Posts Tagged ‘Donald Berwick’


What Do You Value?

October 8, 2012

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

“ ‘The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.’—Hubert Humphrey

These are the words that physician Donald Berwick saw as he went to work in the building that bears Humphrey’s name and houses the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. They reminded Berwick, the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), of his most important mission: “to help the people who need our help the most.” And they are at the heart of an important topic of debate during this election season: what is the proper role of government in our lives?”

AJN Oct. cover, detail

So begins a blog post on the JAMA Forum by Diana Mason, PhD, RN, Rudin Professor of Nursing and codirector of the Center for Health, Media, and Policy at Hunter College, City University of New York, as well as president-elect of the American Academy of Nursing (and, for the sake of transparency, former editor-in-chief of AJN).

Her question is a critical one and one that has been a fundamental issue, tug-of-war even, for Americans. Our citizens take a great deal of pride in being independent, self-made, and self-reliant—yet it’s obvious that most of us also believe in a sense of obligation to community, in helping our neighbors. Witness the many community organizations like Meals-on-Wheels and food pantries manned by volunteers; the millions of dollars in donations to the American Red Cross and the United Fund; the hours of volunteer labor donated to building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

And we feel it’s important to imbue future generations with this sentiment as well—many schools have implemented student service projects as part of the graduation requirement.

Yet, it appears that many feel that our government should not have a role in providing basic health care and social services to those who are in need. Shouldn’t the government embody the values of its people?

The discussion reminds me of how disheartened I felt when I watched Sicko, Michael Moore’s film about America’s health care system. One scene showed the infamous film clip of a Carol Ann Reyes, a hospital patient being “dumped” on Los Angeles’ skid row, in what apparently was a common practice by several hospitals to be rid of patients who were homeless and had nowhere to go. As I watched the film of the disoriented woman getting out of a taxi and wandering the street in a hospital gown and no shoes, the voice-over asked, “Is this how we treat our sick and vulnerable? Is this what we have become as a nation?”

If the government isn’t going to provide for and protect people like Carol Reyes, who will? Does a sense of community refer only to people like ourselves or those in our own neighborhoods? And if many Americans feel that way, what does that say about our values and our identity as a nation?

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(Related article: “The 2012 Republican and Democratic Health Care Platforms,” AJN, October issue.)


Bad News, Good News: Berwick, a Casualty of Politics, Succeeded at CMS Helm by a Nurse

November 30, 2011

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, editor-in-chief

Marilyn Tavenner

When Donald Berwick steps down from his post as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on December 2, he’ll turn the reins over to Marilyn Tavenner, MHA, BSN, RN. Tavenner is not a new face at CMS—she served as acting administrator prior to Berwick’s July 2010 appointment by President Obama and has been principal deputy administrator at CMS since February 2010.

As noted by an article in The Washington Post, Berwick is stepping down in the face of organized opposition to his nomination by Republicans in Congress, who have vowed to block the confirmation he’d need to continue after his recess appointment expires on December 31.

On November 23, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Tavenner for the top post. In her e-mail to CMS staff (carried on the Kaiser Health News site), Kathy Sebelius, secretary of  Health and Human Resources, says of Tavenner, “Her career as a nurse, hospital administrator, and Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources give her unique insights that position her well to serve as Administrator.”

I certainly hope so. Berwick’s reputation and track record for pinpointing problems in our health system—and more importantly, working to do something about them through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement—was stellar, and he carried this zeal into his government position as he grappled with the daunting task of implementing reforms in the Affordable Care Act. Read the rest of this entry ?


So What? An Invitation to Nurses To Tell Us How They’re Translating Research into Practice

June 17, 2011

By Inge B. Corless, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, and Brian Goodroad, DNP, RN, AACRN, nurse practitioner and associate professor at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minnesota

by centralasian/via Flickr

Crossing the Quality Chasm, an Institute of Medicine report from 2001, bemoans the chasm between our current research knowledge and the current state of care. Back in 2003, Don Berwick, now the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, provided the following pithy codification of the problem in a JAMA article called “Disseminating Innovations in Health Care” (subscription required; click here for the abstract): “Failing to use available science is costly and harmful; it leads to overuse of unhelpful care, underuse of effective care, and errors in execution.” Berwick pondered the slow pace of innovation adoption and attributed it to three factors:

  • the characteristics of the innovation
  • the characteristics of the potential adopters
  • contextual factors

Berwick also made this observation about innovations that do get adopted: “Health care is rich in evidence-based innovations, yet even when such innovations are implemented successfully in one location, they often disseminate slowly—if at all.”

Given these obstacles, what can be done to facilitate the integration of research findings into practice? What can be done to change this situation, and what would this entail?

One step is to share our knowledge and our successes in making changes, along with the obstacles to doing so. We invite nurses to identify research that has changed or somehow influenced their practice and to share their experiences with us for potential publication on this blog. We’re not asking for formal academic work here; what’s we’d like is simple, brief (one to five paragraphs) summary description in your own voice. Briefly describe the study and its findings, as you understand them—and then describe how the findings were integrated into practice and any outcomes (whether they were formally measured or anecdotally reported). Read the rest of this entry ?


On the Web: A Tragic Choice, Wasting Berwick, Cost Control, A Nurse’s Comfort Zone

March 8, 2011
President Barack Obama speaks to a joint sessi...

Obama Speaks to Congress on Health Care/Image via Wikipedia

An estimated 60% of American bankruptcies result from overwhelming medical costs. My uncle’s tale illuminates the dual tragedy of suffering catastrophic illness and being uninsured.

Read the rest of this troubling post at The Health Care Blog by surgeon John Maa if you doubt that we need health care reform in this country.

A measure of how unserious we are about fixing the problem of health care quality and costs in the U.S. can be found in reports that Don Berwick, President Obama’s choice to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), continues to have an uphill battle for confirmation, despite being widely acknowledged within the medical community as the best choice for the challenging job.

Since we’re talking policy, there’s an incisive post at the Health Affairs Blog on where our energies should—and should not—be going in controlling costs. Here’s an excerpt:

The current cry to reduce Federal deficits and debt growth by reducing Medicare and Medicaid entitlements is totally missing the key issue: the need to moderate all health care inflation. This should be the time for a national debate on how to best tackle the underlying cost problem, for the sake of our future, the economy, and access to health care.

The June 13-19, 2009 Economist editorialized: “America has the most wasteful [health] system on the planet. Its fiscal future would be transformed if Congress passed reforms that emphasized control of costs as much as the expansion of coverage that Barack Obama rightly wants.”

Why should any of this matter to nurses? Here’s a post reminding us why nurses have a stake in health care reform

But back to nursing proper, nursing in the trenches, nursing not in the abstract but in its inescapable dailiness. Read the rest of this entry ?


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