Welcome to the Nursing Outlook Blog – “3 Questions” – Timely Interviews with Thought Leaders in Nursing and Health Care Policy

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing, offered bold recommendations for change in the current health system to meet the growing need in health care delivery.

These are among the hot topics of the day. All the critical issues that are important to nursing warrant rapid dialogue among informed readers and traditional modes of publishing cannot keep up with the pace of information available. “Agility” is needed to deliver contemporary arguments electronically for persuasive commentary for building consensus that is timely, substantive and prepared for discourse. Blogging and blogs are increasingly providing a paperless platform for professionals to present and debate ideas in the socially connected evolving web. Nursing Outlook is now hosting an online environment – “3 Questions” – to engage nurses with nursing leaders in discussions around focused topics that are important for the profession. Interviews will be routinely edited and posted for readers to learn from thought leaders of the American Academy of Nursing and a variety of other nursing and health care megastars.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation speaks out in NURSING OUTLOOK on the commitment to strengthen America’s nursing workforce.. 

We invite commentary that is thoughtful and provocative! Join the online dialogue!

Veronica D. Feeg, PhD, RN, FAAN

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Co-Sponsor, The Future of Nursing Report

Question 1. Why has nurse education become such a high priority for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation?

(Prepared Commentary) The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a long-standing commitment to strengthening the health care workforce and to nursing in particular. For many reasons, nurses are essential to our efforts to improve health and health care, especially as the delivery of care continues to increase in complexity and moves from hospitals to community-based and primary care settings. And at the same time, the roles of the insured will increase by tens of millions of people.

In The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) asserted that in order for nurses to maintain their effectiveness in providing patients with high-quality care, they will need advanced competencies in care management, working as part of interdisciplinary teams and problem solving. These are skills that nursing students attain as they pursue the Bachelor of Science degree; as a physician I have seen firsthand the tremendous impact of these capabilities. We also need more nurses to obtain advanced degrees in order to address shortfalls in both nurse faculty and primary care.

Thus RWJF supports the IOM recommendation to increase the percentage of nurses with BSN and higher degrees to 80 percent by 2020 and is helping to facilitate its implementation through the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. Through the campaign, we are engaging a wide range of groups at the national and state levels to make this concept a reality.

Question 2. What can health care organizations do to encourage nurses to advance their education?

(Prepared Commentary) There are a number of things that hospitals and other organizations that employ nurses can do to facilitate education progression. Employers can adopt policies that favor the hiring of BSN nurses or that require nurses to obtain a BSN or higher to advance beyond a certain level (these are called career-ladder programs). One of the nation’s leading hospitals, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, does these things. So do the Veteran’s Health Administration and Tenet Health Care.

Certainly paying BSN nurses at a higher rate is a tremendous incentive, as is offering tuition benefits. And having some scheduling flexibility also supports nurses in continuing their education.

Question 3. How are educational institutions approaching the issue?

(Prepared Commentary) There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some very promising approaches being implemented across the country. For example, the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education has created a shared curriculum across community colleges and the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing. This addresses one of the barriers to obtaining a BSN by making it possible for students to get the degree right in their own communities through a community college. In New Mexico, too, nurse education institutions are adopting a uniform curriculum and also will share faculty.

Florida and Colorado are working on models to facilitate the transition to BSN either via community college-to-four-year-institution partnerships. And states including Georgia, Illinois and Ohio are offering online doctoral programs for nurses.

These types of innovative solutions, combined with action by employers, businesses and others, are exactly what we need—diverse sectors coming together to transform the nursing profession, which in turn will help to ensure access to high-quality, patient-centered care for all. What we need is for many people and organizations to get involved with Campaign for Action and their state Action Coalitions.