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New Studies Show Nursing Workforce Critical to Success of Health Reform June 13, 2009

Health Affairs today unveiled a series of six studies examining the nursing workforce in the context of health reform. The papers were released at a forum presented by Health Affairs and the Center to Champion Nursing in America that featured a lively discussion among policy-makers, nursing leaders and researchers, and health reform experts. The Center is a joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

According to one of the studies, the continuing recession will contribute to an easing or temporary end to the current registered nurse (RN) shortage, as older nurses delay retirement or return to work, and part-time nurses seek full-time jobs. However, as the baby boom generations health needs increase and the economy rebounds, the nursing shortage will intensify again in the next decade, according to the study, which provides detailed workforce and compensation projections. Other studies released at the meeting addressed nursing education, workforce development, increased quality and efficiency and patient satisfaction.

These important findings demonstrate that nurses have developed and implemented innovative models of care that promote the goals of health reform: expanding access, improving quality and safety and reducing costs, said Susan Reinhard, Senior Vice President and Director of the AARP Public Policy Institute and CCNA Chief Strategist.

The forum featured Wendell Primus, Health Counsel to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Erik Rasmussen, Minority Professional Staff, U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Health; David Sloane, Senior Vice President of AARP; Health Affairs Editor- in-Chief Susan Dentzer; and several top nursing experts.

The crises facing nursing and the nations health and health care systems are inextricably connected, said Susan B. Hassmiller, Senior Adviser for Nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Today we explored various approaches to ensuring we have enough well-prepared nurses in the future and that insights and innovations from the nursing profession are applied as we work to make our health care system better for all. Americans will not receive the health care they need unless we make an investment in a well-prepared nursing workforce.

Publication of the new studies in Health Affairs was supported by a grant from CCNA.

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