Nurses at the Table: Action Now! for Nursing Education

Sofia A. Aragon, JD, BSN, RN; Gerianne M. Babbo, EdD, MN, RN; Sarah J. Bear, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE; Mindy L. Schaffner, PhD, MSN, RN, CNS

Disclosures

Online J Issues Nurs. 2020;25(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Nursing faculty shortages are a crisis at both the state and national levels. In celebration of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we share the successes of Action Now!, a movement spearheaded by the Washington Center for Nursing; the Washington Board Of Nursing; and the Council on Nursing Education in Washington State. Securing sustainable financing for nursing programs was the top goal set by the Action Now! coalition. In addition, three major nursing unions assisted with legislative advocacy, helping to secure significant funding from the state legislature to increase nursing educator salaries. We offer background information about how a diverse coalition of nursing organizations joined forces with key stakeholders to address this crisis in nursing education. The article describes vision and implementation for Action Now!, our successes and lessons learned, and the effort to move forward with ongoing challenges to identify and address barriers in nursing education.

Introduction

The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife (WHO, 2019), and in the state of Washington, nurses are at the table. For example, nursing faculty shortages are a crisis at both the state and national levels. "It takes an RN to make an RN. We need to get those in charge of higher education funding and compensation to recognize how desperate our state's situation has become," stated Bill Strader, CEO and Chief Financial Officer of Panorama, a retirement community located in Lacey, Washington (Strader, personal communication, 2019). The need to prevent nursing shortages and address them when they occur was originally identified by the Washington State Legislature when it passed RCW 18.79.202 in 2005 (Central Nursing Resource Center, 2005). This statute established a central nursing resource center for the state of Washington, currently known as the Washington Center for Nursing (WCN).

In celebration of the Year of the Nurse, we would like to share the success of Action Now!, an initiative that involved the work of many nurses, groups, individuals supportive of nursing in the state of Washington. This coalition achieved the top priority of obtaining a meaningful wage increase for nursing faculty who teach at state community and technical colleges. We share this in hopes that other states will act to secure a sufficient and diverse nursing educator workforce.

Action Now! began as a coalition of nursing leaders that expanded to include nursing employers, policy makers, and others. They, as separate organizations, noted the shortage in nurse educators. Without a solution, the consequence would be the inability of nurse educators to meet the demand for nurses in the workforce.

The Action Now! initiative was spearheaded by WCN, the statewide central nursing resource center; the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC), the state regulatory board for nurses (Washington State Department of Health, n.d.); and the Council on Nursing Education in Washington State (CNEWS), the statewide organization of deans and directors of Washington nursing programs. The Washington State Nurses Association; the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW; and United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) 141 Nursing Union provided analysis and strategic expertise to help secure the additional funding for nursing faculty salaries from the state legislature. This was key because the nursing unions had the ability to lobby the legislature and had existing relationships at the state capitol. As not-for-profit organizations, neither the WCN nor CNEWS are permitted to lobby, due to funding and capacity constraints. The NCQAC also had limitations on lobbying. Ultimately, support from these unions led to a new appropriation of $40 million to increase nursing educator salaries by the state legislature. The article describes vision and implementation for Action Now!, our successes and lessons learned, and the effort to move forward with ongoing challenges to identify and address barriers in nursing education.

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