The continuing debate regarding the levels of nursing education is vastly documented and researched. Does it really matter if you, as a patient, have a nurse hat graduated with an associate degree in nursing, a lower level of education. or are you, better off having a nurse with a baccalaureate degree In nursing. This is the discussion at hand. There are three different entry levels programs for nursing ” diploma, associate, and baccalaureate degree, all leading to registered nurse licensure (Creasia & Friberg, 2011, p. 15).
This is where the question comes into play among the public and professionals. These three programs served their purpose at one time in history, now however there are questions and research to how that quality nurses need a higher level of education. After World War II the nation’s demand for registered nurses increased. With 78 million children born between 1946 and 1964, coupled with the chronic disease brought on by the war and the growing population of elderly, hospitals were forced to restrict admissions because of the shortage of registered nurses (Lynaugh ; Brush, 1996).
The seriousness of the nursing shortage encouraged faculty to develop new entry-level nursing programs. In 1951 the 2-year associate degree (AD) program was developed. This new community college program set on fire the launch of AD programs, and several important goals were attained. The AD graduates helped minimize the nursing shortage and a new pool of students, men, married women with children, and older generations were choosing nursing careers. Hospital directors then chose to close their expensive programs and let colleges and universities educate nurses (Lynaugh ; Brush, 1996).
As stated In the National League of Nursing (2003), “Today AD programs are the major point of entry Into nursing”. This entry level of ursing leads professionals to question, though, their quality of nursing with this entry level of education. Baccalaureate degree program for nursing was established at the university of Minnesota in 1909. This was a 5 year program, with the last 3 years primarily focused on public health nursing. Baccalaureate programs now are 4 years, with the education concentrated on upper division level. These 4 year programs have continued to grow at an Increased rate in recent years.
Now the debate is which registered nurse program Is acceptable(Creasla ; Friberg, 2011, Chapter 2). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching had t Leanard, ; Day, 2009,). In the report, The Carnegie Foundation have identified the multiple points of entry into the nursing profession as a source of discouragement and a barrier for licensed nurses to pursue high educational degrees. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, n. d. ). The report goes on to recommend that baccalaureate education be the entry level of nursing education (Benner et al. 2009).
But is this really necessary, are the associate degree nurses’ education so lacking? A recent article in Health Services Research stated that outcomes of hospitalized surgical cancer patients were linked to that nursing level of education. Patients were linked with lower mortality rates with nurses educated at the baccalaureate level. The conclusion was that a high population of staff nurses with at least a baccalaureate level would lead to better outcomes of these patients (Friese, Lake, Aiken, Silber, & Sochalski, 2008,).
Many states and magnet status hospitals are pushing for the baccalaureate-level staff nurse. However with the continued college level nursing program shortage, and the redicted nursing shortage amid the wave of the retiring baby boomers, their currently are no direct sanctions. In May 2012, the Tri-Council for Nursing (AACN, ANA, AONE, and NLN), issued a statement calling for all RNs to advance their education in the interest of enhancing quality and safety.
The impression is that in order to meet the nation’s nursing needs and produce safe, efficient patient care, the attending nurse needs to be highly educated (Tri-Council for Nursing 2010). This changing climate in health care is pushing the role of nursing from less traditional to increasingly diverse. The AACN (2009) is ready to work with the nursing community to expand awareness of degree completion options, and to create a more highly qualified nursing workforce (AACN 2009). Summary Nursing education and the working environment has changed dramatically over the years.
Now as significant changes to healthcare, and our population becoming more ill, the skilled RN is a necessity. As organizations, hospitals, legislatures and colleges study the outcomes of cares given, relative to the outcome of those cared for, add to that the ever changing nursing populations and shortages, there are a lot of ecisions to be made. As hospitals desire more skilled nurses to meet their needs, perhaps incentives or hospital driven educations will be a part of the future once again.