Nursing Programs: How to Reduce the Shortage and Maintain Quality Education?
Looking at the future of healthcare and the shortages in the nursing workforce, one might assume nursing schools should produce more nurses. However, the situation is much more complicated than increasing nursing graduates. To understand the complexities of nursing programs throughout the United States, a deeper look at the workings of nursing schools and the many problems faced will shed light on a growing issue.
It is understating to say medical training is complex and arduous. Specific to nurses, the first hurdle is finding an accredited program and taking new students. Perhaps it goes without mentioning the programs must certify that nursing education is held to accepted quality standards. Therefore, an accredited nursing program graduate will have been instructed on the importance of the standard of care and evidence-based practice. For the purpose of the current discussion, the focus will remain on Registered Nurses. It is essential to recognize there are many licenses and certifications for nursing; however, the data will center on RNs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN), “Currently, there are more than 996 baccalaureate programs in the United States” .¹ What about Associate Degrees in Nursing? Approximately twelve years ago, a push was made in medicine to focus on maintaining nurses be bachelor prepared at the bedside. That push was directed from within the nursing industry on the premise of increasing the capacity of the nursing profession to provide evidence-based care and elevate quality.³ Initially, a goal to have 80% of the nurse with a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2010. However, this goal was pushed to 2020. According to the AACN, a survey published in 2018 showed the current number of bachelor prepared nurses at approximately 56%.¹ Why is this important? Simply put, hospitals are not hiring if nurses do not have a bachelor’s degree (or have conditions in place to earn a BSN within a set timeframe from hire). The requirement has incredibly stressed both the workforce as well as nursing academics. No longer is it beneficial for a prospective student to attend an associate’s program if the goal is to work in a major hospital system. Further, increased online programs have not changed the outlook given the limited…