The nation is facing an unprecedented nursing shortage that increases costs and threatens the health care of hundreds of million of Americans, including 78 million again baby boomers.
The health reform proposals offered by President Obama and congressional leaders aim to expand health care coverage and redesign delivery systems through greater emphasis on prevention, chronic care management, and coordinated care. But there is a critical question not being adequately addressed: Who will provide this care?
In comments he made at a White House Town Hall Meeting on Workforce on March 26, 2009 President Obama indicated that it is nurses who play a major role in these efforts when he said “…And the more we're emphasizing primary care, preventive care, wellness -- all of which will save us money in the long term -- the more that we can deploy nurses as the troops on the front lines in ultimately driving down some of these health care costs.”
Nurses play an important role in providing primary and preventive care, leading chronic care management and care coordination teams, improving quality and reducing costly medical errors. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recently reported the lowest annual growth in enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs in eight years. Yet the U.S. faces a growing shortage of nurses; projections indicate a shortage of 500,000 nurses by 2025.
To help combat the problem, the Center to Champion Nursing in America, (CCNA) a joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with the Division of Nursing in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor brought together multi-stakeholder teams from nearly all 50 states to create solutions to the nursing shortage.
AARP-RI was represented at the Nursing Education Capacity Summit to support the Hospital Association of Rhode Island’s Center for Health Professions. Participants identified and developed approaches to improving nursing education capacity, with the ultimate goal of reversing the persistent nursing shortage that could leave Americans without enough nurses.
Following the summit, CCNA coordinated technical assistance to jumpstart state policy changes and private sector initiatives.
The Center for Health Professions applied for and was given a technical assistance award. Rhode Island was the only New England state to receive an award. Vehicles for technical assistance in 2009 will include electronic discussion forums, and site visits.
Additionally, the number of states receiving technical assistance will increase from 8 to at least 12.
The current shortage of nurses is already causing harm. In the largest study of its kind, a 2007 review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality documented the situation. Among the study’s principle findings: Americans treated in hospitals with a shortage of RNs were more likely to experience one of five adverse outcomes: pneumonia, shock, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, longer hospital stay, and urinary tract infection.
A white paper – Blowing Open the Bottleneck: Designing New Approaches to Increase Nurse Education Capacity – highlights the innovative initiatives addressing capacity challenges and can be found on the Center to Champion Nursing in America website: www.championnursing.org.