From the Director

Research Activities, December 2012, No. 388

Image:Photograph of AHRQ's Director: Carolyn Clancy, M.D.

I often say that nurses are on the frontlines of care. While this is true, nurses—despite their vast influence and importance—have too often been in the background of health care research and policy. This is changing. Nurses are increasingly becoming leaders in shaping and developing all aspects of health care policy and decisions. It's about time.

In the Department of Health and Human Services, we have more nurses in leadership than ever before. My colleague Mary Wakefield, the administrator of the Health Resources Services Administration is a nurse. Dr. Wakefield once chaired AHRQ's National Advisory Council. The acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Marilyn Tavenner, is also a nurse. In addition, Rear Admiral Kerry Paige Nesseler, the chief nursing officer in the Federal Public Health Service Nursing Corps, chairs the Public Health Service Nurse Leadership Network that meets twice a year to network, collaborate on programs, and open communications across Federal agencies and various roles in the field of nursing.

AHRQ's own Beth Collins Sharp, who is interviewed in this issue of Research Activities, has set up a similar workgroup within the Agency. We're proud to have nurses in almost every center and office here. In each case, their nursing expertise adds value to their respective programs, just as nurses add important perspectives to clinical teams.

For example, nurses play a central role with use of nurse-administered checklists to ensure infection prevention practices are followed at hospitals that are dramatically reducing central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) as part of the AHRQ-funded Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP). CUSP has cut the rate of CLABSIs nationally by 40 percent, saved 500 lives, and saved $34 million in health costs. More than 40 of our grants have involved nursing since 2001. Current studies include a trial examining the effectiveness of health information technology interventions to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York; a cross-sectional study collecting data from nurses in surgical units caring for patients with coexisting chronic illness in Atlanta; and a study examining nurse staffing, financial performance, and quality of care in North Carolina.

In 2010, we expanded our continuing medical education/continuing education offerings in our Effective Health Care Program to include nurses and other clinicians in addition to physicians. And even more recently, we established an Effective Health Care Program nursing workgroup. Our partners include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National Black Nurses Association.

The Institute of Medicine Report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health and the Affordable Care Act provide new opportunities for nurses to lead and help eliminate barriers to use of patient-centered outcomes research. AHRQ will continue looking for new opportunities to engage with nurses, expand opportunities for nurses, and educate ourselves on the value that nurses bring to research. We're ready.

Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.

Current as of December 2012
Internet Citation: From the Director: Research Activities, December 2012, No. 388. December 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.