Every year in May, National Nurses Week celebrates the services, contributions, and achievements of the nation’s four million nurses. For twenty years in a row, national Gallup polls have found nurses are the most trusted profession. Nurses and nurse scientists work to promote good health and well-being in hospitals, community clinics, schools, colleges and universities, research organizations, government, industry, and everywhere that people are born, live, work, learn, play, and age.
May 2022 also marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the National Academy of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Health Equity. More than two years in development by an expert committee, the consensus report recommended strategies for strengthening the capacity and expertise of the nursing profession to provide leadership in achieving the national goal of health equity. The committee’s recommendations addressed the nursing workforce, leadership, nursing education, nurse well-being, emergency preparedness and response, and the responsibilities of the nursing profession regarding structural and individual determinants of health.
In commissioning and sponsoring the report, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) asked the committee to consider established science as well as review newly emerging evidence related to the COVID-19 global pandemic and crisis response, given the dramatically changing context for nursing education, nursing leadership, and nursing-community partnerships. RWJF also engaged AcademyHealth to coordinate, synthesize, and evaluate research that would inform the committee’s deliberations and development of evidence-based recommendations across all areas of the report.
In collaboration with NAM staff and committee members, AcademyHealth worked with four nationally-known researchers to generate evidence related to the Committee’s research questions. They are Kent Key, M.P.H., Ph.D., a health disparities researcher and expert in community-engaged research at the Division of Public Health, College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University; Karen Johnson, R.N., FSAHM, FAAN, Ph.D., an adolescent health expert and public health nursing researcher at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing; Patricia (Polly) Pittman, Ph.D., an expert in workforce equity research who directs the Health Workforce Research Center at George Washington University; and Joanne Spetz, M.A., Ph.D., a health economist and expert in health care workforce research who directs the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California San Francisco.
With collective expertise spanning decades, professions, research methods, and perspectives on health equity, the research team was uniquely able to address gaps in the evidence base and generate new evidence by reanalyzing existing data, collecting and using data from new sources, and identifying areas where new research would be essential to answer the study questions. Evidence generation in real time is largely a behind the scenes endeavor that doesn’t make it to peer-reviewed publications. An upcoming AcademyHealth webinar provides a rare opportunity to hear how the research team approached the study questions, focusing on their particular areas of expertise and providing context for the work they did collaboratively. The webinar will be moderated by Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Senior Advisor for Nursing at RWJF.
The webinar will discuss how to define and measure health equity; how the nursing profession is addressing health equity, with an emphasis on the role of public health and community health nurses and settings; health equity issues within the nursing profession, including work climate and stress; and how the nursing workforce can be better prepared for success in research, practice, and policy. Key research challenges will be identified, such as how to identify the impact of nursing interventions on health equity that involve multi-sector teams, the role of intra-professional education, and the need for better demographic data on the nursing workforce. After their presentations, the researchers will engage in a Q and A session with the audience.
As the NAM report was being developed, the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nursing profession and health equity was a matter of public concern and debate, but the long-term consequences on the profession specifically and the health care system and workforce more broadly will not be fully known for some time. The upcoming webinar will shed light on areas where national investments in a more coordinated research and policy agenda could have an impact.