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Nurses Must Lead

California nurses are called to local, regional and national action.

Nationally, the proposals for healthcare reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, the Initiative on the Future of Nursing are a rallying call to action that can unite the nursing profession, mobilize support from all stakeholders in health and catalyze meaningful advances in healthcare delivery. This will ultimately result in improvements in the health of the individuals, families and communities we serve.

With more than 3 million members, the nursing profession is the largest segment of the nation's healthcare workforce. Working on the front lines of care, nurses can and should play a vital role to realize the objectives set forth in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This federal legislation provides health insurance coverage for 32 million more Americans, a significant demand to our nation's healthcare system.

But California nurses can have even greater impact on healthcare across the state through the California Regional Action Coalition (RAC).

Future Care Plan

The IOM report is a blueprint for optimizing the contribution of nursing to the health of our population. This report provided eight recommendations that address a range of system changes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in partnership with the Center to Champion Nursing in America at AARP, selected California as one of five states to lead early efforts in implementation of these recommendations. The California RAC will take the lead and help develop programs to guide implementation of these recommendations in hospitals and schools of nursing statewide.

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The Initiative on the Future of Nursing will require all of us to put aside stereotypes and consider new possibilities so nurses can contribute fully in a vastly improved healthcare system. We know nurses play critical roles in a variety of settings, from the bedside to the boardroom, in all places where care is delivered and in communities where healthcare can be improved.

The IOM committee that developed the report envisioned a future system that makes quality care accessible to the diverse populations of the U.S., intentionally promotes wellness and disease prevention, reliably improves health outcomes and provides compassionate care across the lifespan.

In this envisioned future, primary care and prevention are central drivers of the health-care system. Inter-professional collaboration and coordination are the norm. Payment for healthcare services rewards value, not volume of services, and quality care is provided at a price affordable for both individuals and society.

Heather M. Young, PhD, RN, FAAN
Taking Responsibility

The IOM report calls for nurses to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training, to achieve higher levels of education and training and to practice as full partners with other members of the healthcare team in healthcare redesign. To achieve these goals, workforce planning and policy making must be supported by better data collection and an improved information infrastructure.

The recommendations are directed to a broad audience. From nursing and physician groups, government, business and consumers themselves, many people are ready to move forward on changes that will transform healthcare. They're willing to test new approaches, greater collaboration and expanded responsibilities that will allow all health professionals to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training.

To be full participants, nurses must be prepared and enabled to lead change to advance health through leadership at all levels, including nurses in clinical practice, nurses leading units and programs, nurses leading healthcare organizations, and nurses advancing health through policy, research and education.

We are called to take responsibility for our own personal and professional growth in leadership - as a lifelong pursuit. We are asked to look around and identify future leaders and nurture their growth and provide mentorship to colleagues. Finally, it is crucial that we exert our leadership capacity in arenas beyond our usual audiences. Nurses are the most trusted profession, and we can build on that foundation by leading in our communities, our government, on boards, and in policy arenas where our perspective can improve health in broader ways.

The communities we serve need us to take leadership - if we can do this as a collective with a common vision, we can move mountains.

Working Together

Coalitions will be the driving force of the overall initiative to move key issues forward at the local, state and national levels. The population of California is diverse, encompassing vast geography and diverse communities. With the growing demand for healthcare, we must improve both access and quality of the care we deliver. The California RAC must develop long-term, sustainable actions to improve health in our state. To do so, California's nurses must unite and come together to determine priorities and build on the momentum begun with the release of this historic report.

The California coalition designed a structure to maximize involvement and accomplish concerted effort. Our success as a state is going to hinge on our ability to create solid and united momentum across vast geography, diverse interests and varied emphases. Our structure is designed to funnel information and enable us to prioritize action. I invite all California nurses to get involved and learn more about the California RAC and the Future of Nursing report.

Working together, nurses can lead the changes necessary to ensure our healthcare system provides seamless, affordable, quality care that is accessible to all and leads to improved health.

Heather M. Young is a member of the California Action Coalition executive committee, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Campaign for Action, associate vice chancellor for nursing at the University of California Davis and founding dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.


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