Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Names Senior Adviser for Nursing

    • October 7, 2008

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced the appointment of Susan B. Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., as Senior Adviser to RWJF for Nursing.

Hassmiller's new position reflects the centrality of nursing across the spectrum of RWJF programs and will integrate and connect the Foundation's extensive nursing programs to promote broader and more lasting impact on the nursing field and on public health and health care. As senior adviser for nursing, she will lead and advise the Foundation's efforts to develop and disseminate strategies to address the nurse and nurse faculty shortages, to create safer, higher quality care for patients, and to improve the nation's health. She will provide advice on all Foundation nursing programs, and serve as a partner and liaison to the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a Washington-based joint project of the Foundation, AARP and the AARP Foundation. Hassmiller also will continue her leadership work with the National Nurse Funders Collaborative, an organization of health grantmakers she helped to create that is committed to supporting the nursing profession. In addition, she will serve as the Foundation's lead liaison to external groups on nursing issues.

"Our intention is to increase the impact of our work on the nurse and nurse faculty shortages and related issues by placing a visionary leader at the helm of our nursing work," said John Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., RWJF senior vice president and director of the Health Care Group. "Every American wants and expects a nurse to be there when they or someone they love requires care. We're committed to leading the effort to ensure that such needs are met for every citizen, even as our population ages and the demand for health care services intensifies."

Nurses make up more than half of the health professions' workforce and are instrumental in ensuring quality throughout the entire continuum of care. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has found that nurses are the health care professionals most likely to intercept medical errors. Despite this, health workforce experts say that the nation does not have enough nurses to meet current or future demand for their skills. The acute shortage of registered nurses in the United States may reach 1 million by 2020 (HRSA, 2006), affecting the safety and quality of care patients receive, as well as the financial stability of hospitals, long-term care facilities and public health settings. A growing shortage of nursing faculty is causing U.S. nursing schools to turn away tens of thousands of qualified applicants each year—a trend that will be exacerbated by a sharp increase in faculty retirements over the next 10 years.

Strengthening nursing at all levels, including increasing the diversity of the nursing workforce, are objectives that advance the Foundation's commitment to increasing access to high quality care and building capacity in our nation's workforce. RWJF has committed approximately $180 million in the last five years to nursing initiatives, among them: Partners Investing in Nursing's Future, which has leveraged the resources of over 130 local foundations and other funders in collaboration with health care organizations, universities, and other nonprofit organizations to address critical local- and state-level nursing issues; the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a joint initiative of RWJF and AARP to reverse the  nurse and nurse faculty shortages; and the Nurses on Board program, which finds well qualified nurse leaders to serve on national-level health-related boards and committees. These programs complement longstanding RWJF efforts, such as Transforming Care at the Bedside, a program that fosters nursing's role as the linchpin to quality hospital care.
"In addition to these extensive efforts in nursing already under way, we will launch another major, initiative in nursing in 2009, which will amplify our current work and heighten the national focus on these issues," said RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. "As a clinician who has practiced in interdisciplinary settings throughout my career, I have a deep appreciation of the critical role of nursing in improving the quality and capacity of our health and health care systems—and I know that Sue Hassmiller has the passion, commitment and knowledge to advise me and lead our efforts to address the complex challenges in this area." 

Hassmiller, who joined RWJF in 1997, most recently served as senior program officer and team leader of the Human Capital Portfolio, which focuses on preparing individuals for leadership in health and health care through its fellow, scholar and pipeline programs, including initiatives related to nursing, health care quality and other workforce development issues. Prior to leading the Human Capital Team, Hassmiller led a nursing team at the Foundation that reflected her leadership in elevating nursing issues on the Foundation's and the nation's agenda.

A nationally recognized nursing leader, Hassmiller is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and a member of JCAHO National Nurse Advisory Council. Her work has included the areas of nursing, public health, quality improvement, disaster response and recovery, and leadership development. She recently served a six-year term as a member of the National Board of Governors for the American Red Cross, serving in the role of chair of the Disaster and Chapter Services Committee. Citing Clara Barton's influence in founding the American Red Cross, Hassmiller has been a volunteer for the organization since college and has won a number of awards for her service. She currently is serving as senior adviser to the organization on nursing and is the chair of the 9/11 Liberty Fund and Response Plan. She is the 2008 recipient of the McGovern Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a recognition given to national leaders on the basis of their scholarship and their national contributions to nursing, health care, and higher education.

Previously, Hassmiller was with the Health Resources and Services Administration, where she was the executive director of the U.S. Public Health Service Primary Care Policy Fellowship and led other national and international primary care initiatives. She also has worked in public health settings at the local and state level and taught public health nursing at the University of Nebraska and George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

She received a Ph.D. in nursing administration and health policy from George Mason University and is their 2007 distinguished alumnus. She received a master's degree in health education and a bachelor's in nursing from Florida State University and a master's degree in community health nursing from the University of  Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where she is the 2007 distinguished alumna. She was named the 2008 distinguished scholar in nursing by New York University.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, 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.