School of Nursing

May 25, 2021

Future of Nursing

The future of nursing and the health of the nation took a major step forward with the recent release of The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. This comprehensive publication from the National Academy of Medicine charts a bold future in which nurses play a lead role in fostering wellness by focusing on health equity.

The UW School of Nursing joined with other nursing education leaders across the country in contributing the data and perspectives that were the report’s foundation. The report cited several of our community-oriented projects with underserved communities and research by our faculty and mention of the Women of Washington, a coalition of nurse-leaders I am honored to be a part of, seeking to change the state’s healthcare systems and impact. “The group’s cohesiveness,” the report states, “relies on their shared values, which include focusing on equity, whole-person care, population health, cross-systems thinking, multisector partnering, and the promotion of nurses’ roles in advancing health.” These are values and goals the report envisions as being the future of nursing.

The importance and impact of The Future of Nursing Report cannot be overstated. It constitutes a redefinition of the role nursing can and should have in our nation’s health care. The report is clear about the fact that, “A nation cannot fully thrive until everyone—no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make—can live their healthiest possible life, and helping people live their healthiest life is and has always been the essential role of nurses.”

Changing this equation is a monumental task and one the report confirms is a uniquely good fit with the skill set of nurses. “The ultimate goal is the achievement of health equity in the United States built on strengthened nursing capacity and expertise,” the report states. This means focusing on and addressing equity of access to health services. But at a far deeper level, it means focusing on and address the social determinants of health, defined as, “The conditions of the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”

“Nurses play multiple roles in acute care, community, and public health settings” the report concludes, “through which they can influence the medical and social factors that drive health outcomes, health equity, and health care equity.”

The report envisions immediate and sustained action by our profession across several areas, including:

  • Acting now to improve the health and well-being of the nation
  • Lifting barriers to expand the contributions of nursing
  • Designing better payment models
  • Strengthening nursing education
  • Valuing community and public health nursing

The Future of Nursing 2020-2030 has envisioned the future of healthcare and defined the role of nursing in fulfilling that vision. The UW School of Nursing looks forward to taking a leadership role in implementing the report’s recommendations into our curriculum, research, and practice.