Jul 29 2011
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Leapfrog to Report on Nursing Excellence; Ratings Linked to Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action

Susan C. Reinhard, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., is a senior vice president and directs the AARP Public Policy Institute. She also serves as chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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As a nurse, health policy expert and as a consumer advocate, I have experienced the many ways that nurses improve patient safety and provide high quality care. One significant way is by ensuring that they are able to put into practice – and continue to build on – the qualities that make them stellar leaders at the bedside and beyond. That is why I was delighted this week when the Leapfrog Group announced that they will include measures of nursing excellence – as exemplified through Magnet status – in their annual hospital survey on quality and patient care.

Leah Binder, Leapfrog’s CEO, shared this announcement at a recent meeting convened by the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA) – an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) – which was very fitting: Leapfrog’s inclusion of nursing excellence in its survey is part of its commitment to the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a collaboration between RWJF and AARP. The campaign aims to implement the recommendations in “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” issued in 2010 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The Campaign is bringing together leaders from all sectors – health care, education, consumer groups, philanthropy and business – to ensure that the report’s vision is met: that all Americans have access to high-quality, patient-centered care in a health care system where nurses contribute as essential partners in achieving success. Leapfrog’s tremendous commitment represents a valuable business perspective on the importance of strong nursing leaders, with the ever-present ultimate goal of improved patient safety.

At the meeting this week, Leah told us that acknowledging hospitals for Magnet status is a big step, because it signifies a hospital’s commitment to nursing excellence as a direct path to better patient care. The designation is very difficult to attain; there are only 386 Magnet hospitals in the U.S. and five in other countries.

Leapfrog doesn’t acknowledge hospitals for any other sort of designation. “Magnet status tells us this is a hospital that takes nursing very seriously,” Leah said. “It stands for practice, performance and outcomes in nursing, and that’s a standard we can stand by.” This prompted much discussion at the meeting, where health care, business, and consumer leaders gathered to plan for action – to determine ways they can together implement the IOM recommendations related to nurse leadership. The IOM recommends preparing and enabling nurses to lead change to advance health.

As the country’s largest segment of the health care workforce – 3 million strong and counting – nurses are uniquely positioned to help shape improved operations and practices, in hospitals and everywhere people need care. Fortunately, nurses are already sharing their expertise and talents with each other and all providers on the health care spectrum, which is critical, but they need to exert their extraordinary clout not just at the bedside and clinic but also in the boardroom and on Capitol Hill, the true centers of influence. They need to provide more input in management, in policy development and other key areas of management.

Meeting participants identified new leadership opportunities for nurses at the state and federal levels, shared ideas on how to integrate nurses more seamlessly into organizational leadership roles, and exchanged ideas on how to integrate leadership strategies through the Campaign’s Action Coalitions around the country. These groups, which number 15 already, are part of a fast growing effort to initiate local- and state-level implementation measures from the IOM report. They are building on the broad experience of nurses to take a long hard look at what’s working in our system and how to expand on it.

I for one am delighted to see all the excitement, the momentum and the commitment to implementation, and how groups like Leapfrog are putting the report recommendations into play in real, meaningful ways that are already transforming the health care system for the better. I urge you to join me and the many supporters who are actively committed to making these changes and preventing illness and promoting health.

Tags: Center to Champion Nursing in America, Evaluation, Human Capital, Nurses, Nursing, Quality of care, Voices from the Field