Transforming the Profession of Nursing:  Improving Health Care for Americans

Transforming the Profession of Nursing: Improving Health Care for Americans

The practice of nursing has changed dramatically in 50 years. Technology, shifting population demographics and new legislation—particularly over the past few years—has brought dynamic and visionary new routes to advanced and specialized practice. Nurses with advanced degrees now provide care once delivered only by physicians and serve as team leaders, assessing patient needs and working in collegial relationships with physicians.

According to a 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine, more than three million nurses make the profession the largest segment of the nation’s health-care workforce. When the 2010 Affordable Care Act was ratified—the broadest change made since Medicare and Medicaid—it opened doors for conversations among government, business, health-care organizations, professional associations and the insurance industry. Yet the most transformational perspective came from the marriage of philanthropy and medical policy research.

In 2008, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)—a private foundation dedicated to improving health care for Americans—and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) launched an initiative to transform the nursing profession. Their collaboration identified four key points affecting the future of nursing education and the evolving role of nurses in the health-care industry. An ad hoc committee addressed specific recommendations regarding the delivery of nursing services and the expected capacity of the nursing education system, including:

• Re-conceptualizing the role of nurses within the context of the entire workforce, addressing the nurse shortage, societal issues and current and future technologies;

• Expanding the role of nursing faculty, increasing the capacity of nursing schools and redesigning nursing education to assure it can produce an adequate number of well-prepared nurses able to meet current and future health-care demands;

• Examining innovative solutions related to care delivery and health professional education; and

• Attracting and retaining well-prepared nurses in  multiple care settings, including acute, ambulatory, primary care, long-term care, community and public health.

Inova Health System Senior Vice President and Nursing Director Maureen A. Swick, Ph.D., R.N., commented on the report’s conclusions. “The report speaks to the use of advanced practice nurses and allows them to function to the level of their education,” said Dr. Swick.

The study also sets new expectations for nursing practice at the national level, helping nurse educators create a blueprint for action. Shenandoah University’s nursing faculty works closely with the profession to assess the changing health-care environment and assure programs prepare graduates for real world practice.

Evolving Role of Nurses in Today’s

As a whole, the profession demands nurses enter the field with more specialized knowledge, since a majority of hospital visits—including some types of surgeries—require short stays and different forms of care, such as home health nursing. Although technology drives many tasks, nurses still coordinate and organize resources needed by patients during their illnesses and provide physical and emotional support. They work in hospitals, clinics, homes, industries, schools and health advocacy agencies. Yet in all these environments, it is still the nurse-patient relationship that remains at the heart of the profession.

Shenandoah University ensures students are well prepared to make a positive and influential difference from the moment they graduate and pass their boards. The workplace is as much a part of nurse’s education as is classroom work, and Shenandoah’s faculty mentorship concept is a hallmark of the program as are the clinical preceptors who provide valuable clinical experiences.

“We’re dedicated to preparing graduates to deliver, manage and lead nursing care in a variety of health-care settings,” said Kathryn Ganske, Ph.D., RN, dean of Shenandoah’s Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing. “We want them to be prepared, yet ready to anticipate change and participate in personal and professional development throughout their careers.”