RWJF turned to the Tri-Council for Nursing to lead the Academic Progression in Nursing program. The Tri-Council is an alliance of four autonomous national nursing organizations: the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, the American Nurses Association and the American Organization of Nurse Executives. These organizations provide representation from nursing practice, education, policy, research, and leadership (Tri-Council for Nursing, 2016).
This was the first awarding of funds to the Tri-Council as a group, and the charge was broad – to advance state and regional strategies to create a more highly educated nursing workforce (RWJF, 2012). Selection of the Tri-Council for leadership was key to program development, as it provided a clear statement of support for academic progression from all participating organizations, each with a unique constituency and role in advancing nursing practice and professionalism. Because academic progression in nursing remained a somewhat controversial topic, Tri-Council leadership offered legitimacy and validity to the work, establishing a construct in which diverse groups of nursing leaders would work in cooperation for this common goal. In addition, it maximized messaging of program goals and progress through existing infrastructure of all four organizations.
As each organization began reporting ‘downstream’ about the APIN projects, they validated the importance of the work to the profession as a whole. At the request of Tri-Council leadership, AONL took the lead in project management, and housed the APIN National Program Office (NPO). The Tri-Council’s selection of AONL for this role was also intentional, and demonstrated the importance of full inclusion of practice partners in nursing education system re-design. RWJF provided total funding support of over $10 million, allowing two phases and covering a four-year time span (RWJF, 2014).
The APIN program subsequently selected nine project sites to develop, refine, and evaluate models for advancing BSN education. Program developers chose sites from both urban and rural areas, representing all regions across the U.S., and each site received over $300,000 for each two-year phase. Several of the states selected had existing work in progress, which was amplified and expanded during the grant period. Although grantees were free to design a program which best met their individual needs, it’s notable that all states gravitated toward what would subsequently be identified as the partnership model. Since each approached this somewhat differently, they generated a great deal of information about program design and implementation.