Satcher, Sullivan, Young - Oh my!

Jun 5, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by

By Lisa Wright Eichelberger, DSN, RN, dean, College of Health, Clayton State University and co-lead, Georgia Action Coalition

I know I am not in Oz but, I must tell you, Georgia does seem like a different place since the release of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report on the future of nursing. I have worked as a nurse in Georgia for the past 16 years, but in the past 18 months I have seen things happen that I never thought would. As I told this year’s graduating class at Clayton State University, I truly believe this is the most exciting time to be a nurse. One of the reasons is the release of the IOM’s nursing report and the support for nursing from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and AARP.

Make no mistake, when the IOM and RWJF speak, people listen.

In the past few months, I have had the honor and privilege to use the “Future” report to initiate conversations with former Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, and Louis Sullivan, MD, former secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. I also had the opportunity to talk to former Ambassador Andrew Young, BS, BDiv, about the report during a recent lunch. All three of these leaders were familiar with the IOM and RWJF.

Satcher spoke exquisitely about the report and how important its recommendations are and how vitally important their implementation is to the health of our nation. Satcher has agreed to help our Georgia Action Coalition and will be my guest for dinner at Emory University on July 25th. Linda McCauley, RN, PhD, FAAN, dean of the school of nursing at Emory University, will be hosting a dinner for Jack Rowe, MD, who served on the committee that drafted the IOM report. He will be speaking to a small group of nurse leaders and nurse champions. Secretary Sullivan has also been invited. His attendance is pending.

During my recent afternoon with Ambassador Young, he told me that his father was a dentist and that he understood the implications of unaffordable care, the consequences of delaying treatment, and the battles over scope-of-practice issues. I was able to tell him about the scope-of-practice recommendations in the IOM report and the struggle Georgia nurses face with laws and regulations that limit our scope of practice. I felt such pride in being able to talk to General Satcher, Secretary Sullivan and Ambassador Young about the IOM “Future” report, which was published by such a prestigious organization.

During our conversation, Satcher quickly agreed to work with the Georgia Action Coalition, which taught me that none of us should be timid about asking people to join our coalitions! That a former surgeon general is willing to work with us, and that a former cabinet secretary is thinking about joining us, says everything about the importance of our work.

We have accomplished a lot in Georgia. We did not have a well-established coalition like some other states. We have had barriers to overcome. Some of our issues were described in a recent article entitled Georgia Action Coalition Sows Nursing Campaign Seeds in Rocky Terrain. Yet in spite of our obstacles, and because of the importance of our work, we have been able to hold a well-attended statewide summit, create action plans for all of the IOM report’s recommendations, develop a strategic plan and Coalition website and, as mentioned above, reach out to a wide range of nurse partners.

I really liked what RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, wrote about her hike up Mount Kilimanjaro and the advice her hiking group leader gave her:

• To measure each step by taking a step with a pause

• To keep progress slow but steady

• To always go onward and upward

• To maximize progress while minimizing risk

• To make sure you know your limits and to know when to stop

• To rest so you don’t have to stop

Lavizzo-Mourey writes that she did not realize until she was back at RWJF that these tenets were the same ones that RWJF has followed since its founding more than 40 years ago.

As I read her message, I realized how similar Georgia’s journey has been to that suggested by her hiking coach. While we have not done everything perfectly, for the most part, the Georgia Action Coalition has followed the advice of Lavizzo-Mourey’s coach. But make no mistake, we could not and would not have accomplished what we have been able to without the assistance and support from RWJF and AARP.

The Georgia Action Coalition is nowhere near the top of our own Mount Kilimanjaro: a transformed nursing workforce that can meet all the needs of our state’s patients, now and in the future. There is still a lot to be accomplished. But with the continued support of RWJF, I have no doubt that the Georgia Action Coalition will be able to reach the summit!

To learn more about the Campaign for Action, which is working to implement the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report, go here and here.

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