Ohio Nurse Leaders Collaborate in Unprecedented Ways

    • December 11, 2013

A decade ago, the Ohio Network for Nursing Workforce and Nursing 2015  were working independently to transform nursing to improve health and health care in Ohio. They were like railway workers building parallel tracks; they weren’t working at cross purposes, but they weren’t working together, either, and progress was slow.

That began to change in 2010, when the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a groundbreaking report on the future of the nursing profession. The report—and a national campaign backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and AARP to implement its recommendations—spurred the two groups to unite.

In July 2011, the two groups joined forces and created the Ohio Action Coalition, a group of nurses and nursing allies who are working to implement recommendations from the IOM report. Action Coalitions are in place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and are a driving force behind the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

Now, advocates dedicated to transforming nursing in Ohio are working on the same track—and making speedier progress toward their shared goals, said Jonathan Archey, BA, NREMT-B, director of government affairs at the Ohio Hospital Association and co-lead of the Ohio Action Coalition. “Traditionally, it’s been a challenge to get everyone working together,” Archey said. “The Action Coalition has been a forum where that can really happen. I think we’re going to see some successes on a scale we’ve never seen before in the state.”

Jane Mahowald, MA, RN, ANEF, executive director of the Ohio League for Nursing and co-lead of the Ohio Action Coalition, agreed. “The IOM report helped these groups recognize that if they joined together, they would accomplish more, and have more supporters.”

Evidence of new progress came when the Ohio Board of Nursing agreed to include a survey for all registered nurses (RNs) seeking to renew their licenses in 2013. The survey, which covers educational attainment, age, place of employment, practice area, native language, residence, and other areas, is the first of its kind to be distributed to the state’s RNs in more than three decades.

Proponents hope it will help fill critical gaps in knowledge about Ohio’s nursing workforce, which can then be used by policy- and decision-makers to ensure the state has a large enough supply of nurses to meet increasing demands for their services.

The survey is a “major accomplishment” that came about thanks to the unprecedented collaboration of nursing advocates in the state, Mahowald said. Data are under analysis, she added, noting that a similar survey of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is forthcoming.

Data, Diversity, and Education

Co-led by the Ohio League for Nursing and the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Action Coalition includes partners such as the Ohio Nurses Association, the Ohio Organization of Nurse Executives, the Ohio Board of Nursing, AARP Ohio, the Ohio Council of Deans and Directors of Baccalaureate and Higher Degree Nursing Schools, the Ohio Council of Associate Degree Nursing Education Administrators, and regional nursing initiatives.

In addition to collecting more data about the supply and demand for nurses in the state, it is also working to enhance the diversity of the state’s nursing workforce and enable more nurses to advance their education, among other goals.

When it comes to diversity, the Action Coalition practices what it preaches.

Coalition members from underrepresented backgrounds serve on the coalition’s steering committee and on all of its workgroups. The Action Coalition is partnering with and promoting the work of minority nursing groups such as the American Association of Men in Nursing and the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association. And it seeks to spur the involvement of Ohio chapters of other national minority nursing organizations such as the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the National Black Nurses Association, and the Philippine Nurses Association of America, Inc.

The Ohio Action Coalition also plans to analyze the new survey to better understand the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the state’s nursing workforce. It will use that information to appeal to schools of nursing in the state to recruit and retain more students from backgrounds underrepresented in nursing.

In addition, the Action Coalition is working to help nursing students transition more easily into baccalaureate and higher education programs. It aims to do that by: adopting a universal “competency-based education model” that is accepted at nursing education programs and nursing practice settings across the state, to make it easier for RNs to advance their education; and by identifying and removing barriers facing nurses who want to earn higher degrees.

The biggest achievement, however, is the unprecedented collaboration among nurse leaders and their allies in the state to transform the nursing profession so nurses can become essential partners in the health care system, said Sean McGlone, BA, JD, senior vice president and general counsel of the Ohio Hospital Association and former co-lead of the Ohio Action Coalition.

“Bringing these two groups together was a phenomenal feat,” he said. “Both had their own purposes and goals. It took some time to encourage the groups to join forces and recognize the importance of working together.”