Rounds with Leadership - Vital Directions for Nursing

Published March 22, 2017

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a new forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

On March 21, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) issued the final discussion paper from the Vital Directions for Health and Health Care steering committee, which outlined a set of national priorities for achieving better population health and a more effective healthcare system. This report synthesizes the best thinking from more than 150 experts in policy, science, and research who shared evidence-based strategies for overcoming obstacles to advancing the nation’s health and scientific progress.

Looking at the challenges facing the drive toward a healthier nation – which include health inequality, care fragmentation, and outdated education models – it is easy to see that nurses can play a role in mitigating these concerns. As the largest group of healthcare professionals, nurses facilitate access to care, particularly in rural, urban, and underserved communities. As the provider who spends the most time with patients in need, nurses bridge the gaps in an often fragmented care delivery system. As nurse educators, we are acutely aware of the need to explore new ways for preparing nurses for contemporary practice, including educational models that are technologically enhanced, interprofessional, and competency-based. Team-based education that includes a focus on understanding clinical and population health data and optimizing electronic health record data for care improvements is recommended in the report.

The authors also found that “talented young scientists are increasingly discouraged from pursuing careers in biomedical research due to rising educational requirements and tuition costs combined with uncertain career pathways (p. 4).” This observation is particularly salient given that AACN has just reported the second year of slight enrollment declines in doctoral programs that prepare nursing scientists. For the nursing profession to flourish, a robust pipeline of quality research is needed to advance evidence-based interventions, inform health policy, and address emerging healthcare needs. The NAM report recommends more cross-disciplinary doctoral education coupled with strong data analytics and informatics training. Together, we must make expanding enrollment in PhD nursing programs a national priority.

Read NAM’s paper on Vital Directions for Health and Health Care, which identifies eight policy directions for moving the nation toward a preferred future and a reformed healthcare system, including key priorities for action and essential infrastructure needs.