We Must Bring Down Walls, Dismantle Barriers and Work With One Another

Dec 30, 2011, 1:00 PM, Posted by Susan Reinhard

As we head into 2012, the Human Capital Blog asked Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff, program directors, scholars and grantees to share their New Year’s resolutions for our health care system, and what they think should be the priorities for action in the New Year. This post is by Susan C. Reinhard, RN, PhD, FAAN, senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute. She also serves as chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and RWJF.

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Everything we know about the future of health care delivery tells us we need to build – and empower – a health care workforce that meets the real needs of patients and their families. This is absolutely essential if we are going to provide quality care that also is efficient. Doing this requires transforming how nurses are educated so that we can better meet patient needs in a changing delivery system that is expanding its reach beyond hospital settings to the community; and rewarding integrated care systems with a focus on patient-centered and interprofessional care teams.

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The Institute of Medicine Committee on the Future of Nursing recognized this changing landscape. They understood that for nurses to deliver safe, quality and patient-centered care across all settings, they must achieve higher levels of education through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression. To that end, the committee called for increasing the proportion of nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to 80 percent by 2020.

To help implement this recommendation – among the others issued by the Committee – AARP is collaborating with RWJF on the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. The Campaign is coordinated through the Center to Champion Nursing in America and includes 36 state Action Coalitions and a wide range of health care providers, consumer advocates, policy-makers, and the business, academic and philanthropic communities.

Just two weeks ago, we convened the first of four regional meetings on nursing education – part of our Learning Collaborative on Advancing Education Transformation.

Action Coalitions from the southeast region gathered in Florida to share best practices and collaborate. As I listened to my colleagues, I understood clearly how inextricably linked nursing education is to the other recommendation areas. Education creates pathways to improved practice, nursing leadership and collaboration among the health care professions.

To best serve patients and their families, we must bring down walls, dismantle barriers and work with one another to expand opportunities for learning and advancement.

In the year ahead, we will be focused on further establishing networks for sharing and collaboration through our national network of Action Coalitions, 36 strong as we end 2011, although that number will soon expand. By early spring we hope to have Action Coalitions in nearly every state in the country.

That’s going to mean an exponential increase in momentum – a presence, prominence and power that I know will get us that much closer to our vision: A nation where all Americans have access to high-quality, patient centered care in a health care system where nurses contribute as essential partners in achieving success.

I look forward to the day when we will make that vision a reality and the work of our Action Coalitions is going to help us get there a lot faster – through the partnerships, collaborations and alliances they pursue. This will become a reality through the students who move to higher degrees and more advanced skills, well prepared for the increasingly complex needs of the patients for whom they will care and the health systems that they will help lead.

Transformation is no easy task. But I have faith in the collaboration, sharing and hard work that is being done across the country. And it is my resolution for 2012 to help facilitate this action, on the ground, where change happens.

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