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Driving Healthcare Innovation by Investing in Nurses

Nursing News & ProgramsNurses Leading Innovation

Driving Healthcare Innovation by Investing in Nurses

group of nurses in discussion while viewing a tablet device
A first of its kind report commissioned by the American Nurses Foundation found that just one penny of every healthcare philanthropy dollar goes to nurses, despite the need for massive and urgent investment in nursing to transform our complex health care systems and improve care delivery. A new series on the SEE YOU Now podcast explores this important issue.
A first of its kind report commissioned by the American Nurses Foundation found that just one penny of every healthcare philanthropy dollar goes to nurses, despite the need for massive and urgent investment in nursing to transform our complex health care systems and improve care delivery. A new series on the SEE YOU Now podcast explores this important issue.

Investing in nursing has a broad and sustained impact on the health and well-being of us all. Investment – whether from philanthropy, industry, or the government – is essential to address both current workforce challenges, including nursing shortages, while also building a representative nursing workforce to improve health equity and outcomes.

Yet, philanthropic investment in nursing has historically been limited. According to the American Nurses Foundation, just one penny of every healthcare philanthropy dollar goes to nurses. To explore this important issue, the SEE YOU NOW podcast spoke to philanthropists, fundraisers, program managers, executive directors, grantees, and innovators to uncover creative, strategic, and evidence-based approaches to investing in nurses. Tune into this series of episodes to learn why, how, and who is investing in nurses and nursing.

Here are three takeaways from the episodes.

  • More support is needed for nurses at the bedside.

    “The economy rests upon healthcare,” said Kate Judge, Executive Director of the American Nurses Foundation. “If you do not have a strong healthcare system, the economy falls apart. And the healthcare system really stands upon the shoulders of nurses,” says Judge.

    In the series’ first episode, Judge explains that many new graduate nurses experience a gap between their nursing education and the reality of the workplace. Today, most funding goes to nursing education and training, but more is needed to support the transition into practice, as well as nurses’ advancement and to elevate them into leadership. Through the three episodes, several creative, impactful approaches to clinical and career advancement are explored.

    But beyond skill development, there’s another kind of support that benefits bedside nurses – recognition.

    That’s where organizations like the Simms/Mann Family Foundation come in. Late last year, the foundation launched Off the Chart: Rewarding Nursing Greatness, a three-year campaign in collaboration with four different health systems within the Los Angeles area: UCLA Health, Keck Medicine of USC, City of Hope, and Cedars-Sinai. The campaign offers a $10,000 gift of appreciation of extraordinary nurses for their leadership, ingenuity, and expertise in caring for their fellow humans and future generations.

    “The fact that someone would write a check — with no strings attached — for $10,000, has been probably one of the most mind-blowing things for the nurses,” said Karen Grimley, Ph.D., MBA, RN, Chief Nursing Executive at UCLA Health and Assistant Dean at UCLA School of Nursing. “Now somebody has actually said to them, ‘We value you. What you are doing is significant.’”

  • Early support can attract students to nursing, and sustained support can keep them on the journey.

    With a projected nursing employment gap of more than 200,000 nurses, there is a nationwide need to increase the number of practice-ready nurses to support an increasingly diverse population. Filling these gaps requires innovative strategies that expand the nursing profession – particularly in nursing education.

    When Bloomberg Philanthropies surveyed hospital CEOs nationwide to understand the gravity of the need, one resounding theme was the thousands of vacancies and the urgent need for more nurses, including nurses who reflect the communities their health systems serve.

    Jenny Kane, who leads education initiatives at Bloomberg Philanthropies, developed a plan to build the healthcare workforce needed today and tomorrow – Nurses Middle College. This evidence-based, student-centered strategy connects with students as early as eighth and ninth grade and shows them the breadth of opportunities that a career in nursing can afford them.

    Pamela McCue, CEO of Nurses Middle College, describes the model as health policy and an investment in the workforce, especially for students who are underrepresented in the pre-collegiate pipeline. This model of early engagement educates and equips students to go directly into the workforce in a patient care role. It also offers students tuition-free college prep education and free college credits.

    Complementing NursesMC is a $250 million workforce initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies asking high schools and hospital systems throughout the country to collaborate and design innovative programs through high school curriculum, paid work-based learning, and on-the-job experience, culminating in employment with that very system. As of 2022, NursesMC graduated 384 students, 60% of them in the nursing workforce.

    NursesMC isn’t the only philanthropic organization working to diversify the nursing workforce. The Elisabeth C. DeLuca Foundation enables nurses to explore the possibilities of careers within the profession.

    The foundation focuses on individual nurses and their respective journeys, working to first root the desire to be a nurse within communities, then ensure that early career nurses become practice-ready and develop a career path unique to them, and finally leverage their on-the-job experience to educate younger and upcoming nurses.

    “Every individual has some different journey that they’re going to go on,” says Elisabeth DeLuca, the foundation’s founder, and a former nurse. “Whatever impact we can make, in either nursing education or workforce or perception, it will impact every single individual nurse.”

  • Training new nurses is important – but we also need to keep current nurses from leaving.

    Sparking interest in the profession and supporting nurses through their journey to practice is an essential part of addressing the workforce shortage. But it is only part – funding must also address the systemic problems that drive nurses to leave their roles. This is the key to having not just enough nurses, but enough experienced nurses capable of innovating to transform healthcare.

    Ahrin Mishan, Executive Director of the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation, serves on the board of the American Nurses Foundation and oversees the Hillman Foundation’s grant-making efforts, which focus on educating nurse innovators and advancing nurse-driven models of care for underserved populations. He describes nursing as an “untapped resource” that is deserving of more philanthropic attention, especially when considering how investing in nursing has a resonant effect throughout the entire healthcare ecosystem.

    Marion Leary, Ph.D., MPH, RN, Director of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing, shares the sentiment. Through the Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship, powered by Penn Nursing and the Wharton School, Leary trains nurse leaders in design thinking and human-centered design methodologies, immersing participants in the innovation process to address a real-world challenge their health systems are facing. Nurse leaders are then able to implement these innovation processes at their own systems across the country, accelerating the rate of nurse-led solutions to transform healthcare for all.

    Johnson & Johnson has invested more than $100 million in a variety of nursing initiatives designed to spark interest in nursing, elevate and support nurses, and lean into their natural innovative power to address the health care problems they are so hungry to solve.

    “Nurses are at the core of many of these solutions, and they're uniquely qualified to help improve the quality of healthcare, advance health equity and ultimately transform and continue to evolve healthcare,” said Howard Reid, Johnson & Johnson’s Global Head of Global Health Equity. “Nurses are at the heart of innovation in this space. They're leaders in their workplace. They're clinical experts, advocates for patients, and so much more. So, to see the dearth of funding and investment is something that absolutely has to change.”

    Johnson & Johnson’s objective is to attract and strengthen an innovative, thriving, and diverse nursing workforce, empowered to advance health equity and transform healthcare. To achieve these objectives, the organization strategically invests in efforts aligned with three key areas – championing nursing as an innovative, high-impact, purpose-driven profession, supporting the integral role of nurses as leaders and innovators key to addressing and creating a healthy work environment, and increasing diversity within the profession.

    “If we don’t start to solve some of these challenges, we’re not going to solve the problem at its root,” says Reid. “Everybody should be interested and invested in solving these problems.”

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    For healthcare to work, it takes nurses. That’s why Johnson & Johnson is proud to advocate for, elevate, and empower nurses for over 125 years.

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