National Nurses Week 2012 and New Jersey

May 8, 2012, 6:00 PM, Posted by

Happy National Nurses Week! 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 our nursing programs. Check back each day to see what they have to say. This post is by Susan Bakewell-Sachs, PhD, RN, PNP-BC, interim provost for The College of New Jersey, and program director of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a project of RWJF and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation.


The American Nurses Association theme for National Nurses Week 2012 is “Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring.” It emphasizes critical areas of focus for professional nursing in New Jersey and the nation that align well with the 2010 Institute of Medicine report entitled Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. National Nurses Week is an opportune time to highlight nurses and nursing and the scientifically proven contributions that our profession makes to improve health and patient care.

It is also a good time to talk about what we still need to make happen to improve health and health care. For one thing, we must continue to push for more registered nurses to earn advanced (masters and doctoral) degrees. This is essential for nursing practice, education and research. We need many more advanced practice nurses for primary and specialized care, more nurse educators to prepare nurses for the future, and more nurse scientists to continue to build the evidence for our practice and teaching.


One of the wonderful aspects of a nursing career is that nurses can have multiple careers within it and can be clinicians, teachers and researchers. We need to advocate for a better educated profession with a higher proportion of nurses having baccalaureate and higher degrees as well as advocate for healthier lifestyle opportunities for our society and for a better health care system for those we care for.

We must lead for a better future. Nurses should seek to lead, wherever they are, throughout their careers. Leading requires gaining specific and broad knowledge, taking a public position, being willing to find solutions and engaging in difficult dialogue when necessary. It also requires us to be willing to speak up inside and outside of nursing, with members of other disciplines.

Leaders learn to lead. Many current nurse leaders are in the latter phase of their careers so we must focus on developing our future leaders – our students, staff nurses, advanced practice nurses, faculty, nurse managers, public health nurses and others who we can mentor and encourage as emerging leaders. If each of us commits to being a mentor and seeks out opportunities to help develop others, we will be helping to ensure that nurses will be visible leaders at the table.

I am very proud that we have many nursing leaders in New Jersey and that, through programs like the New Jersey Nursing Initiative and the New Jersey Action Coalition, many of those leaders are actively working to: prepare future nurses, nurse faculty and nurse scientists; build better partnerships in nursing education and between academe and practice; improve nursing education; and develop leaders and improve health and health care. We are also fortunate to have the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, actively supporting and putting a spotlight on nursing and health care.

In New Jersey, nurses are advocating, leading and caring.

The New Jersey Nursing Initiative is a multi-year, $30 million project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, working to transform nursing education in the state. Its goal is to ensure that New Jersey has the well prepared, diverse nurse faculty it needs to educate nurses to meet the demand for health and health care in the 21st century. Learn more.

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