nurses know that the damaging aftereffects of the pandemic will linger long after they have intubated their final COVID-19 patients and grieved the loss of colleagues and loved ones,” said ANA President Dr. Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN. “An investment in the mental health of our nursing workforce is an investment in the future of the American health care system. Simply put, without a healthy and whole nursing workforce, we will be unable to meet the ever-growing needs of our patients and deploy successful COVID-19 response efforts. The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a good first step in what will be a years-long process of caring for those who have long cared for us.”
This bipartisan legislation will direct $140 million in American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319) funds to train current and future health professionals on how to prevent suicide, burnout, and substance use disorders. Key provisions in the bill will establish a national evidence-based education and awareness initiative to encourage health care professionals to seek support and care for their mental health and substance use concerns. This initiative will also teach health care professionals how to identify and respond to the risk factors associated with suicide, mental health issues, and substance use disorders while reducing the stigma associated with seeking help for them. A reporting mandate also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide an update on the progress of this initiative to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives no later than 2 years after the bill is enacted.
A February survey by the American Nurses Foundation found an increase in mental anguish among all nurses, with nearly 40% of respondents reporting feelings of depression. More than 57% reported feeling anxious and irritable, over 60% were overwhelmed, and 72% felt exhausted. The bill itself is named for Dr. Lorna Breen, who supervised the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Upper Manhattan. In April of 2020, Dr. Breen tragically committed suicide after being consumed by feelings of helplessness and despair while treating COVID-19 patients, even contracting the disease herself.
ANA is committed to advocating for the needs of nurses and addressing the critical issue of nurse suicide. ANA’s Nurse Suicide and Prevention website offers resources, toolkits, and information to help implement best practices to mitigate the risk of nurse suicide. The American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation) has also developed the Well-being Initiative, a collection of resources designed help nurses build resilience and take necessary steps to manage the stress and overcome the trauma caused by COVID-19. Please visit and share these resources with a colleague or friend in need.
About the American Nurses Association (ANA)
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation's 4.2 million registered nurses. ANA advances the profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. For more information, visit www.nursingworld.org.