President's Video: Building Toward a Thriving Nursing Workforce

Apr 26, 2022

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In her new video message, AACN President Beth Wathen explores the need to find sustainable, impactful solutions to address some of the most critical issues facing nurses today.

Hi Everyone,

Over the past year, I’ve spoken with acute and critical care nurses across the country. The issues and challenges nurses have faced over the past two years are immense, and many of you have shared your experiences and concerns. You feel unseen, unheard and undervalued.

But, you’ve also asked, what can be done to rebuild our profession? What can we do to nurture our roots and thrive moving forward?

In March, at a National Academy of Medicine roundtable with other leaders, I conveyed many of our nursing concerns during a keynote panel moderated by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. I spoke to an audience of healthcare leaders – nurses, physicians, administrators and chief executives – and highlighted inappropriate staffing, unhealthy work environments and compensation disparities for nurses as ongoing issues worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding sustainable, impactful solutions to address these issues will not be easy. Only when we prioritize and address the issues head-on can we begin to imagine the ideal workplace of our future.

So how do we do that? AACN’s Healthy Work Environment (HWE) standards provide a sound framework from which to start, and they have never been more relevant or needed.

We must advocate for the implementation of these standards as a norm moving forward. You cannot have a thriving nursing workforce without improving the health of the work environment.

Inadequate staffing has been among the greatest challenges impacting nurses this year. And nurses tell me it’s the number one source of moral distress. Units are still struggling without having enough staff to deliver safe care – even as COVID-19 hospitalizations ease a bit.

We can all agree there is a point past which safe care simply cannot be delivered. That’s why AACN is examining our role in understanding the minimum level for safe patient staffing in the critical care setting. Together with the American Nurses Association (ANA), American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), AACN is also co-leading a national staffing collaborative, Partners for Nurse Staffing, which is bringing together nurses, hospital executives and healthcare finance experts to develop long-term strategies to address the staffing challenges impacting hospitals.

Now is the time to critically look at how broken our long-held approach to nurse staffing is and work toward impactful change.

A thriving workforce also means a diverse workforce. Our units do not always reflect the diversity of the patients we care for. Now is the time to develop creative strategies to build pathways to engage and grow a more inclusive workforce for the future. We can start by thinking together about what this means – in our units, schools of nursing and throughout our healthcare organizations. Let’s create a vision with goals for this issue and then learn together about strategies for making this vision a reality.

A thriving nursing workforce must feel valued and that they are fairly and equitably compensated for their skill and expertise. Now is the time to authentically look at flexible, equitable and transparent compensation practices for loyal and dedicated staff.

A thriving workforce is a workforce that feels seen and heard. Effective decision-making, another AACN HWE standard, calls for nurses to have input into decisions that impact their practice. Now is the time for nurses to have seats at more decision-making tables. And when those seats are offered, we need to say “yes” and speak with professional and informed voices about nursing practice and what is needed to provide the best possible patient care.

As we approach the beginning of Nurses Week, we’ve never before seen nursing, and therefore healthcare, in an upheaval of this magnitude. If we embrace this time as an opportunity, we have an unprecedented chance to transform our system and build a thriving nursing workforce more empowered and inspired than ever before.

What ideas do you have for imagining our workplace of the future? Please share them with me at