Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows

An RWJF National Program

Field of Work: Increasing the number of nurses in leadership roles in the health care system

Problem Synopsis: RNs, numbering approximately 2.7 million, are the nation's largest group of health care professionals and the clinical backbone of the health care delivery system, and their range of opportunity is continuing to increase. However, labor experts believed that nurses needed a new set of tools if they were to exert leadership in the emerging and turbulent world of managed care.

Synopsis of the Work: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows is a leadership development program designed to prepare a select cadre of registered nurses (RNs) who are in senior executive positions for influential roles in shaping the U.S. health care system of the future. RWJF established the national program in 1997. Since 2010, the program has been managed by the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. Before that it was managed by the Center for the Health Professions at the University of California, San Francisco.

Key Results

  • The national program office has reported that from 1998 through 2008, 11 classes of fellows—totaling 205 nurses-have entered the program and it is expected that approximately 202 fellows will have graduated by 2011.


  • In 2005, the Lewin Group conducted an evaluation of the program that concluded that the program "occupies a unique niche, providing rich opportunities to translate enhanced leadership skills into heightened effectiveness across service, education and public health sectors. It also increasingly serves as a model and catalyst in seeding new leadership development programs."

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