Although registered nurses rank similarly with physicians in the public's esteem, physicians are more visible than nurses in media coverage, public policy, and political spheres. Thus, nursing workforce issues are overshadowed by those of other health priorities, including Medicare and health reform. The purpose of this research was to understand the visibility and salience of the health workforce in general, gain an understanding about the effectiveness of messages concerning the nursing workforce in particular, and to understand why nursing workforce issues do not appear to have gained more traction in national health care policymaking. The National Survey of Thoughtleaders about the Health Workforce was administered via mail, telephone and online to health workforce and policy thoughtleaders from August 2009-October 2009. Of 301 thoughtleaders contacted, 123 completed questionnaires for a response rate of 41%. Thoughtleaders agree that nurses are critical to the quality and safety of our healthcare system, that there are current nursing shortages, and that nursing shortages will be intensified by health reform. Thoughtleaders reported that while they do hear about nursing issues frequently, they do not view most sources of information as proposing effective policy solutions. This study highlights a critical gap in effective policy advocacy and leadership to advance nurse workforce issues higher on the national health agenda.
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