A Heartfelt Thank You and Look Ahead
A new year is upon us, and I can’t let its first month pass without pausing to thank you, our amazing network of Action Coalitions, Champions, advisors, and allies, for your dedication and commitment to advancing health equity through nursing in 2023 and share insights on how that work positions us for a productive 2024.
Working together and through the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), we have made consequential progress last year in our shared goal of improving health equity through nursing.
On Nov. 1, we wrapped up our two-day AARP Health Equity and Nursing Summit, appropriately subtitled, Turning Commitments into Action. More than 150 passionate professionals joined us from nursing, health care delivery, business, unions, social services, social justice and consumer organizations to consider how we achieve health equity. Each person contributed to the event’s success, whether leading a workshop, presenting on a panel, or posing a question that sparked new thinking or forged new pathways.
The AARP Center for Health Equity through NursingSM (A-CHEN) and the Campaign for Action launched the inaugural round of Equity-Minded Nurse awards. We received more than 150 impressive applications for this award, and we thank every single person who applied or nominated someone. It reminded us of the depth and scope and variety of the work nurses are doing to promote health equity – at every level from the individual to institution to policy. It was heartening! In the end, we recognized five outstanding nurses with an Equity-Minded Nurse award in each of five categories – educator, practice, leader, rising star, and research. I would like to thank again for their generous co-sponsorship of these awards, respectively: the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing/American Nurses Association, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, the National League for Nursing, and the American Academy of Nursing. The program was part of a larger initiative that foregrounds nurses in their own voices, sharing their experiences in health equity and modeling what it can mean for other nurses.
A-CHEN and the Campaign also awarded nearly $700,000 through our Health Equity Innovation Fund grants. Awards went to 15 projects offering promising solutions aimed at eliminating structural inequities, particularly structural racism, within the nursing profession, health systems, or community, and for projects that help improve access to care and services for those most disproportionately impacted by health disparities. We look forward to sharing how those projects are progressing, including through webinars with some of the awardees. We will soon send out the 2024 call for proposals, in collaboration with AARP, RWJF and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, so watch this space!
In the New Year
An important project we launched in 2023 brings us into 2024, when we will increase our efforts to recruit nurse mentors through the AARP Office of Volunteer Engagement. It is part of our overall focus to strengthen and diversify nursing. One-on-one mentoring is extremely effective in helping nursing students and young nursing professionals to succeed, and the bridge between mentor and mentee is often the nursing school. The Campaign has been providing in-person and virtual technical assistance about mentoring to nursing schools that serve students of color and to our state-based Action Coalitions, to improve school retention and graduation rates and increase NCLEX pass rates. In 2024, we are excited to plan a fall gathering of nursing schools, including 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving, and American Indian/Alaska Native-serving schools of nursing, to help support and strengthen critical mentor programs.
Another key path to a successful nursing career, and to a more diverse nursing workforce, is LPN to RN progression. We are launching an initiative to identify and help replicate progression models with a track record of helping LPNs who wish to become registered nurses, along with other innovative workforce solutions for nurse recruitment and retention.
A Sharper Focus
Shortly after the Campaign for Action launched, we built a dashboard to evaluate efforts to implement recommendations from the then-named Institute of Medicine 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The dashboard remains our touchstone. We are beginning 2024 with a refreshed dashboard, focused on improving consumer access to care and diversifying nursing at all levels.
As the Future of Nursing: 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity report tells us, “for our country to advance health equity for all, the systems that educate, pay, and employ nurses need to permanently remove barriers to allow them to do this work, value their contributions, prepare them to understand and tackle these issues, and diversify the nursing workforce.” The Campaign for Action and A-CHEN will be working on all fronts to move that work forward in 2024. We will do it alongside our volunteer Ambassadors, Champions, state Action Coalitions and our growing network of local and national allies.
Allies and partners are key to the urgent work of achieving health equity, and we invite everyone to find a way to join this work. Here are some ways you can get involved with us. We hope to see fresh faces at our webinars and events in 2024. There is so much to do, and we are excited to have you with us.
Wishing you a healthy New Year!
Photo credits: Greg Kahn for AARP.