By Kate Judge, Executive Director of the American Nurses Foundation

It's easy to highlight the problems plaguing the nursing profession—we've seen many longstanding issues—come to the surface in recent years. It is much more difficult to support those closest to the problem to make transformation happen. Yet, this is exactly what we must do. There is no better time to engage nurses to reimagine their profession to improve access, care, and outcomes for all.

The idea for the American Nurses Foundation's Reimagining Nursing Initiative began from a single conversation. One of the Foundation’s board members, Greg Adams, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, challenged us to take on the barriers that inhibit nurses from being at the decision-making table when it comes to creating meaningful and far-reaching change.

Could we ensure nurses receive the resources and opportunities to drive desperately needed solutions? From that conversation, we began to reimagine the possibilities. We are one year into the Reimaging Nursing Initiative, and we see nurses with the ideas, conviction, and skills to bring their ideas to life. Our 10 pilot projects have shown us first-hand the power and energy that comes from reimagining.

Because of the Initiative's nurse-led projects, there are newly graduated nursing students who are better prepared to handle the complexities of specialty care. We're witnessing nursing students engage in high-stakes extended reality simulations designed to help them work through their biases and confront challenging real-life situations.

And there’s so much more change already taking place. One of the projects uses artificial intelligence to harness nurses' observations and charting to save patients' lives. That tool, which depends on nurses' input but does not burden them with extra work, is being tested in health systems across the country with different patient populations. Another project is saving nurses thousands of hours using a collaborative robot or "cobot" to perform necessary but time-consuming tasks like picking up medications at the pharmacy. That project team is integrating the cobot into electronic health records to lessen nurses' cognitive load.

The Reimagining Nursing Initiative is about real, concrete change—and when we talk to nurses about the projects' potential to impact millions of their colleagues and the people in their care, there is genuine excitement and enthusiasm. The Initiative and its projects are improving the challenges nurses identified and it’s addressing gaps that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic but were undoubtedly exacerbated in the years since.

One nurse leader asked us to bring nurses to the table, and we did. We, in turn, asked nurses to reimagine how they drive quality care while improving the profession—and they did. Now, we ask you to help us reimagine a reality where nurses’ ideas are valued beyond the bedside. There is still so much work to do, and the nurse innovators behind the Initiative’s pilot projects are eager to continue sharing their progress with the world.

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Bio: Kate Judge is the executive director of the American Nurses Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Nurses Association. She has over 30 years of leadership experience in healthcare and non-profit communication, resource generation, and management. Her work has supported large and small organizations in education, healthcare, and human service within the United States and abroad.