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College of Nursing Receives American Association of College of Nursing’s (AACN) Inaugural “New Era Award”

The University of Utah College of Nursing has received the American Association of College of Nursing's (AACN) inaugural "New Era Award," which recognizes the nursing education institution that has made the most strides integrating into an academic health center (AHC).

College Dean Trish Morton, PhD, RN, and Associate Dean for Academic Programs Barbara Wilson, PhD, RN, accepted the award at AACN's Academic Nursing Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. last month.

"This award recognizes all the hard work of our clinicians and academic faculty to work as partners with our colleagues in the University of Utah Health system," said Morton. "This truly is a group effort to work more efficiently, collaboratively and innovatively within our interdisciplinary teams."

Political and economic forces are compelling change in academic health care systems--shifting focus to interdisciplinary teams, community-based care and chronic disease prevention and management. As the health care providers often closest to the patient, AACN leaders say nurses have a unique role to play in health care transformation.

The award—the first of its kind—stems from a 2016 report from Manatt Health, "Advancing Healthcare Transformation: A New Era for Academic Nursing." The report found several gaps within academic health systems, including limits that prevent nursing colleges from functioning as true partners, missed opportunities and insufficient resources. AACN challenged its member institutions to reverse those trends.

Noting that nurses are the largest professional workforce in health care, the report added, "Nurses serve a central role in the management of AHC's patients and their families. Nurses are often the primary interface point and advocate for patients. Patients desire to be well—and nurses have a critical role in making health care better.

"As academic health systems develop and increasingly implement value-based reimbursement programs and assume responsibilities for populations of patients, health system leaders should look to nurses to lead and support prevention and wellness programs, new models of care delivery, continuity across transitions in care settings, and integration with home and community based services and resources."

In a 50-page report, University of Utah College of Nursing administrators documented their efforts to form strong partnerships within the U of U Health system. Award recipients were measured against six criteria, including enhancing the clinical practice of academic nursing, investing in nursing research programs, and partnering in preparing the nurses of the future. The University of Utah College of Nursing has a robust faculty practice that generated over $5 million in revenue in fiscal year 2017. The nurse midwifery practice delivers about 500 babies each year at the University of Utah Hospital. College of Nursing researchers are solving important patient problems such as symptom management for patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. The College of Nursing remains in the top 20 for NIH funding for colleges of nursing.

Wilson said the New Era Award recognizes not only College of Nursing faculty members' role in leadership within U of U Health, but also unique programs and faculty practices, including: the Wellness Now program for those with diabetes, care provided by nurse practitioners at the South Main Clinic for low-income patients, the RedMed University of Utah staff clinic and the Hospital@Home program.

"The College of Nursing and U of U Health system leaders are collaborating and innovating in ways that will transform academic medicine and provide better patient care in the long run," Wilson said.

Along with the University of Utah, the Northeast Region VA Nursing Alliance (NERVANA) also received a New Era Award. AACN will recognize a New Era Award winner each year in the fall.