Creating a larger, more highly skilled nursing workforce will improve access to higher-quality, more patient-centered, and more affordable care. That is especially important now: Demand for nursing care is growing as the population ages and millions more people are entering the health care system under the Affordable Care Act.
At AARP, we have made it our mission to ensure that all people have access to a highly skilled nurse when and where they need one. Nurses, the largest segment of the health care workforce, provide critical care to our members, many of whom are aging and managing multiple chronic health conditions.
That is why AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) jointly launched the Center to Champion Nursing in America six years ago – to help the nursing profession better serve consumers. When a subsequent, groundbreaking Institute of Medicine (IOM) report called for transformation of the nursing profession, AARP teamed up with RWJF to launch a national campaign to implement the report’s recommendations. These focus on nurse education, practice, leadership, diversity, data, interprofessional collaboration and more.
Since its creation three years ago, the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action has organized action coalitions – groups of nurses and nurse champions representing business, government, academia, consumer groups, philanthropy and other sectors – in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The coalitions have so far collectively raised more than $6 million and launched projects to advance nursing education, build the nursing workforce, and expand access to nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses. Seven states have removed major barriers to advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) practice and care, and one state has given gave APRNs full practice authority and expanded prescriptive authority.
Nine action coalitions, meanwhile, have been funded to test models to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses, a key IOM report recommendation. And leaders of national organizations representing nursing education and community colleges have come together in support of nurses’ advancing their education.
Looking ahead, we will increase our focus on nurse leadership. Nurses spend more time with consumers than any other providers and have valuable insights to share in discussions about the redesign of our nation’s health care system. But nurses are often overlooked in those debates, so the Campaign for Action is helping nurse leaders land positions on boards of health care facilities and at other key decision-making bodies.
We will also be continuing to emphasize diversity; action coalitions are teaming up with their state minority nurses associations to raise awareness about new opportunities to purchase health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act. We’ve also created a landing page on the Campaign for Action’s website to educate nurses about the law.
The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action is committed to taking the evidence in the IOM report and making it a catalyst for change. In just three years, we are off and running – and we have no intention of slowing down.
Susan Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN, is senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist at the Center to Champion Nursing in America, which coordinates the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.