The Pennsylvania Action Coalition: Voices Carrying a Campaign

Jun 19, 2012, 1:11 PM

I had the privilege of attending the Pennsylvania Action Coalition conference in Philadelphia in early June. It was hosted by Julie Fairman, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Afaf Meleis, PhD, DrPS (hon), FAAN, and the co-leads of the Pennsylvania Action Coalition, Betsy Snook, MEd, MSN, RN, and Christine Alichnie, PhD, RN

The conference was held to educate Pennsylvanians about how nurses and other leaders can prepare themselves for these monumental changes in health care as recommended in the Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The audience included nurses and other health professionals, business employees, educators and students. It is this diversity that drives the campaign. We need resources to ensure the many campaign supporters can advance its agenda.

Dr. Sue Hassmiller, RN, PhD, FAAN, director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, described the scope of health care challenges, such as aging, chronic disease, faculty shortages, and poor access to care in rural areas, that our nurses will be called upon to solve. In order to meet the nursing demands, she noted the need to create an efficient communication system and a steady infrastructure from which responsible and accountable nursing leaders can emerge. She described nurses as being solution makers, innovators, and people who can make a difference if they work together.

Dr. Hassmiller stressed that the Pennsylvania Action Coalition needs a clear direction, and along with that, a strong and consistent message to take to policy-makers and other important decision makers. “We need to speak in one voice,” she said. I found this advice to be particularly critical to Pennsylvania’s health care survival. There’s no arguing that every person in Pennsylvania deserves care, but not everyone agrees on how to deliver that care. Their destination is the same, but their paths seem to be varied and a bit divided at this time.

The room was opened for questions after Dr. Hassmiller’s speech, and people were encouraged to voice their concerns regarding some of the finer logistics of the cause. Costs for higher education were on many people’s minds, including my own, since I’m looking into health care degrees myself. The price of education continues to rise and the amount of aid being distributed continues to decrease. This presents a difficult setback for people who have the passion for their careers, but don’t know how to fund higher degrees. Investments need to be made in our education, and making these investments is one of the most essential steps in improving health care for the country. The need for improved patient care has fallen upon my generation of rising health care professionals, and this demand has to be confronted with an arsenal of knowledge and motivation.

Dr. Hassmiller held a small meeting specifically for nursing students immediately after the conference, which was the highlight of my afternoon. These students attended the conference to meet their fellow nurses who shared the same enthusiasm for the field. The young nurses eagerly shared stories about what led them to become nurses. Most of their reasons stemmed from personal experiences witnessing either excellent or awful (one called it “scary care”) health care provided to a loved one, while other students expressed their thoughts that they were simply born to be nurses because they love helping others.

This meeting was a prime example of Dr. Hassmiller’s overarching message for the state: although these students pursue different individual educational and career goals within nursing, they’ve joined forces as a single unit, a team. I believe all health care professionals can work as a team.

It was an honor to sit amongst the brightest students dedicated to the future of patient care. Listening to their big ideas, their concerns, and their hopes confirmed, in my eyes, that nurses are aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Not surprisingly, what the state sees as challenges, these nurses see as opportunities to lead.

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