Susan B. Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., Initiative Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine and Senior Adviser for Nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
It would be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day news coverage of the ongoing health reform discussions taking place in Washington and begin to think that health reform is only about access to care and coverage issues. It certainly is about those concerns, but it’s also about so much more. We forget that we are at the tip of a very large iceberg. The goals of health reform are not only who pays for health care, which is the topic that currently dominates health reform discussions, but how we make quality health care affordable. This goal, and the vital role that nurses play in achieving it, are at the core of the Foundation’s Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine.
Nursing represents the critical components in the implementation of health reform including expertise in caring for older and chronically ill patients, care management and preventive care. But in order to fulfill the promise of nursing, we must address the challenges facing the profession including: identifying innovative solutions to solving the nursing shortage; ensuring that the nursing education system has the capacity to educate and prepare nurses for providing care in the 21st century; attracting and retaining nurses in all heath care settings; and recognizing the vast potential for improving quality of care through optimal utilization of nursing care.
The success of this initiative depends on the input from not only nurses, but from others who should care about the availability of high quality health care, including health care administrators and providers, purchasers, consumers, and even those from the business community. The health care system—both in its current and future states—affects all Americans, and we must engage fully in its delivery. The future of our health care system is a societal issue that impacts every individual the same way that matters concerning our education system start with teachers, but touch everyone’s life.
The initiative will examine solutions to these challenges through a series of public workshops and forums. The first, taking place in mid-September in Washington, D.C., will be a technical workshop consisting of three panels: one focusing on the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery, the second on the health policy aspects of health reform, and the third will deal with health care capacity issues. Following the technical workshop will be a series of three Forums on the Future of Nursing. The first, taking place in Los Angeles on October 19, will be held at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and will focus on nursing in acute care settings. The second will address nursing issues in community and public health care settings and will take place on December 3 in Philadelphia. Finally, the third forum, being held in Houston in February 22 will examine nursing education.
Portions of each meeting will be open to the public and will include a mechanism for public comment. Detailed information on the time, location and registration for the meetings will be available online at www.iom.edu/nursing. The meetings will be webcast for those who are unable to attend in person.
As the initiative begins to address these challenges, it is always in the mindset of finding solutions to the barriers that currently stand in the way of the promise that nursing holds for the future of health care. We are on the cusp of an amazing transformation in health care, and the work that we accomplish through this initiative will play a major role in determining how we deliver quality, affordable health care to every individual in the future.