Future of Nursing Campaign Upends Old Ideas on Health Care

Mar 8, 2011, 11:25 AM, Posted by

By Sheila Burke, Chair for the Advisory Committee of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action

Last week’s TED conference drew big crowds with big themes. Consider just a few: “Might you live a great deal longer?” “Not business as usual.” “Medicine without borders.” And “The rise of collaboration.” These are just a few of the topics that echo the newly formed Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help transform not just today’s American health care system but also the culture of health care overall.

In its effort to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, patient-centered care and that all health care professionals are better prepared and able to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training. Campaign for Action focuses on the vital role played by the largest segment of that workforce – the nation’s 3 million nurses – and the actions that will enhance their ability to contribute as essential partners in the delivery of services.

Building from a 2010 Institute of Medicine report on nursing, Campaign for Action has several immediate objectives that will impact nurses’ knowledge, skills and experience, yet each objective is set within the broader context of creating a health care environment that is truly coordinated, integrated and equitable for everyone.

The primary goals of the Campaign for Action are to advance interprofessional collaboration throughout health care settings; strengthen nurse education and training to ensure an adequate supply of highly competent and professional nurses; expand leadership ranks to ensure that nurses have a voice on management teams, in boardrooms and during policy debates; and enable all health professional to practice to full level of education and training. These goals can only be realized successfully if we focus on quality – how to improve it, sustain it and expand it.

Realizing this goal depends greatly on our commitment to taking care of people not just in hospitals but in their homes, clinics – whatever setting they choose, or need to receive care in. To do that we need to make sure our workforce is of a sufficient size and has the knowledge necessary to provide the quantity and quality of care that will be necessary. Delivering care that is truly patient-centered will require a workforce that is able to collaborate with providers across care disciplines and practice to the full level of their education and training. Only then can we hope to meet the goals stated in the IOM report.

We must apply what we know about quality in our effort to transform the health care system. We have to make sure people get the care they need in the setting that is most accessible, practical and helpful to them, from the provider that is uniquely qualified to treat them. Nurses are a critical element of the health care system we envision for the future.

Given the aging patient population, the aging provider population and the influx of millions more into the health care system, we need to ensure that we expand access to ensure that people get care when and where they need it, and at lowered cost. To do this we need to remove all barriers preventing nurses from practicing to the full degree permitted based on their education and training that could delay or prevent patients from getting the care they need. But it doesn’t stop with nurses. In making the recommendations of the report a reality, we have to make the system more collaborative with all health professionals working together in a coordinated and seamless way to benefit patients wherever they live, work or play. 

TED is about using the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. The Campaign for Action is committed to doing just that, and with the support of all health professionals, it will succeed.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.