Blue Ribbon Panel Advises RWJF Campaign to Transform Nursing

Sheila Burke, a nurse and former Capitol Hill power broker, heads up 12-member team guiding a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to improve health and health care.

    • February 24, 2011

A dozen of the nation’s top health leaders are coming together to guide a massive, multi-faceted campaign to transform the nursing profession to better meet the nation’s health care needs at a time of significant demographic and health system changes.

The blue-ribbon panel is headed by Sheila Burke, R.N., M.P.A., F.A.A.N., a nurse who served as chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and who previously was executive dean at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The panel also includes eleven other health care luminaries with expertise in public policy, social justice, business and science.

Together, the members comprise the strategic advisory committee of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an effort funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to implement recommendations of a groundbreaking report on the future of nursing that was released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) last year.

Called The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the report says that nurses’ roles, responsibilities and education should change significantly to meet the increased demand for care that will be created by health reform and to advance improvements in America’s increasingly complex health system.

The strategic advisory committee will guide implementation of the Foundation’s campaign to transform nursing.

“This is a broad-scale attempt to recognize the contribution that nurses can make and in some cases highlight barriers to their full participation in the health care system,” Burke said in an interview.

The team will advise stakeholders from the Foundation, AARP, the Center to Champion Nursing (CCNA) and other groups on how to craft effective messages, forge key partnerships, and use other tools to implement the report’s recommendations. It will also advise a coalition of more than 40 organizations—including Target, the National Rural Health Association and Aetna—established by CCNA in 2008.

In addition, it will help guide direction of groups of stakeholders known as Regional Action Coalitions (RACs) that are working in coordination with pilot programs across the country to initiate implementation measures that can be emulated in other states.

The committee is still in its formative stages, but members already know they will need to provide nuanced and complex advice to their partners, Burke said. “The solution will not be uniform. The campaign will really have to accommodate and adjust for issues in each state, each locality or each circumstance.”

Scope-of-Practice Changes Pose Challenge

One of the greatest challenges, she said, will be implementing recommendations that will enable nurses to practice to a greater extent of their training and ability.

“There’s a bias that nurses are not capable of being independent providers,” Burke said. “Nurses are not interested in replacing people, but they’re really interested in being full partners in the health care system.”

The committee held its first meeting last month in Washington, D.C. Members were briefed on the report and the current campaign by one of their own: Linda Burnes Bolton, Dr. P.H., R.N., F.A.A.N., vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Burnes Bolton served as vice chair of committee that drafted the IOM study on the future of nursing.

It will meet quarterly over an 18-month period and perhaps more frequently by phone. Topping the agenda is establishing committee goals and defining tools to measure outcomes, Burke said. Over the next year and a half, the team will provide feedback bout the feasibility of the report’s recommendations, time needed for implementation and the most effective social change tools.

One key benefit of the committee is its diversity of perspective, said John Rowe, M.D., former chair and CEO of Aetna, Inc. “I’m a physician, and I think it’s important and excellent that they have physician input on the committee,” Rowe said. “It’s not just all nurses about nurses.”

In addition to Burke, Burnes Bolton and Rowe, committee members are:

  • JudyAnn Bigby, M.D., the head of the Department of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts;
  • Christina Esperat, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., professor and associate dean for clinical services and community engagement at the School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center;
  • Charles N. Kahn, III, M.P.H., president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals;
  • Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges;
  • Alan Morgan, M.P.A., CEO of the National Rural Health Association;
  • Debra L. Ness, M.S.W., president of the National Partnership for Women & Families;
  • Bill Novelli, M.A., former CEO of AARP;
  • Antonia Villaruel, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., professor and associate dean for research and global affairs at the University of Michigan; and
  • Phyllis Wise, Ph.D., interim president of the University of Washington.