Oregon Center for Nursing: Supporting the Workforce

October 16, 2015   |  Tags: Blog   |  Tags: Nurse , Care Teams
Jana Bitton

As many publications in recent years have noted, nurses play an integral role in health care reform. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Charting Nursing’s Future series of policy briefs, “Nurses are already leading the way in keeping patients healthy, managing their diseases, and reducing their use of costly hospital care by increasing the availability and scope of primary care services.”  Provider shortages throughout the nation have helped highlight the valuable, positive work in primary care that nurses provide. This work is championed by organizations like the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN), a nonprofit with a mission to facilitate research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals.

The OCN has been dedicated to providing information about the nursing workforce in Oregon for the past 13 years. We are small, with two staff members, but have a board of directors consisting of 12 nurses from diverse backgrounds who provide us focus and direction. For instance, members of our board include representatives from the Oregon Nurses Association, the Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives, and the Oregon State Board of Nursing. OCN is also the co-lead of the Oregon Action Coalition, a multi-disciplinary group of volunteers dedicated to implementing the IOM recommendations to help advance nursing as a profession in Oregon.

The OCN offers beneficial information for lawmakers, nursing educators, nurses and their employers. Anyone with an interest in nursing can find information they need through our website, which includes links to the more than 15 OCN produced reports and whitepapers, as well as links to national research. The website also includes information on entering the nursing profession with descriptions of nursing degrees and practice areas, as well as links to nursing programs. OCN also creates infographics on various topics to quickly share visually-appealing information. We also produce Oregon NurseCast, a podcast focusing on different nursing-related topics. 

When it comes to primary care, nurses play an enormous role. There is a critical need for nurses in primary care, and this need is not unique to Oregon. Nurses are key to making positive changes in health care delivery, and primary care settings allow nurses to be a part of bettering the health outcomes for all. Nurses working in primary care settings are much needed right now if we are going to transform healthcare. Oregon passed legislation allowing nurse practitioners to practice at the top of their license without supervision, which is a great step to alleviating the primary care provider shortage. However, there are still organizational barriers that restrict them from doing so. In addition there is a need for more nurse practitioners to accept primary care roles, especially in rural parts of the state.

It is important for primary care nurses, particularly in patient-centered primary care homes, to embrace a team-based model of care.  Integrating the work of nurses, physicians, medical assistants, social workers, pharmacists, and other health professionals is key to overall health care transformation.

OCN’s research shows that nurses who work in hospitals are less likey than others to leave for other work settings. Many nursing students I have talked to say they want to pursue a hospital position, and often new nurse graduates do not see themselves within the bigger picture of health policy and system changes. I think they are missing a huge opportunity. If health care transformation is successful in its aims, then the role of a nurse in a hospital will decrease significantly, and a main role for nurses will shift to patient care in a patient center primary care model. Today the data shows patients continue to utilize hospital services, partly because the infrastructure is not there yet, and partly due to public awareness and habits. Eventually things will shift toward community care in primary care settings and nurses need to begin envisioning themselves as a significant part of this shift.

This is an exciting time to be involved in health care, especially as a nurse.  I look forward to more discussion about nurse roles in providing primary care, and nurse’s work as a team within patient-centered primary care homes. There is a lot of room for nurses to be engaged in the field of primary care, and I encourage nurses at all levels to embrace their transformative roles in primary care.

Please visit the OCN website at http://oregoncenterfornursing.org/ or contact Jana Bitton directly at bitton@up.edu for more information.

Jana R. Bitton, MPA serves as the executive director of the Oregon Center for Nursing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals. Jana also serves as the co-lead of the Oregon Action Coalition, a volunteer group with a mission to advance nursing in Oregon through implementing the Institute of Medicine recommendations.

Jana’s work in nursing began in 2009 when she joined OCN as a Program Manager leading the Nurturing Cultural Competence in Nursing program, an initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Northwest Health Foundation.  As the NCCN program work came to a close, Jana moved in the role of Program Director of the StudentMAX® Clinical Placement Program. This software program is used throughout the nation to facilitate the work of schools and clinical sites in arranging student clinical placements.  Jana led the program through a significant technological overhaul, and helped with the transfer of the program into a for-profit organization.  Jana also served as Development Director at OCN before accepting the role of executive director.

A native of the Portland area, Jana earned a Master’s of Public Administration from Portland State University with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management, and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. She specializes in marketing, fundraising, program management, and local government. Prior to joining the Oregon Center for Nursing, Jana also worked as a fundraiser for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, a research assistant with the Executive Leadership Institute at Portland State University, and a marketing coordinator for the City of Palmdale.