Investing in Solutions, Locally

Sep 7, 2011, 12:00 PM, Posted by

Judith Woodruff, J.D., is the director of workforce development at the Northwest Health Foundation and program director for Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future, a program of the Northwest Health Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


The saying goes that all politics is local. But it’s even truer when it comes to the health care workforce. Every community, from large, complex cities to one stop sign rural towns, faces challenges in ensuring they have the educated and skilled health care professionals they need to provide quality health care. But their challenges are different.

That’s something that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and my own organization, the Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF), have known for a long time. And the RWJF's and NWHF’s Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future (PIN) program capitalizes on just that, making investments for local solutions to nursing issues.

The problems facing the nursing workforce don’t have a one-size-fits-all fix. And in our experience, solutions that are developed from outside the local area simply don’t work as well as those developed in your hometown. When local partners engage and participate in change from the onset, the solutions are tailored to the community needs and assets and the partners are invested in the outcomes. Projects become more sustainable, become ingrained in the community experience, and have the potential for long-term impact. That idea, borne of Northwest Health Foundation’s long experience in local and regional collaboration in Oregon and southwest Washington State, is a cornerstone of the PIN project.

The nursing workforce will soon face new patient demographics as our population is aging, becoming more ethnically and racially diverse and experiencing chronic diseases. Additionally, it is predicted that soon more people will gain access to health care services as a result of national and state health care coverage reform. At a time when the social landscape is rapidly changing, investments in nursing are more imperative than ever before.

That’s why we are so pleased to announce 11 new PIN investments to foster innovations in nursing. The regional partnerships supported by the investments are working to find solutions to the most pressing problems facing the nursing workforce. The new funding brings to 61 the number of PIN projects, covering 37 states and collectively, collaborating with more than 500 partners.

Although all of the projects we’ve supported in our six years have worked to promote nursing in influential and substantial ways, this year we have made a conscious effort to ensure the funded projects align with the recommendations set forth by the report issued by the Institute of Medicine, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. From the U.S. Pacific Islands, to Wyoming, to Massachusetts to Arkansas, the 11 new investments will have an impact on communities, patients and providers across the country. The projects will address nursing education, workforce data collection, ethnic and racial diversity in nursing and more.

But rest assured these local initiatives won’t produce just local results. Many of the projects we’ve supported have been replicated across the country or have expanded successful local programs statewide or to multi-state regional partnerships. They’ve broadened the menu of solutions that local health and policy leaders have at their disposal, pioneering new approaches and refining longstanding methods.

For instance, in 2008 we funded a project by the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence in New York to begin work toward implementing a four-year, dual-admission, seamless progression educational tract to address the need for more nurses with a bachelor’s degree. Drawing on the groundbreaking Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (OCNE) model, the Jonas Center worked with local schools of nursing in New York and North Carolina, testing and refining the model. In the current round of funding, PIN again funded the Jonas Center to continue the work and to grow it beyond the original few schools. Based on the project's success, the investment by PIN, and the broad interest in expanding it statewide, The Duke Endowment (NC) has awarded $1.3 million in the expansion of the model in five regions across the state, including 14 associate degree and five university nursing education programs.

Ensuring that the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine are implemented will require the support of many national, regional, statewide and local philanthropic organizations, along with policy-makers, nursing leaders and others. PIN is a leading example of the collaborative partnerships that must be established to achieve the primary goal of having the right nurse with the right competencies in the right place at the right time for everyone. The regional foundations and community partnerships in which we’re investing are uniquely positioned to address the challenges their nursing workforce faces, and we are proud to support their work. We invite you to learn more about the PIN program and our new investments at

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