Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Gives AARP Foundation $10 Million for New Center to Address the Nursing Workforce Crisis Threatening Patient Care

    • December 5, 2007

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced an effort to address the 1.1-million nurse workforce shortage crisis that is currently poised to strike America's health care system by 2020.

The newly created Center to Champion Nursing in America will work to improve patient care for all Americans by pursuing an aggressive agenda to elevate the visibility of the nursing shortage while identifying actionable solutions to improve the quality of patient care. The Center is made possible by a $10-million grant to the AARP Foundation from RWJF.

Specifically, the Center to Champion Nursing will address the nursing shortage by pressing for:

  • Greater state and federal funding to support expanded nursing education, particularly addressing severe faculty shortages at nurse training institutions across the country.
  • Places for nurse leaders on the governing boards of hospitals and other health care organizations to provide critically needed perspective on improving quality and safety of care.
  • An educational movement based on new research to inform the public and policy-makers about nurse workforce issues and the link between a trained and adequate nursing workforce and high quality health care.

A RWJF funded study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that concern about the availability of nurses is one of the top three reasons people think hospital care is poor in America—with two-thirds of those surveyed blaming poor quality on overworked, stressed or fatigued nurses. Additional studies show that higher, more adequate levels of hospital nurse staffing result in fewer patients with pneumonia, fewer pressure ulcers, and fewer heart attacks, as well as lower risk of surgical patients dying within their first 30 days in the hospital.

Nursing is the largest health profession, with nearly 3 million registered nurses in the United States. However, decline in federal support, state interest and local capacity has left the nation without an adequate supply of nurses to fill a growing number of vacancies.

“It's pretty simple math. Without enough skilled nurses, patients are going suffer,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. “Nurses are the link to the patient and they are the front-line defense against medical errors. If we are going to improve the quality of hospital care and nursing care at the bedside, we need to find ways to fill the pipeline. We believe this Center will help us reach that goal.”

Each year universities throughout the nation turn away thousands of qualified applicants to nursing schools because they lack the faculty to teach them. In order to increase the number of nurses available to serve patients, post-secondary institutions must increase their capacities to train more nursing students.

Additional information about the Center to Champion Nursing in America can be found at

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's leading philanthropy committed to improving health policy and practice, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.