The Journey to National Nursing Minimum Data Sets

Jul 23, 2012, 3:25 PM, Posted by

By Patricia Moulton, PhD, executive director, North Dakota Center for Nursing and  co-lead, North Dakota Action Coalition

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a groundbreaking report on the future of nursing that identifies as one of its key messages the need for improved data collection and an enhanced information infrastructure as requirements for effective workforce planning and policy-making.

The report, called The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, recognizes that data “on the numbers and types of health professionals currently employed, where they are employed and in what roles” is imperative to the establishment of accurate workforce projection models. Such models are necessary to inform policy-makers in their aim to ensure effective workforce planning as well as to make needed changes in nursing practice and education to meet population needs.

Nurse leaders and researchers are working toward that goal.

In 2008, before the IOM released its report on the future of nursing, the Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers embarked on a multi-year process to develop minimum data sets for the collection of nursing education, supply and demand data across the 34 nursing workforce centers. The minimum data sets were finalized in 2009 and are available at the forum’s website

For the project, the forum’s research committee recently surveyed the 34 current nursing workforce centers to determine how many have implemented the minimum data sets.

The minimum data sets are already in use. The results showed that 28 of the 30 workforce centers that responded collect some education data; 29 collect data on the supply of the nursing workforce; and 13 collect data on the demand for nurses.

That is great news, but we need to make sure we have data from all 50 states so that we can have a comprehensive picture of the national nursing workforce. The Health Resource and Services Administration National Center for Health Workforce Analysis is one example of a national organization that is using the data sets in their work in developing minimum data sets for multiple health professions.

Fortunately, nurse leaders are on the case. The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing recently entered into a partnership agreement to work together to collect supply minimum data from all 50 states. The forum is in the process in developing strategies and partners to implement the education and demand data sets.

Count me as a big supporter. The effort puts on us a path toward achieving the IOM report’s vision for more and better data on the nursing workforce and is a critical step in the journey toward a reformed health care system.

To read more about the effort to collect more and better data on the nursing workforce, click here.

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