Championing Nurses

    • December 16, 2008

Nurses have a champion in our nation's capital, and it's getting stronger all the time. Launched last year as an unprecedented partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), AARP and the AARP Foundation, the Center to Champion Nursing in America is addressing the nurse and nursing faculty shortage that threatens access to health care and quality of care across the nation.

A consumer-driven national organization, the center is starting its second year by intensifying its work to ensure that our country has the nurses it needs to care for every patient, now and in the future. Its priorities are to address our nation's capacity to educate and retain nurses.

"There is strong interest in nursing careers, and high demand for nurses," said director Brenda L. Cleary, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N. "The bottleneck is in the middle, in the education system, which isn't able to educate all the people who want to enter the field and all the nurses we need. With baby boomers aging, the demand for nurses is only going to increase, which is why we're working so hard to eliminate that bottleneck." 1

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Center to Champion Nursing in America has identified teams that have created diverse coalitions involving key stakeholders in 18 states. These teams are developing innovative, creative solutions to increase the nursing education capacity in their states. The center is providing each team with technical assistance around coalition building, partnerships, advocacy and communications. "The center's work in supporting state teams to find innovative answers to nursing's capacity issues is so critical," said Sue Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., senior adviser for Nursing at RWJF. "Bringing people together so that state solutions that work can be shared and widely disseminated will have an immediate, positive impact on nursing challenges facing the nation and the patients they care for."

In Alabama, the state team helped forge a private/public partnership between the Alabama Hospital Association and the state's universities and community colleges. Working together, they joined in purchasing a statewide online clinical placement system for nursing students. The Oregon team is responsible for the Oregon Health and Science Center creating alliances with community colleges around the state to share faculty, curricular resources and admissions standards in a joint effort to prepare a more educated nursing workforce. 

The Center is also providing technical assistance in: California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Twelve more states will be added next year, bringing the total to 30.
Its work at the national level is focused on increasing awareness of nursing and the nursing shortage as part of efforts to reform health care. "We believe that nurses will be the lynchpin of efforts to make more efficient use of our health care resources," said John Rother, AARP executive vice president, policy and strategy. "Their role will be critical to doing a better job of managing chronic conditions, where costs are a particular problem." 

To support this national work, in February the center will establish a new coalition of groups representing consumers, businesses, health care providers and others with a stake in solving the nursing shortage.

The Center to Champion Nursing in America has also launched a partnership with the policy journal, Health Affairs, which will publish a series of papers and convene a forum on the nursing shortage early this summer. The first papers, by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., and AARP's Rother, will be available soon at

For more information on the Center to Champion Nursing in America, visit its Web site at and watch for a re-launch of the site in early 2009.

1 See also, An Interview with Brenda L. Cleary, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., in the Sept/Oct issue of Nursing Economic$, where she discusses he role as director of the collaborative partnership.