Still going strong: Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future turns 10

( Ten years ago a nursing shortage loomed in the United States. A shortfall of about 400,000 nurses by 2020 was projected and, between 1983 and 1998, the proportion of RNs younger than 30 had dropped from 30% to 12%, according to a 2000 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In response to this dire scenario, The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future emerged in 2002.

It had a number of highly ambitious goals, including improving the nursing profession’s image, recruiting new nurses and retaining RNs already in the field. 

“When we started the campaign, the projections about the nursing shortage were pretty horrendous, and we felt we were in a unique position to work with key partners to alleviate the shortage,” said Andrea Higham, the campaign’s director.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the $50 million campaign, and new data suggests the campaign is one reason the supply of nurses has improved. According to an article published in December 2011 in Health Affairs, initiatives including the Campaign for Nursing’s Future contributed to a 62% increase in the number of young nurses (ages 23-26) entering the field between 2002 and 2009. “The campaign did something for nursing that nursing could not do for itself,” said Beverly Malone, RN, PhD, FAAN, CEO of the National League for Nursing. “We had been wondering for years how to get the word out about nursing, and they had access to the airwaves and the sensitivity to really capture the best parts of nursing and present it in a way that the public could understand.”

Image matters

One of the most visible ways the campaign has promoted nursing is through its TV advertisements depicting the impact of nurses. Campaign leaders also recognized their efforts would have a greater impact if prospective nurses could afford nursing school. To assist them in their studies, the campaign worked with healthcare partners throughout the United States to raise more than $19 million for undergraduate scholarships, nurse educator fellowships and nursing school grants.

To commemorate its 10th anniversary and thank RNs for their contributions to the nursing profession, the campaign created a digital mosaic featuring photos of nearly 10,000 RNs. For each photo submitted, the campaign donated $1 ($2 per photo submitted at the National Student Nurses Association’s national convention) to the scholarship fund of the Foundation of the NSNA. Donations totaled $12,500.

As demand for nursing education increased, so did the need for more nursing faculty. The campaign responded by pouring resources into programs to recruit and retain nursing faculty including a TV advertisement showing the same nurse in several critical healthcare situations in different states.

“The viewer is left wondering how one nurse can be in all those places at the same time, and we see that she is a nurse educator,” Malone said. “We touch patients through all the students we teach. I think [the campaign] showed how critically important educators are because we are the ones who prepare the clinicians.”

Malone said the campaign also has played a key role in retaining nurse educators. For many years, it has provided grants to the NLN for new faculty leadership and mentoring programs. “Learning how to juggle research, publishing and a large class load is very challenging,” Malone said.

The future of the campaign

The campaign also has taken its message of nurses’ value to the Caribbean, where skilled nurses were leaving for opportunities in countries such as the United States, Canada and Britain. Marla Salmon, RN, ScD, FAAN, professor of nursing and global health at the University of Washington in Seattle, worked with the campaign and Caribbean nursing and government leaders to create the Year of the Caribbean Nurse initiative. This effort included a recruitment video, commercials and posters encouraging young people in the Caribbean to go to nursing school and stay in their countries to work.

“In many ways, [the campaign] understood that there was an issue of connecting need, people and resources in ways that have never been done before,” Salmon said. “The campaign set the table for nursing around the world, not just the U.S.”

Higham said the campaign will continue indefinitely. If the past decade provides a glimpse into the future, the nursing community can expect the campaign to evolve as the nursing profession’s needs change.

The campaign “has already recognized the fact that healthcare is shifting from mainly acute care in the hospital to ambulatory care, community health and long-term care,” said Diane Mancino, RN, EdD, CAE, FAAN, executive director of the NSNA. “They have adjusted their messages to communicate this trend to the public because a lot of people don’t recognize that there is a need for nurses in those areas.” •