We started out small. We keep growing.
The story of HealthImpact is an unlikely one. A small group of nurse leaders frustrated by the cyclical nursing shortages of the 1990’s in California decided it was time to come up with a systematic approach to the crisis. They were gathered at the annual conference of the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL), having drinks at the hotel bar after a day of meetings. By the end of the evening, eleven of those present each donated $100 and the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care, and HealthImpact, was born. The year was 2001. Before the year was out, the Institute formally incorporated and two years later, hired a part-time director.
Since then, HealthImpact has evolved. The organization is now endorsed by most major nursing organizations in the state. It sponsors seven programs that benefit thousands of nurses and nursing faculty, and is still growing. It brings together diverse interests to better prepare nurses for their role in keeping Californians healthy and is a trusted voice in statewide strategy and policy discussions. HealthImpact receives funding from major health care providers and foundations, among others, and is fully staffed.
Did the founders imagine that their efforts would still be going strong a decade and half later? “Absolutely,” says Judith Berg, RN, MS, FACHE and Executive Director of HealthImpact. “We envisioned an organization that would be able to address issues affecting the nursing workforce well into the future. We knew it wasn’t just about hiring more nurses, even then.”
The California nursing shortage is currently not the most pressing issue, but nursing education and practice are struggling to keep pace with the lightning-fast changes in the profession brought on by health care reform. Berg says the founders knew the organization’s work would evolve with transformations in nursing.
“It was a group of far-sighted people who were action-oriented and able to move initiatives forward and gain support,” she says of the founders. Berg is quick to point out that such changes require broad collaboration of nursing and health care organizations. She says the organization’s most important role is to be a neutral player that convenes critical discussions with a range of partners.
HealthImpact continues to play a critical role as health care reform shifts the industry focus from acute care to community-based care, she says. The health care industry will no longer just provide care, but help the population manage its health—and nurses will play a greater role in helping Californians stay healthy.
HealthImpact, will “continue to work with educators, policymakers and providers to position nurses to have an impact on health that communities need,” says Berg.
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