The U.S. is facing a severe nursing shortage, projected to reach 340,000 nurses by 2020. Simultaneously, there is a faculty shortage at nursing educational institutions and a dearth of public funding for nursing education. The authors suggest that collaborations between private sector hospitals, foundations and government have potential to alleviate these problems.
Hospitals, in particular, must achieve solutions quickly, as without nurses they cannot be adequately staffed. Thus, hospitals are beginning to provide scholarships in nursing education programs, generally with some provision of the recipient working in the hospital post-graduation. Several successful nationwide collaborative approaches involving hospitals and foundations are detailed here, including:
- RWJF's Transforming Care at the Bedside initiative, to strengthen workplace safety and patient-centered care by redesigning medical/surgical units. Fourteen nursing schools were selected to participate and many hospitals.
- RWJF's $10 million investment in Partners Investing in Nursing's Future will fund local foundations to invest in nursing challenges in their communities.
Individual states have also made great strides in tackling nursing challenges and a state-by-state list of collaborative efforts is detailed in the report. The authors suggest that because state and regional variation in nursing shortages is enormous, national-level leadership, policy guidance and funding will continue to be inadequate. Therefore, local and regional efforts must continue to be the bulwark in fighting these critical and complex issues. "The task at hand is to identify and demonstrate a new array of incentives (both private and public) that will stimulate broad scale development and application of these regional partnerships," the authors conclude. Cash grants, loans to institutions, educational scholarships, Medicaid matching funds and line-item appropriations are all tools that can serve this end. In addition, strategies to integrate and transform nursing education, create nurse "workforce markets," conduct research on nursing care quality, and strengthen state government accountability and innovation are a must if the challenges of nursing shortages are to be successfully dealt with in the future.