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‘Problems Worthy of Attack': Takeaways from IOM Summit on Nursing’s Future

December 6, 2010

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief

Last week, I spent two days at the summit convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch the Campaign for Action—the strategic plan to implement the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report on the future of nursing.

The days were packed with presentations from key players in health care, who offered their perspectives for implementing the recommendations (plus lots of networking, hallway “sidebars,” animated dinner conversation, and commitments from individuals and organizations to continue the momentum). Here are some quotes and snippets of conversation that stick with me as I work on a more comprehensive report:

IOM president Harvey Fineberg, in his opening remarks: “It’s our turn to act to advance nursing and health.”

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, opening the event: “We will remember that we were here on November 30 at the beginning of a new future for nursing.” And cautioning: “scope of practice is the hot button that could blow all this apart.” (A thought echoed by Jack Rowe, an IOM committee member, professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and former CEO of Aetna, who used the term “combustible.”)

Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and chair of the Initiative on the Future of Nursing: “While the report says nursing, it’s really about health care.” And: “It’s all about the patient and no one knows this more than nursing.”

Linda Burnes Bolton, vice-president for nursing and chief nurse office at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and vice-chair of the Initiative on the Future of Nursing, reaffirmed that “the push for 80% of nurses to have a baccalaureate by 2020 is not to disenfranchise anyone, but to ensure that the most qualified individuals are providing care.” She reiterated the importance of having a plan for academic progression and for continuous lifelong learning.

Don Berwick, the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said that he envisions CMS as a “major force and trustworthy partner for continual improvement of health care and health for all Americans.” He also said he’s “always appreciated the immense value . . . of nursing” and is anxious to help this profession “in any way I possibly can.” 

During the question period, Ruth Lubic of the Developing Families Center in Washington, DC, asked Berwick to consider funding nurse-managed clinics like hers that have proven themselves to be high quality, cost-effective models. (She also asked the same of Berwick’s CMS colleague, Joe McCannon. See photo on right.) Berwick said the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI)  “will identify gems” like Lubic’s center. He committed to work to solve discrepancies between state and federal funding, and “though scope of practice lies with the states, CMS will look closely at that.”

Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP, talking about tactics and how one rallies a nation around a cause, shared a favorite haiku: “Problems worthy of attack prove themselves by attacking back.”

(For additional information on the summit, see December’s guest editorial by Susan Hassmiller or a summary and analysis of the report in AJN Reports, or listen to a podcast with American Nurses Association [ANA] chief executive officer Marla Weston.)

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