It’s rare that nurses take center stage. In fact, one of our strengths is our ability to put our patients at the center of our care, whether we’re recognized for our work or not. As a result, it’s always a pleasure to see our profession publicly acknowledged, and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) report The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity does that and more.
I’ve been following the release of this report since 2019, when NAM first held hearings to inform this study, and I’ve spent hours poring over the 500-page report since its release this past May. So, as you might imagine, it was my great pleasure to talk with Sue Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior advisor for nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, during Chamberlain’s Step Forward to 2030 event on turning the report into action. Sue is senior advisor for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the NAM study, and she spent the last year and half leading the effort. You couldn’t ask for a better guide through the report and its recommendations.
You can listen to the archived event to hear everything Sue had to say. Meanwhile, I want to share a few areas that stood out for me during our conversation. For those of you who are hearing about this document for the first time, here’s the gist. The report focuses on nurses in their roles as bridge builders and catalysts for change in the effort to advance health equity—a state in which everyone has access to the things they need to lead a healthy life. The report specifically calls on the systems that educate, pay and employ nurses to enable them to advance health equity by permanently removing practice barriers, valuing nurses’ contributions, preparing them to understand and tackle the social factors that affect health, and diversifyingthe nursing workforce. Visit our website for links to the report and its highlights.
Involving nurse educators
Sue’s advice for involving nurse educators in advancing health equity fell into three buckets. First, she called on us to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies we will need to prepare our students to advance health equity. Second, she asked nurse educators to develop strategies for talking with students about racism and health inequities. Finally, she said nurse educators need to do more to mentor students, especially those from communities that are underrepresented in our schools and our profession.
“Be ambitious about what is possible,” Sue urged, citing partnerships, featured in the report,between nursing schools and their communities. In one, a DNP program partnered with a community clinic to improve its practice. In another, graduate students spent a year immersed in grassroots work in the community and a year immersed in policy and advocacy.
Reflecting on how attitudes toward race have changed, Sue pointed out that treating people equally was the gold standard when she and I were in school. Today, there’s a growing awareness of how racism and other social conditions drive the quality of people’s health and well-being, but not everyone has gotten the message.
“Maybe this report is the very first time they're hearing about racial injustices and discrimination [as drivers of poor health] and what we can do,” Sue said. She urged everyone to take some seemingly simple actions to confront racism. Be humble, kind and respectful. Be willing to listen. “If you’re a leader, set that tone…and take the initiative to take on some crucial conversations,”she said. Later she added, “Be a mentor. Kindness and respect go a long way.”
I agree. I know many people are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing when it comes to discussing this sensitive topic. We should approach conversations with a sense of grace, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, knowing that there’s a genuine respect for all people that is fundamental to being a nurse. Sue also urged organizations to look at their policies, and commended Chamberlain on its use of holistic review in admissions and hiring practices.
I mentioned to Sue that over the next few months, I’ll be conducting listening sessions with Chamberlain faculty to get their views of the report. I’m also eager to hear from our students and our clinical partners about which report findings align most with their experiences. Sue suggested, and I agree, that Chamberlain faculty has an opportunity to be instrumental in convening conversations with nurses and others in clinical settings across the country about the report’s findings.
As Sue said, “Achieving health equity is the most salient issue of our time, and this is nursing’s time to help lead the charge.” She pointed out that the report captures the best evidence available last year on how to advance health equity, but more evidence will emerge—and so will ideas about how to achieve the goals outline in the report. “I encourage you to make it your own,” she told attendees. I second that call and look forward to working with you on this critical endeavor.
Karen Cox, PhD, RN, FACHE, FAAN
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