Today, Modern Healthcare published an article (free, but registration required) on the new Institute of Medicine’s Commission on the Future of Nursing, noting that some people believe that it is misguided because it doesn’t include a union representative or staff nurse, and that we already know what is needed to improve nursing and the lot of nurses. It’s clear from the composition of the Commission that the members were not intended to represent specific organizations. The fact that there is a new (2008) graduate who is a member speaks to the need for fresh insider perspectives. While we’ve emphasized acute care in the profession, health care reform is expected to shift more of the care to the community and primary care. So maybe the nurse midwife on the committee is a good selection.
While nurses may know what the profession needs (though we still don’t agree on issues such as educational preparation), the report by the IOM has the potential to outline innovative solutions to problems nursing faces, garner support from other stakeholders that may help us to overcome organized medicine’s continuing turf battles over scope of practice, and garner attention for at least a short period when it is released. It’s up to the nursing and health care communities to make sure that its recommendations are pursued.
Nursing still needs one united voice to speak on such issues. Maybe this work will help to solidify such a voice. I know that Donna Shalala, the Commission’s co-chair, will continue to champion nursing and breaking down the barriers to access to nursing services. I hope organized nursing will not wait for Shalala, but will ask how it can support the IOM’s work.
Diana J. Mason, AJN editor-in-chief emeritus