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The Importance of Increasing Education in Nursing

It's been close to 10 years since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its landmark report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The IOM, which changed its name to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015, produced the report to "make recommendations for an action-oriented blueprint for the future of nursing."

One of the key messages in the report states, "Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progress."

Why the Need for Change in Nursing Education?

Nurses at all levels are being asked to attain more education. In The Future of Nursing report, the IOM recommended that 80 percent of nurses hold a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) by 2020. One reason for this recommendation involves the complex demands of modern healthcare. "The complexity of this care requires transitioning from skill-based competencies to those that assess knowledge and competence on health policy, system improvement, research, evidence-based practice, teamwork and collaboration, complex decision making and leadership," according to "Driving Factors Behind the 80% by 2020 Initiative " published on RN.com.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) points to research that correlates BSN preparation with improved patient outcomes, lower failure-to-rescue rates, lower incidence of deep vein thrombosis, and fewer readmissions, to name a few.

Simply put, nurses are being asked to do more -- and are needed to do more -- than ever before. Beyond the hospital, nurses provide care where the patients actually are, increasing access for those who can't or won't come to a hospital or doctor's office. Schools and urgent care centers are just a couple of examples. Nurses also provide care in the home, at community centers, migrant health clinics, and nurse-managed health centers. Because of poverty, location (rural communities without a nearby hospital), immigration status, and other mitigating factors, many patients would not have access to healthcare at all without nurses.

Not only do nurses provide care in these and other locations, but they also educate their patients. And education is key to preventive care, which keeps many people from needing acute care down the road -- care they often can't afford or don't have access to.

The Need for More Nurses in Advanced Practice

According to a Health Affairs study, "The number of physicians choosing primary care careers remains insufficient to replace those retiring," the report said. "This concern is especially acute in rural areas with long-standing provider shortages. Thus, it is plausible that practices will increase the use of providers other than physicians, such as nurse practitioners."

The shortage of primary care physicians is creating a need for more family nurse practitioners. These and other advanced practice nurses, such as nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists, are considerably more cost-effective than doctors. And as access to care increases, the impetus to drive costs down is stronger than ever.

To allow nurse practitioners to step into roles that were previously filled solely by physicians, policy changes need to take place. Restrictions on the scope of practice must be removed; nurses should be able to practice to the full extent of their education.

The Future of Nursing report states, "It stands to reason that one way to improve access to patient-centered care would be to allow nurses to make more care decisions at the point of care. Yet in many cases, outdated regulations, biases, and policies prevent nurses, particularly APRNs [Advanced Practice Registered Nurses], from practicing to the full extent of their education, skills, and competencies."

More Educated Nurses Requires More Nurse Educators

With the push for more highly educated nurses, there must be the nursing faculty to teach them, but unfortunately, there's a shortage of qualified nurse educators. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "... U.S. nursing schools turned away 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2016 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints." The IOM report and many nursing associations are pushing for RNs to earn an MSN in nurse education to combat this problem.

Bachelor's Degree and Bridge Programs From UTA

The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) has embraced "seamless academic progression" by offering multiple online "bridge" programs that will take ADN- and diploma-prepared RNs to the next level of education and beyond. The most talked about bridge program in nursing education is the RN to BSN. In this program, experienced RNs can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing without repeating courses taken at the associate level, saving both time and money.

Similarly, UTA offers other bridge programs that take RNs to different educational levels. The RN to MSN program offers two paths to RNs: the MSN Nursing Education track and the MSN Nursing Administration track. In these programs, RNs will earn a BSN and finish with a master's degree in either concentration. UTA also now offers an RN to MSN FNP program to residents of Arkansas, California, Florida, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia.

UTA also offers a pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This online program is for students with no prior nursing education or experience.

Master's Degree Programs From UTA

UTA offers seven online MSN programs, each specializing in a different area of nursing:

Doctor of Nursing Practice Program From UTA

The online DNP program at UTA offers MSN nurses the chance to take the next step in their nursing careers. This research-intensive terminal degree program prepares nurses to solve the current challenges in the healthcare environment. With evidence-based strategies, graduates of this program are ready to change the face of nursing in clinical leadership roles, as consultants, and as policymakers.

UTA's Certificate Programs

UTA also offers multiple nursing certification programs online:

Advancing Nurse Education Online

With the current legal, social, policy, and technology issues at play, nurses need to know more now than ever in the past, and UTA has the nursing programs you need to boost your education at any level. With so many online programs to choose from, it's easy to find a program that works for you.

Learn more about the University of Texas at Arlington's online nursing programs.

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Sources:

IOM: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health: Key Messages of the Report

American Nurses Association: IOM Future of Nursing Report

AJMC: Nurse Practitioners Play an Increasing Role in Primary Care

Nurse.org: New York's 'BSN in 10' Law and the Push for 80% of Nurses to Hold BSN by 2020

Nurse Journal: Top 9 Advantages of a BSN Degree

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nursing Faculty Shortage


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