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Looking back to move ahead: The Future of Nursing in 2013


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 By Dr. Patrick Robinson, Dean of Undergraduate Curriculum and Instruction, Chamberlain College of Nursing

In October 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, an action plan for preparing the nursing industry to effectively respond to healthcare changes. The IOM emphasized that nurses must achieve higher levels of education to improve the quality of U.S. healthcare and recommended raising the minimum education requirement for nurses, increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80% by 2020[i].

Behind the Recommendation

As healthcare settings respond to increasing patient needs, brought on by new healthcare legislation and an aging baby boomer generation, it is more important than ever that nurses raise the standards of their profession to improve healthcare outcomes. Nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have additional competencies and can respond more effectively to increased demand for healthcare services.

Progress Toward the Goal

In 2011, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported a 5.1% enrollment increase in entry-level baccalaureate programs in nursing. At Chamberlain College of Nursing we have opened five new campus locations that offer a BSN degree program since The Future of Nursingwas released[ii].

Though the industry has made positive strides, current growth rates are not sufficient to meet the projected demand for nursing services. Recent projections indicate a shortage of 260,000 nurses by 2025 – twice as large as any shortage we’ve experienced since the mid-1960s[iii]. Institutions need to adapt and innovate as they educate a new generation of nurses in 2013 and beyond. We cannot raise the standards of the nursing profession and meet rising demands while significant barriers, such as access to pre-licensure education, qualified faculty and clinical space, still stand.

Tools for Moving Ahead

In a December 2012 study from the RWJF RN Work Project, many nurses listed scheduling classes around work schedules as a significant barrier to pursuing an additional nursing degree, and credited opportunities like web-based and worksite classes as important incentives[iv]. Institutions may consider offering online degree programs to provide flexibility for working registered nurses to earn a BSN degree.

Some nursing schools form strategic partnerships, such as articulation agreements, to remove barriers to education; others reduce tuition for an organization and receive grant funds for facilities, textbooks, or career placement services[v]. Hospitals are also responding. Some offer incentives like subsidized nursing faculty salaries and tuition reimbursement for nurses who earn a BSN[vi]. Collaborative efforts like these help meet new standards for nursing education by promoting BSN nursing education, thereby influencing quality healthcare outcomes. 

The nursing industry is making progress toward set recommendations, but it is important to build on this momentum to prepare for changes that are yet to come. If we respond appropriately to these identified barriers, we will continue to advance and transform healthcare education and delivery.


[i] The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Rep. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine, 5 Oct. 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/The-Future-of-Nursing-Leading-Change-Advancing-Health.aspx.

[ii] Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet. American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 31 Dec. 2012. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/NrsgShortageFS.pdf.

[iii] Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet. American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 31 Dec. 2012. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/NrsgShortageFS.pdf.

[iv] Why Nurses Go Back To School. Rep. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine, 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 31 Dec. 2012. http://www.rwjf.org/en/about-rwjf/newsroom/newsroom-content/2012/12/why-nurses-go-back-to-school.html.

[v] New Partnerships and Grant-Funded Initiatives in Nursing Education. American Associated of Colleges of Nursing, 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/partnerships-grants.

[vi] Hospitals' Responses To Nurse Staffing Shortages. Health Affairs, 26 June 2006. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/25/4/W316.abstract.