Transforming Nursing Will Improve Health Care for Consumers

Oct 7, 2013, 12:00 PM, Posted by

Susan Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN, is senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist at the Center to Champion Nursing in America, which coordinates the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. Here, Reinhard reflects on the impact of the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report during its third anniversary week.


The Center to Champion Nursing in America was founded six years ago as an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).  Ever since, we have devoted considerable energies and resources to transforming the nursing profession to better serve consumers.


Why is AARP so invested in this work? One simple reason: Nurses, the largest segment of the health care workforce, provide critical care to our members, many of whom are aging and managing multiple chronic health conditions. Our work is not as much about improving conditions for nurses as it is about making life better for consumers and their families. A larger, more highly skilled nursing workforce will improve access to higher-quality, more patient-centered, and more affordable care. That is especially important now, with demand for nursing care growing as the population ages and as millions more people enter the health care system under the Affordable Care Act.

That is why we, at AARP, have made it our mission to ensure that all people have access to a highly skilled nurse when and where they need one.

Three years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) lent its venerable name and a rock-solid foundation of evidence to that cause when it released a groundbreaking report that called for transformation of the nursing profession to improve health and health care. After the report was released, AARP teamed up with the RWJF to launch a national campaign to implement the report’s recommendations, which covered nurse education, practice, leadership, diversity, data, interprofessional collaboration, and more.

Since its creation, the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action has organized Action Coalitions—groups of nurses and nurse champions representing business, government, academia, consumer groups, philanthropy and other sectors—in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia. So far, Action Coalitions have collectively raised more than $6 million to support their work and have launched innovative projects to advance nursing education, build the nursing workforce, and expand access to nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses.

In our first few years, we focused on implementing IOM report recommendations related to nurse education and practice, and we are happy to share some of our victories. Since the Campaign for Action began, seven states have removed major barriers to advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) practice and care, and one state gave APRNs full practice authority and expanded prescriptive authority.

Nine Action Coalitions, meanwhile, have been funded to test models to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses, a key report recommendation. And leaders of national organizations representing nursing education and community colleges have come together in support of nurses advancing their education.

As we look to the year ahead, we will increase our focus on nurse leadership. Nurses spend more time with consumers than any other providers and have valuable insights to share in discussions about the redesign of our nation’s health care system. But nurses are often overlooked in those debates, and we at the Campaign for Action want to change that by helping them land positions on boards of health care facilities and at other key decision-making bodies.

We will also be continuing to emphasize diversity; Action Coalitions are teaming up with their state minority nurses associations to raise awareness about new opportunities to purchase health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act. We’ve also created a landing page on the Campaign for Action’s website to educate nurses about the law.

Our biggest accomplishment, however, is simply getting this massive Campaign off the ground and running. When we started the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, we had a huge opportunity to take the evidence in the IOM report and make it a catalyst for change. Three years later, we are off and running—and we have no intention of slowing down.

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