Transforming the Healthcare System: Nurses Play a Vital Role

NursingOctober 28, 2013


With more than 3 million members, nursing is the largest and fastest growing segment of the healthcare workforce. As the healthcare delivery model transitions from sick care to a wellness model, nurses will play a vital role in transforming the healthcare system. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 relies heavily on the nursing profession to succeed.

In 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RJWF) set out to determine what measures are needed to move the nursing profession forward to lead and advance the health status of the nation. RJWF partnered with Institute of Medicine and asked the Institute of Mecinine (IOM) to research the issue. In 2010, the findings of the 2-year study were published in "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health."

The RJWF, along with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), formed the Campaign for Action to implement the recommendations to improve the nursing workforce policy and transform the healthcare system. Action Coalitions were formed in all 50 states and Washington DC to establish strategic plans to meet the challenges identified by the IOM.

The most important findings of the IOM study and focus of the Campaign for Action include:

  • the need for better and higher levels of education for nurses
  • all nurses need to be allowed to practice to the full extent of their education in all states
  • nurses need to be made full partners with physicians and other health care professionals
  • nurses need to be part of the leadership and decision making process
  • an infrastructure for data collection and analysis needs to be established to monitor the process

Goals established by the Actions Coalitions include 80 percent of nurses attaining BSN level education or higher by 2020, the number of doctoral degrees in nursing will double by 2020, all APRNs (advance practice RNs) will be able to practice to the full extent of their education and training in all states, states will support and implement open collaboration with all health care professionals, health care decision makers will ensure leadership opportunities are available to nurses in all health care settings such as hospital board positions, and establish infrastructures to collect and analyze workforce data.

Today, the Campaign for Action is noting success in several of these challenges. Medicare has shown support for APRNs being used to the full extent of their education and training. The VA is using nurses as primary care providers and seeing cost savings as well as improved patient outcomes. By doing so, this helps to reduce the challenge presented by shortages of primary care providers as well as dealing with antiquated health care laws that have strained the healthcare system.

Community colleges are now offering baccalaureate pathways to reduce the number of qualified applicants (75,000+) turned away each year by nursing programs in colleges and universities due to the lack of clinical and classroom space and nurse educators.

Strategic game plans have brought about improved workforce policies throughout the country that are helping to elevate the nursing profession. As nurses assume more responsibilities in patient care, patients are demonstrating improved outcomes and health status. Nurses will continue to play a vital role in transforming the healthcare system and improving patient outcomes.

Photo Sources: Wikimedia Commons