Within 90 days of taking office, President Barack Obama declared his high regard for nurses during an Internet town hall meeting. "When Sasha—our little precious pea—was just three months old, she was hospitalized with life-threatening meningitis," he said. "The doctors did a terrific job, but frankly it was the nurses that were there with us when she had to get a spinal tap. . . . I'm biased toward nurses. . . . I just like nurses."
Unfortunately, good will doesn't necessarily translate into giving nurses a greater role in policy formulation and implementation. Policymakers have previously relied on other sources—physicians, pharmacists, and hospital executives—while overlooking the contributions of nurses and evidence-based nursing practice. In 2006 health care leaders and policymakers jointly convened the Quality Alliance Steering Committee, a collaborative effort to implement performance measures to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. But nursing wasn't represented. Only after national nursing organizations collectively appealed was a nurse finally included on the committee.
Nurses represent the single largest group of health care providers and are in close proximity to the delivery of care. This gives us a unique perspective that should be invaluable to policymakers. But before we can contribute to health policy, we must overcome the barriers that limit our participation.
The leaders of our national nursing organizations have envisioned a new way to achieve this—by creating the Nursing Alliance for Quality Care (NAQC), which aims to influence policies that affect the quality, safety, and value of health care. The NAQC will operate as a partnership among nursing organizations, consumers, and other key stakeholders. During its first two years of operation, the NAQC will be funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and will operate out of The George Washington University's Department of Nursing Education. It will focus on supporting the delivery of high-quality, patient-focused care; encouraging nurses to actively promote and be accountable for quality care; and demonstrating to policymakers the importance of nursing.
The NAQC has an ambitious agenda that aims to influence federal policy on quality and safety, thus positioning nurses as effective—and essential—health reform advocates. In addition, it will
- establish national health care quality and safety goals by, for example, supporting the adoption of evidence-based nursing practice.
- strengthen the visibility of nursing in performance measurement and public reporting.
When creating the NAQC, a conscious decision was made to include consumers as partners. Consumer representatives and other key stakeholders will hold seats on its board of directors. National nursing organizations are eligible to become members and can e-mail NursingAlliance@gmail.com for more information. Individual nurses cannot join the NAQC, but they can urge their professional nursing groups to do so.
Policymakers are demanding improved quality, reduced costs, and expanded access to care. The NAQC is a vehicle through which nursing's response can be generated, widely disseminated to nurses in every setting and specialty, and translated into national action.