Washington State Selected for Second Grant to Continue Building a More Highly Educated Nursing Workforce

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced that Washington State has been chosen to receive a second $300,000, two-year grant in Phase II of its Academic Progression in Nursing program (APIN). APIN is advancing state and regional strategies aimed at creating a more highly educated, diverse nursing workforce. It is run by the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) on behalf of the Tri-Council for Nursing, consisting of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, American Nurses Association, and AONE, which is leading the four-year initiative. “Action Coalitions” in all nine states that were part of Phase I of the program have met or exceeded their benchmarks, and are receiving funding to continue their work for two additional years. Funding from RWJF to the states over the four years will total $5.4 million.

In addition to Washington State, the nine states receiving Phase II APIN grants are California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Texas. The grants will allow them to continue working with academic institutions and employers to expand their work to help nurses in their states get higher degrees, so they can be essential partners in providing care and promoting health, as well as more easily continue their education and fill faculty and primary care nurse practitioner roles. The Action Coalitions in all these states have been encouraging strong partnerships between community colleges and universities to make it easier for nurses to transition to higher degrees. 

“With the first APIN-Washington grant funds we identified barriers and supports for nurses to continue their education; increased access to BSN education through grants to four new RN to BSN programs; launched a diversity mentoring program for minority nursing students and novice nurses; and simplified the pathway from an associate to a bachelor’s degree in nursing by creation of a Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA) between Washington community/technical colleges and universities,” said Suzanne Sikma, PhD, RN, professor of nursing at the University of Washington Bothell and APIN-WA grant manager. “The DTA resulted from a remarkable collaboration between public and private nursing education stakeholders including the Council on Nursing Education in Washington State; the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges; the Washington Student Achievement Council; the Council of Presidents of public universities; the Independent Colleges of Washington; and the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission. Washington has a growing and older population with changing healthcare needs that demand a more highly educated nursing workforce.”

Future goals of the Washington State Action Coalition include facilitating implementation of the DTA, increasing efforts to diversify the nursing workforce, and identifying best practices for program replication in order to further expand access, capacity, and quality of RN to BSN education in Washington State.

In its groundbreaking 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that 80 percent of the nursing workforce be prepared at the baccalaureate level or higher by the year 2020. At present, about half of nurses in the United States have baccalaureate or higher degrees. While acknowledging the contributions of Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses and associate-degree-prepared Registered Nurses, the IOM report said a better educated nursing workforce can help ensure that our nation’s population has access to high-quality, patient- and family-centered care and can meet the growing need to provide preventive care in schools, communities, and homes.

“The APIN teams have been making great progress developing initiatives and curricula that are encouraging and making it easier for more nurses to earn their BSN degrees,” said Pamela Austin Thompson, MS, RN, CENP, FAAN, national program director for APIN, chief executive officer of AONE, and senior vice president for nursing at the American Hospital Association. “We know that the nation needs a well-educated nursing workforce to ensure an adequate supply of public health and primary care providers, improve care for patients living with chronic illness, and in other ways meet the needs of our aging and increasingly diverse population. The strategies these nine states are implementing, and the models they are developing for other states to replicate, will help us meet the IOM’s target for BSN and higher prepared nurses.”

As part of Phase II of this work, each state Action Coalition will develop a sustainability plan to ensure that the work to promote seamless academic progression for nurses in their states will continue beyond the grant period. During Phase II, each state will also develop a robust diversity plan and focus on academic-practice partnerships to expand and support the work to date.

RWJF is also helping advance recommendations in the IOM report by supporting the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action—a collaborative effort to advance solutions to challenges facing the nursing profession in order to improve quality and transform the way Americans receive health care. It is coordinated through the Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation, and RWJF. It supports state-based Action Coalitions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; Action Coalitions are leading the APIN work in each of the nine funded states.

“Advancing a more highly educated, diverse workforce where nurses are able to practice to the top of their education and training is essential to achieving the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s mission to advance a culture of health in our nation,” said RWJF Senior Adviser for Nursing Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN.  “In the last two years, APIN grantees have laid important groundwork to build that workforce. We are pleased to provide the financial support they need to continue their essential work.”

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