NEW YORK NURSE: November 2010
by Karen A. Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, President
Last year, I shared that my “watchword” during my presidency would be “advance,” an integral part of our slogan, “Advocating for Patients, Advancing the Profession.” At this year’s Biennial Conference, I focused on the extraordinary report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health — again, the challenge to “advance.”
The IOM report discussed practice, education, partnerships, and workforce planning and policy. At our conference, I focused on advancing nursing education. We’re a generation of nurses with a unique opportunity to change nursing education. We are at the center of a revolutionary moment.
There have been many previous reports on our profession. Most discussed the need for nursing education to be in institutions of higher learning. In 1965, the American Nurses Association called for a baccalaureate nursing education for future nurses by 1985.
Well, 1985 came and went. Nurses debated, passionately and acrimoniously. I’m proud NYSNA never gave up, sponsoring legislation for more than a decade. Here we are in 2010, with yet another study on what nursing needs to do to be a fully realized profession. What are we going to do with this report? Use it to make a significant change or will a future NYSNA president ask why was nothing done?
Nurses realize that the complexity of patient care, expanded technology, patient diversity, and a growing role in delivering and ensuring quality care underscores the need for continuing education. Growing emphasis on evidence-based practice requires expanded education in research, population-based care, leadership, and interdisciplinary approaches. But how do we achieve the IOM’s goal of 80 percent of the nursing workforce eventually achieving a baccalaureate in nursing?
A future-oriented, practical, and collaborative approach to educational advancement is one of NYSNA’s legislative priorities. Nurses must achieve a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure in order to continue to practice. This approach, as agreed upon by NYSNA and the New York Organization on Nurse Executives (NYONE), and recommended by the State Board for Nursing, is modeled after the requirement for teachers, who must achieve a master’s degree within five years. This would apply only to individuals entering the profession after the proposal becomes law — it wouldn’t affect current RNs or nursing students.
This is not the previous entry into practice proposal – and it never will be! It’s the answer to the challenge advanced since 1923 in the Goldmark Report and referenced by the IOM: “nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.” This is not initial education; it is a commitment to lifelong learning!
NYSNA is proud of the efforts by NYS nursing educators to make baccalaureate completion programs accessible, including articulation between associate and baccalaureate programs. NYSNA and NYONE formed the Coalition for Advancement of Nursing Education (CANE), bringing together nursing and healthcare organizations and educational leaders to support this legislation (www.rneducationadvanceny.org).
This landmark proposal takes an inclusive approach by maintaining all current available educational pathways. Nurses need to have programs available at all beginning levels — but they need to know the expectation will be for a baccalaureate within 10 years.
It’s time to solve nursing’s educational conundrum and address other issues — or we run the risk of being forever marginalized. This is the logical answer. It’s what the nursing profession and our patients needs. We must commit individually and collectively to making sure educational advancement for nurses occurs. Not if, but when… and that when must be now!