Overcoming the challenges in nursing is essential to overcoming the challenges in the health care system as a whole. Nurses are the largest segment of the health care workforce, and their skills and availability can directly affect quality, safety, and efficiency. Most nurses work in hospitals or other acute care settings, where they are patients’ primary, professional caregivers and the individuals most likely to intercept medical errors. However, because hospital systems and acute care settings are often complex and chaotic, many nurses spend unnecessary time hunting for supplies, filling out paperwork, and coordinating staff time and patient care, reducing the time they are able to spend with patients and delivering care.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the IOM, seeks to transform nursing as part of larger efforts to reform the health care system. As part of this Initiative, three forums were held to explore challenges and opportunities in nursing. The first forum, on October 19, 2009, focused on quality and safety, technology, and interdisciplinary collaboration in acute care; and speakers offered new strategies to allow nurses to provide higher-quality care. The IOM will use the perspectives and ideas summarized in this document to inform a final report on the future of nursing, expected to release in fall 2010.