The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Foundation received national recognition from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies for its joint educational initiative with Michigan State University, the Northwest Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson foundations called Nursing for Life: RN Career Transition Program. The IOM cited the nursing transition program as a national model in providing nursing professionals with continuing competence because it engages them in a process of lifelong learning that ultimately improves patient care and health status. The Nursing for Life program, which also received the Building Michigan’s Healthcare Workforce Award from the Michigan Health Council in 2009, improves the retention of experienced nurses by offering them new career opportunities.
The BCBSM Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of Michigan residents by supporting health care research and innovative health programs. Supporting the Nursing for Life program gives nurses new opportunities and helps retain an adequate and skilled nurse work force in our communities. This is a program that can be modeled in other states and across the nation. The nursing work force in every community, including rural America, can both replicate and use the online course, developed by the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Nursing, to increase the number of nurses employed in every state in the nation.
The program provides support to the MSU College of Nursing and the nursing profession, in which an aging baby-boom population of nurses is challenged by the physical demands of working in an acute-care hospital environment. In the absence of other clinical opportunities, many may leave the field of nursing. Nursing for Life offers career alternatives by providing state-of-the-art education in both classroom and clinical settings to transition nurses to other types of less physically demanding employment. These include nursing opportunities in long-term care, ambulatory and hospice facilities.
The BCBSM Foundation has a long history of supporting researchers who seek to improve clinical practice, alleviate the shortage of nurses and physicians (especially in inner-city urban centers and in rural communities) and increase the number of health care providers in the work force. The BCBSM Foundation is also partnering with the Michigan Center for Nursing and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in its efforts to address nursing work force issues specific to nurse managers practicing in acute and long-term care facilities in southeast Michigan. In a previous collaborative effort with the MSU College of Nursing, a BCBSM Foundation grant helped support a program to retain nurses who, for a variety of reasons, left the nursing profession and now, in many cases after raising a family, wish to return to nursing.
The RN Career Transition Program is part of a national grant program that works locally to develop a nursing work force capable of meeting the changing demands of the community’s health care needs. The aging population in Michigan and around the nation has a significant impact on nursing professionals. This grant program was designed to be replicable and to reduce nurse turnover, increase job satisfaction and improve patient care outcomes.
Ira Strumwasser, Ph.D., is executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation
Beverly Church is a communications specialist with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation