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Rounds with Leadership: Charting the Future of Academic Nursing – Part I

Published May 26, 2021

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

May 26, 2021 - Charting the Future of Academic Nursing – Part I

At the culmination of National Nurses Week on May 11, the National Academy of Medicine released the long-awaited report on The Future of Nursing 2020-2030, which provides a blueprint for how nurses can address pervasive health inequities and serve as catalysts for change. The predominant theme threaded throughout the report is that the US cannot achieve the goal of ensuring health equity without strengthening nursing capacity and expertise. This new call to action includes practical steps that all nurses, faculty, and students can take to advance the profession’s priorities related to achieving social justice, advocating for sound public policy, and enhancing the quality of care available to all.

We were particularly pleased to see alignment between the report’s call for transformation and AACN’s strategic priorities, including synergy with The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education. Endorsed by the AACN membership on April 6, the new Essentials outline competency expectations for preparing all new nurses to address the social determinants of health at both the individual and systems level, a key recommendation in the Future of Nursing report. AACN’s work to advance a competency-based approach to education, promote excellence in public health and population health, champion a robust nursing research agenda, and create inclusive learning environments are all consistent with the report’s goals. The association is well-positioned to lead efforts to meet other key objectives, which include expanding clinical learning experiences into community settings, promoting nurse wellness and resilience, stimulating nurse leadership development, and facilitating efforts to recruit diverse faculty and students into the nursing profession.

The report was produced by an expert committee co-chaired by Dr. Mary Wakefield from The University of Texas at Austin and Dr. David Williams from Harvard University. Committee members include several representatives from academic nursing, including Dr. Peter Buerhaus from Montana State University; Dr. Regina Cunningham from the University of Pennsylvania; Marcus Henderson from the University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Greer Glazer from the University of Cincinnati who served as AACN’s representative to this group. Nursing deans and faculty across the nation were instrumental in shaping the report’s content through presentations at public forums and by providing direct feedback.

The expert committee advanced several final recommendations, which include:

  • Engaging all national nursing organizations in developing a shared agenda for addressing the social determinants of health and achieving health equity
  • Mobilizing support among state and federal government agencies, healthcare and public health organizations, payers, and foundations to take action to enable the nursing workforce to address the social determinants of health and health equity more comprehensively across practice settings
  • Implementing structures, systems, and evidence-based interventions to promote nurses’ health and well-being
  • Removing barriers to nurses to practice to the full extent of their education
  • Creating sustainable and flexible payment mechanisms to support nurses in addressing social needs and health equity
  • Leveraging the expertise of nurses in designing and utilizing innovative technologies
  • Strengthening nursing education to ensure that nurses are prepared to address social determinants of health and achieve health equity
  • Building nursing’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies
  • Engaging federal agencies and other authorities in advancing a research agenda to assess the impact of nursing interventions on the social determinants of health, environmental health, health equity, and nurses’ health and well-being

This new report builds on the work generated by the first Future of Nursing report, released in 2010, which helped to rally support for raising the education level of the nursing workforce. Though the 2020-2030 report does not offer final recommendations for the educational composition of the workforce, the call to continue advancing education at every level continues, with a special emphasis on expanding the number of baccalaureate and PhD-prepared nurses.

To better inform members about its contents, AACN recently held a webinar to give An Insider’s Look at 2020-2030 Future of Nursing Report: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity, which is now available on demand. Dr. Susan Hassmiller, Senior Scholar-In-Residence and Adviser on Nursing to the President of the National Academy of Medicine, who oversaw the development of the Future of Nursing reports, was the featured speaker. Other resources available to orient you to the new report include Highlights, Recommendations, and a Report Brief on Transforming Nursing Education.

In next month’s Rounds with Leadership, we will dive deeper into the Future of Nursing report’s recommendations and how they relate to AACN’s strategic priorities and goals.


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