NEW YORK NURSE: June/July 2012
by Winifred Z. Kennedy, MSN PMH-CNS, BC
The debate regarding nursing education has been going on for so long that even so eminent a figure as Susan B. Anthony offered an opinion on this matter. Encouraging attendees at nurses’ meeting in Rochester in 1902, Susan B. Anthony opined “the day is coming when trained nurses will be required to possess a college education before being admitted to training.” Reporting the event, The AJN notes that “she closed her address with an earnest appeal to the nurses to remember the power and the influence of their work, and to improve it to the utmost.” Our profession continues to resonate with that appeal.
Research has shown that as the proportion of baccalaureate trained nurses increases, beneficial patient care outcomes increases at the same time that mortality rates and patient infection rates decrease. While the debate regarding what should be the entry into practice for nurses, the majority of nurses agree that BS in 10 legislation will help move the profession forward and keep us competitive along with other healthcare professionals.
Recognizing this trend, many schools have developed programs to meet the needs of nurses by gearing up to meet the demand for flexible, inclusive programs. Many employers are offering on site programs and tuition reimbursement. The profession of nursing has always benefited by attracting life long learners who sought further education, certification and advanced specialty training but who have not always been able to find seamless entry into the degree programs that would support them. We are fortunate that more and more the need for such programs that include recognition of experience, acceptance of past education credits, and flexibility to meet different schedules, learning styles, and backgrounds are being creatively designed to make it easier for nurses to continue their education. The Nurses’ Association continues to lobby for legislative support of scholarship, education, and loan forgiveness programs.
In these economic times, it is important for us as nurses to remain competitive with other health care professions. Over the past few years, we have seen the basic requirements for physical therapists and occupational therapists become master’s degrees and for psychologists and pharmacists become doctorates. We have seen the statistics that show that foreign born nurses have a high percentage of baccalaureate trained nurses practicing in New York State. We know that nurses in Europe have sought to make the baccalaureate degree the basic degree for all nurses. If we are not ready to meet employer need for an educated work force, there will be others ready to fill those gaps. We have seen research that confirms that an educated work force improves patient care, saves valuable healthcare dollars, and safeguards public health. These are the factors that will drive future contract negotiations and support tuition reimbursement, continuing education, and safe staffing levels.
It is up to nurses to move the profession of nursing forward and to ensure access to care and to appropriate providers. Remember the rallying cry of our immediate past President Karen A. Ballard RN MA FAAN, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”