Author Archives: Susan Hassmiller

Advancing the Role of Nurses: A Summit to Remember

Mar 12, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller


After about a year of planning, we held the Campaign for Action National Summit in Washington D.C. in late February and early March. We brought together more than 200 leaders from state Action Coalitions—nurses, other health leaders, consumers, educators, business leaders and others who are working at the state level to advance nursing and improve health care. These Action Coalition leaders are experts and activists who came to Washington to share innovative ideas for transforming health care and improving health, and to plan for the future. 

The mission of the Campaign for Action and its Action Coalitions, which are in every state and the District of Columbia, is to advance recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Those recommendations cover a range of issues, including academic progression, nurse leadership, scope of practice, workforce data collection, diversity, and much more. Our goal, in all this work, is to ensure that nurses can contribute as equal partners in a reformed health care system in order to improve patient care.

We planned the Summit as a nontraditional conference that used a U.N.-style approach. It was designed to allow participants—who are from nursing, medicine, business, health systems, philanthropy, and academia—to learn from each other.

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A Personal Reason to Applaud an Important Advance for Academic Progression in Nursing

Sep 20, 2012, 10:00 AM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller


Those of us who are working to implement recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, got great news this week when leaders from national organizations representing community college presidents, boards, and program administrators joined with representatives from nursing education associations to endorse a Joint Statement on Academic Progression for Nursing Students and Graduates.  This was a historic moment that will mean greater support for efforts to help nurses advance their education.

Acknowledging the shared goal of preparing a well-educated, diverse nursing workforce, the consensus statement says that nursing students and practicing nurses should be supported in their efforts to pursue higher levels of education. Its endorsing organizations are the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association of Community Colleges Trustees (ACCT), the National League for Nursing (NLN), and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (N-OADN).

In addition, Donna Meyer, MSN, RN, the president of N-OADN, an affiliated council of AACC, published a powerful commentary in Community College Times. In it, Meyer voiced support for allowing every associate degree nurse access to additional nursing education and urged employers and others to develop innovative strategies to help associate degree nurses get higher degrees.

All this had special meaning for me, because I started my career at a community college.  It was a terrific experience for me, and I am very proud of that degree. I felt confident and prepared to complete all the tasks required of me when I entered the workforce.

But I quickly realized there was more I wanted – and needed – to know to provide high-quality care for my patients. So I went back to school, and soon felt the increased competence, and confidence, at every turn.

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How the Affordable Care Act Would Have Helped My Father

Jul 12, 2012, 3:00 PM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

This is part of a series in which Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, grantees and alumni offer perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Affordable Care Act.  Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Adviser for Nursing and Director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. This post also appears on Off the Charts, the blog of the American Journal of Nursing.


When I heard that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, I immediately thought of my father.  He suffered mightily at the end of his life. Plagued with multiple chronic illnesses, he spent his last year in and out of hospitals.  He received good hospital care, but his health deteriorated every time he left. He simply couldn’t keep track of a growing list of prescriptions, tests and doctor visits.  My father accidentally skipped antibiotics, which led to infections, which landed him back in the hospital. He accidentally skipped blood tests, which landed him back in the hospital. It seemed that every time he came home, he’d land back in the hospital. I lived thousands of miles away and couldn’t be the advocate that he needed.

What he needed was transitional care – he needed a nurse to meet with him during a hospitalization to devise a plan for managing chronic illnesses and then follow him into his home setting. He needed a nurse to identify reasons for his instability, design a care plan that addressed them and coordinate various care providers and services. He needed a nurse to check up on him at home.  Transitional care would have eased his suffering and enabled him to live better.

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My Own Story: Encouraging a Diverse, Well-Educated Nursing Workforce

May 6, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

Happy National Nurses Week! Today is National Nurses Day, and the beginning of a week during which we celebrate the contributions of this profession. The week fittingly ends with Florence Nightingale's birthday on Saturday, May 12. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has a proud history of supporting nurses and nurse leadership, so this week, the RWJF Human Capital Blog will feature posts by nurses, including leaders from some of the Foundation’s nursing programs. Check back each day to see what they have to say. This post is by Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF Senior Adviser for Nursing and Director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.


Earlier this month I had the privilege of traveling to Montana to help some of the state’s health care leaders launch the Montana Cooperative to Advance Health Through Nursing. This new state-based Action Coalition is working to advance recommendations from the Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

While I was there, I met with Native American nursing students and their mentors at Montana State University. They are part of the extraordinarily impressive “Caring for Our Own: A Reservation/University Partnership,” known as the CO-OP program. These students come from desperately underserved areas and, after they graduate, they will go back to their reservations to provide culturally-sensitive, urgently needed care.

At the Action Coalition gala, the recipient of the student award told her story, moving many of us to tears. When she was 17, she tried to commit suicide. It was a nurse who saved her life, and convinced her there were things to live for and gifts she had yet to share. She told the audience that the nurse had been her role model through hard times. It had taken her many years and she had overcome many more hardships, she explained, but she will soon graduate and give back in the same way that her role model had given to her.

She and her peers are the kind of strong, dedicated, caring professionals that nursing needs, our health system needs, and patients need. I came home invigorated and encouraged by all the Montanans I had met, and the promise of progress in this state.

Today is National Nurses Day, which begins the celebration of National Nurses Week. We are a diverse profession, serving patients in more ways, more roles and more settings than Florence Nightingale—whose birthday, May 12, concludes National Nurses Week—could have ever imagined.

I am proud to be a nurse, proud of my colleagues working to help patients all over the country, and proud that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has a long history of supporting nurses in many roles, from research to practice to leadership and more.

RWJF recently announced the launch of the Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) initiative, which will help state Action Coalitions in their work to advance the recommendation in the Future of Nursing report that 80 percent of the nursing workforce be prepared at the baccalaureate level by 2020.

I am an associate’s degree nurse. I started my nursing education at a community college, and at that time, I’m not sure I could even have imagined getting to where I am today.

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"I Vow to do What I Can to Foster Collaboration on the Part of Health Care Workers"

Dec 23, 2011, 6:30 PM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

As we head into 2012, the Human Capital Blog asked Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff, program directors, scholars and grantees to share their New Year’s resolutions for our health care system, and what they think should be the priorities for action in the New Year. This post is by Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF senior adviser for nursing.


I am humbled by the vast number of people who have come to work on this Campaign because they believe that doing so will make a difference and will indeed improve patient care in this country. And, in continuing to watch their work and supplement their needs, I am struck by the continued fragmentation of our system and vow to do what I can to foster collaboration on the part of health care providers. It really will make a difference for patients when there is true collaboration and teamwork.

Like the IOM report, I do believe that all providers must be able to practice to the top of their education and training and believe it makes the most sense in an era where cost and access issues are paramount. The level of care provided should be dictated by our needs as consumers. If there is a sound cost/benefit quotient based on evidence, that is what we should adhere to. Sometimes it is a family caregiver or a community health worker who will do the trick; sometimes a pharmacist; sometimes a nurse practitioner; and in the case of my mother who has had her life extended for which I am eternally grateful…it was a heart surgeon.

In this new year, this is what I am grateful for!

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

The Imperative to Change the Perception of Nurses

Sep 26, 2011, 1:34 PM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

By Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN
RWJF Senior Adviser for Nursing and Director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action


Last summer, I took one of the most rewarding trips of my life: a European tour of key sites in the life of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing and one of the great leaders in improving health and health care worldwide.

So why is it that now, more than a century after Nightingale’s death, nurses are underrepresented in the rooms where we make decisions about how to improve the health care system? Very few of us hold executive-level positions in health care organizations, very few are voting members of health care boards of directors, and very few sit on the editorial boards of health care journals.

We can—and must—change this reality, and our nation’s opinion leaders agree. A 2009 survey conducted by Gallup on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that an overwhelming majority of opinion leaders—including insurance, corporate, health services, government and industry thought leaders as well as university faculty—want nurses to have more influence in our health care system. The survey captured the feelings of more than 1,500 opinion leaders and was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Nursing Administration.

While opinion leaders said nurses don’t have enough influence over health reform, they did say that nurses have a great deal of influence over key elements of a quality health care system, such as reducing medical errors, improving safety, and improving the quality of patient care.

We nurses also have valuable insights to share. Nurses spend more time providing direct care to patients than other providers, work closely with caregivers and family members, and see patients in their broader social environments. As such, we have a unique understanding of the complex interplay of environment and health, and we have perspectives on health from a variety of settings: the hospital, the clinic, the community and the home.

In addition, nurses are highly valued by the public; nursing is consistently ranked among the most ethical and honest professions by the nation’s adults.

So how do we ensure that nurses’ voices are heard in the rooms where key decisions are made? One key way is to change the perception of nurses. Our Gallup survey found that nurses are not perceived as important decision-makers or revenue generators. When asked how much influence certain groups will have over health reform in the next five-to-10 years, opinion leaders ranked nurses seventh out of seven choices. Dead last.

In short, opinion leaders see us in our traditional—but limited role—as bedside clinicians, but not in more expansive and influential roles as health care leaders.

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National Nurses Week: Continuing the Legacy of Florence Nightingale

May 12, 2011, 11:21 AM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

By Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.

Director of the Initiative on the Future of Nursing and RWJF Senior Adviser for Nursing


Last summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream in journeying to London and Turkey to follow in Florence Nightingale’s footsteps. I wanted to learn how her groundbreaking efforts to create modern nursing and make systematic changes in sanitation laws, military hospital design, the field of statistics, and of course, nursing, impacted nursing today.

What I discovered is that Florence’s work is relevant to all of us, particularly as our generation works to remake our health care system to ensure that all Americans receive integrated, equitable and cost-effective services through the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. This multi-year initiative seeks to advance comprehensive change for patients and the country by fully utilizing the expertise and experience of all nurses.

Among other things, this Campaign is working to improve nursing education and training, promote nursing leadership, enable all nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training and improve data collection – all areas that Florence impacted in her day.

As we celebrate Florence Nightingale’s birthday May 12 and National Nurses Week, let’s continue her legacy.

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