Milwaukee Nurses Rebuild Pipeline of Public Health Nurses

Jan 18, 2012, 2:30 PM, Posted by

By Paula Lucey, MSN, RN, Administrator, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program alumna (1999-2001)


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Partners Investing in Nursing program (commonly called PIN) is a wonderful way to address nursing workforce efforts. The Foundation created this program with the concept that nursing workforce efforts needed to become the work of not only nursing but the work of partnership with local foundations and employers.

In Milwaukee, our first PIN grant focused on the impending crisis in public health related to the nursing workforce. We had data that suggested that upwards of 50 percent of the current workforce could retire in the next five years. While not all will do so, this was a wake up call that we needed to begin to work to develop the next generation of public health nurses.

Our program was able to energize some senior nursing students to consider careers in public health. While our numbers were under 20, the students spread the word to their fellow students, and we believe we created a ripple of interest among students at several of the local BSN programs.

As important as the immediate efforts related to these students were, some of the project’s accomplishments will form the foundation for long-term solutions. The most important was increased awareness of the importance of public health and the vital role that nursing plays among our three foundation partners.

The lead partner, Scott Gelzer from the Faye McBeath Foundation, was already a nursing funder and supporter. He was able to interest two other foundations in the critical work to invest in public health.

As the nursing leader of the project, I learned a tremendous amount about the work and world of philanthropy. As a nurse leader who has submitted grants before, it was exciting to see how these organizations set priorities, what they need to make funding decisions and how to keep them engaged in the project’s success. As an alumna of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program, I was able to utilize my leadership skills and expand my capacity to lead change by participating in this program.

We are fortunate to be in the latest and last funding cycle as well. This time we will focus on the workforce needs related to mental health nursing. This project comes at an exciting time for Milwaukee. A major effort is underway to redesign the mental health system and the PIN project and leaders are fully engaged in the effort.

The innovative design of the PIN program has been important for the Milwaukee nursing workforce in two critical areas of nursing practice. However, the relationships and partnerships will help nursing to move forward for years to come.

Learn more about the RWJF PIN grant for public health nursing in Milwaukee.

Learn more about public health nursing.

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