Expanding Nursing's Front-Line Roles

Stepping up to take on more responsibilities

When Rebecca Lang and Alycia Conway each led a weekly "huddle" of health care workers last fall at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, it was fairly routine for the two students as they finished their Master of Science in Nursing degrees.

"We went through nursing concerns, physician concerns and checked in with mental-health providers and other social services about our patient," said Conway, RN (NUR '16, '19), who, along with Lang, RN (NUR '14, '19), graduated in January from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve. Both said the huddle—part of a collaboration between the nursing school and the Cleveland VA—was standard in a modern interprofessional team approach.

But that practice also reflects a fundamental shift in American health care that's visible not just in the team approach but also in nurses taking on more responsibilities and patients receiving more care in outpatient clinics.

Now, with a four-year, $2.2 million U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration grant, the two institutions will train students and working nurses to lead more outpatient care.

Nurses and nurse practitioners are "being asked to step up and do more to address the chronic disease management of patients," said Mary Dolansky, PhD, RN (GRS '01, nursing), an associate professor at the nursing school and director of the QSEN (Quality Safety Education for Nurses) Institute, a national organization based at the school.

This fall, more than 400 undergraduate students will learn about this new approach, and several will work at the VA.

—Mike Scott