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The Ripple Effect of Asthma Programming

Nov 1, 2013, 2:58 PM, Posted by Molly McKaughan

There was once a small boy. He was 5 years old, and he lived in a neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in an environment that was rife with potential triggers for asthma.

Back in 2006, we wrote about this boy in a report assessing the impact of one of our programs, Managing Pediatric Asthma.

JH, as we called him then, was enrolled in that program. And with good reason. He coughed and wheezed four days out of every seven, and had made four visits to the emergency department at Children’s National Medical Center in the previous year.

It’s been a long time since I’d thought about JH, but his compelling story came flooding back to me when I read a recent story in the Washington Post about an asthma clinic at this same hospital.  It teaches families of kids with asthma, kids like JH, how to manage the condition with medication, ultimately reducing the number of trips to the emergency room.

According to the Post article, “The clinic has had some success. ER visit rates for asthma have fallen by 40 percent, even as the prevalence of asthma continues to rise.”

Those hopeful results reminded me of JH and other kids just like him, and of RWJF’s important investment in pediatric asthma. The story demonstrates how one program can have such a ripple effect—making a big difference, not only in the life of one very small boy years ago, but in the lives of children with asthma living in Washington today.


Creative Arts Help Nurses Overcome Burnout

Jun 19, 2013, 12:00 PM

Nurses are at particularly high risk for burnout or “compassion fatigue,” which can leave them feeling overwhelmed and worn out. They “provide direct, 24/7 care, and they often must confront the limits of what medicine can do for people,” Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN, an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program and a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, tells the Washington Post. “Nurses can begin to feel helpless or have a sense that they are not actually helping.”

And when the clinician suffers, so does the patient, she adds. “We don’t provide the quality care we want to offer when we ourselves are depleted.”

Hospitals and organizations around Washington, D.C., are taking note, and are finding ways to help nurses relax and re-energize through the creative arts, the Post reports.

At the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the District, nurses participate in an arts and humanities program that uses activities like journal writing, dance and movement, quilting, painting, and ceramics to help nurses manage stress and come to terms with their experiences. At Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, nurses are learning how to knit. And at Gilchrist Hospice Care, outside of Baltimore, nurses are meditating.

“The positive energy transcends to patient care,” Laurie Dohnalek, who directs oncology and medicine services for the nursing service at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in D.C., tells the Post. “No matter what you do or how you do it, art is an opportunity to express yourself and work through things you might not be able to work through in other dimensions. As nurses, our priority is to be the best we can be for ourselves and for our patients, and this is a positive way to do that.”

What do you think? What other ways can hospitals help nurses avoid or overcome burnout? Register below to leave a comment.

Read the Washington Post story.

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

A Prestigious Gathering, an Honor, and an Impressive Showing for RWJF

Oct 30, 2011, 6:00 PM

By Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Every year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting features some of the best and brightest minds in health and health care. Taking place in Washington, D.C. from October 29 to November 2, it is a cutting edge event that advances critical research, helps shape policy and practice, and stimulates thinking on some of the most pressing health issues of our time. APHA notes that it is the oldest and largest gathering of public health professionals and, in my experience it is easily one of the most influential. I am very proud that, this year, it will feature dozens of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars, fellows, alumni, grantees, staff and others who have been touched by Foundation programs.

Perhaps most exciting is that Melvin D. Shipp, OD, MPH, DrPH, a former RWJF Health Policy Fellow (1989-1990), is beginning his term as president of this prestigious organization. Shipp is dean of The Ohio State University College of Optometry and past president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. He will hold the APHA leadership position for two years, and I know he will do great things during that time. At the meeting, Shipp will lead a session on the Health Policy Fellows program, explaining the experience and its impact on participants.

Among the many others from the RWJF “family” who will be featured at the annual meeting are:

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Bringing Nurse Priorities to Congress

Aug 10, 2011, 12:00 PM, Posted by Margaret Wainwright Henbest

By Margaret Wainwright Henbest, R.N., M.S.N., C.P.N.P.

Executive Director of the Idaho Alliance of Leaders in Nursing and Co-Lead of the Idaho Nursing Action Coalition


Last month I had the opportunity, as the co-lead of the Idaho Nursing Action Coalition, to meet in Washington D.C. with other nurse leaders and their professional partners from states across the nation to talk with our respective Congressional delegations about the Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Connect program, we were prepared, confident and on target in our meetings.

The IOM report makes specific recommendations that identify what Congress, the executive agencies, state legislatures, businesses, colleges and universities, and nursing professional organizations must do to prepare nurses to meet the challenges of a transformed health care system. In order to be effective, the coalitions must engage all these entities and educate them about nursing’s role in improving the quality, access and affordability of health care services.

The Connect training gave the coalition leaders the skills they need to accomplish this. The Connect coaches helped the teams identify how they could effectively engage their members of Congress in the work of the state coalitions.

Understanding that lawmakers want to help people solve problems, we learned and practiced storytelling as a means to communicate our priorities in a meaningful manner and importantly, we learned to ask for what we need—something that doesn’t come easy to many nurses.

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