July 22, 2015: Last month the Center partnered with the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers to conduct a 3-day national conference titled “State of the Nursing Workforce in an Era of Healthcare Reform: Data, Trends and New Collaborations” in beautiful downtown Denver, Colorado.

The conference brought together workforce researchers, state policy makers and analysts, and nursing groups to listen to more than 30 presentations on the following themes:

  • How ACA implementation is affecting the nursing workforce
  • How nurses are impacting the implementation of the ACA
  • Challenges and opportunities to strengthen the rural nursing workforce
  • The impact, contributions, and challenges confronting advanced practice RNs in a reformed delivery environment
  • Value based purchasing
  • Modeling the supply and demand of nurses
  • How must nursing workforce education change to best position nurses’ impact on improving health and creating value
  • State based initiatives aimed at strengthening the health care workforce
  • “Late Breaking” session on current work/issues/projects


In addition, conference attendees formed collaborative working groups to engage in projects aimed at strengthening the nursing profession.

If you weren’t able to attend the conference or want to review the highlights, here are a few bullets summarizing the conference:

  1. The event was well attended. Over 200 individuals from all across the country attended the conference. Attendees heard 5 keynote presentations, over 30 cutting edge presentations and breakout sessions, viewed research posters displayed, and participated in activities designed to develop collaborative projects – more on that below.
  2. The keynote sessions were relevant and timely. All of our keynote speakers did a wonderful job describing how health reform has and continues to impact the nursing workforce. Susan Dentzer kicked off the conference examining how technology will shape the future care environment, among a number of other factors that are occurring independent of government-driven health reform initiatives. Kavita Patel used an example of how health reform must consider providing care to the person in the context of their entire living situation, family and community relationships and social support systems. Richard Krugman examined the local Colorado perspective and how much medical centers have changed but still face more challenges in the health reform era. Susan Reinhard reviewed progress on implementing the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine and challenges facing nurses. Finally, Sheila Burke concluded the conference with insights into health reform legislation and policy implications for nurses.
  3. Breakout sessions. The biggest “complaint” we heard was that there were too many interesting presentations and break out sessions offered simultaneously! Indeed, the conference agenda covered diverse topics such as challenges facing the rural health workforce (and solutions), conflicting forecasting models and results on the future supply and demand of nurses, education trends, impact of the ACA/health reform on nurses an others –nurse practitioners, physicians, physician assistants, etc., state initiatives to improve the workforce, the value of nurses, etc. Presenters included individuals from all stakeholder groups: state workforce planners, analysts and researchers.
  4. Collaboration. One of the aims of the conference was to foster the development of collaborative research projects involving researchers and state workforce planners, hopefully developing feasible projects that would continue throughout the year and make an impact. We surveyed attendees on what areas they would most likely team up to either get assistance with an idea, provide expertise on a topic or simply had an interest in to help organize “stations” within the room. Participation was voluntary. We provided brief instructions to help get the groups focused and developing about their ideas for collaborative project(s). And then discussions took off from there – in the end, we had 7 groups who reported out to the entire conference their project ideas (many of these projects have already met via conference call following the conference). The Center will keep in contact with these collaborations and, as appropriate, post progress, successes, and challenges encountered – see the Media and Events tab on the Center’s website – for more information.


Overall, the national conference was a success and we are pleased to announce that we have already begun planning for an even bigger and better conference on the nursing workforce in Denver, June 2017. Watch our website for more information about the conference as we get closer to 2017. In the meantime, make plans to attend The National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers 2016 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, April 27-29, 2016.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to all of the sponsors of the event, especially to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for their generous support and interest in the nursing workforce. We also offer our thanks to everyone who helped plan, attended and presented – the contributions you each brought to the event and the discussions were invaluable. We look forward to Denver 2.0 in 2017!

Peter Buerhaus and Christy Friedman


Here are some photos from the event:


Susan Dentzer

Susan Dentzer

Kavita Patel

Breakout Session

Unbeatable Denver View from the Grand Hyatt

Karen Kowalski

Richard Krugman

Betty Rambur discussing value in one of our great breakout sessions

David Auerbach on the latest forecasting data

Packed house for this breakout!

Susan Reinhard

Peter Buerhaus

Amanda Dunker of the National Governor’s Association during another great breakout 

Ed Salsburg during a supply and demand summary session

Supply and Demand experts (left to right): Peter McMenamin, David Auerbach, Peter Buerhaus, Jean Moore, Edward Salsburg, and Joanne Spetz

Wonderful staff of Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence that helped make the conference run smoothly!

Breakfast session group report outs

Breakfast session group report outs

Breakfast session group report outs

Breakfast session group report outs

Breakfast session group report outs

Breakfast session group report outs

And Sheila Burke closed out the conference with a wonderful plenary!