NEW YORK NURSE: January-February 2011
by Karen A. Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, President
Sometimes it seems that most of my professional life has been spent trying to help legislators, regulators, governmental agencies, the public, patients, and, even other nurses understand the need for the education of nurses to be “more, rather than less” and for it to occur in institutions of higher education.
I had relatives that thought it was a “waste of time and money” for me to go to college to become a nurse. I’ve lived through decades of acrimonious and passionate debate about what should be the preferred route for “entry into the practice of nursing.” I no longer have any patience for such debate — I believe it just keeps the profession paralyzed from moving forward. The national dialogue on the future of nursing has spotlighted the critical role RNs play in the nation’s healthcare delivery system and the need to ensure academic progression for all nurses.
In my remarks at our 2010 Biennial Conference and in my November column, I explored the development of nursing education. Some may wonder why I continue to focus on this issue. It’s because I believe it to be the most important priority, legislative or otherwise, for the nursing profession!
This edition of New York Nurse discusses nursing education, challenging me to once again address the profession’s need to tackle its educational predicament. According to the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany School of Public Health, only 37 percent of the more than 270,000 RNs in New York state have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This holds the growth of the profession back in both the clinical and academic arenas.
As the State Legislature convenes for its 2011 session, I propose that nurses must rally together to support A1977/S1223, legislation to make a bachelor’s degree in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure the standard educational credential. We must be tenacious in getting our message across to the legislators that the profession needs their help to make this a reality, now!
It’s critical that nurses be able to translate current knowledge and research into evidence-based nursing practice. Even for nurses who graduated only 10 years ago, you already know that you’re practicing differently today. Try to imagine what the level of practice will be like in 2025.
Nurses have to be able to continually acquire new knowledge and challenge what we previously learned. We can do this through numerous routes – bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral education, degree completion and online programs, continuing education courses, and advanced nursing specialty and certificate programs. For the profession to continue to provide the level of care patients are increasingly requiring, a bachelor’s degree is essential. More importantly, all nurses must assume responsibility for their own academic progression.
As a profession, we cannot continue to educate future nurses without faculty. In this edition, we discuss the “ripple effect,” as developed by Darlene Curley of the Jonas Center and Christine Kovner of NYU’s College of Nursing. Their research determined that the 7,500 nurses educated by one nurse educator collectively will touch the lives of 3.6 million patients. Not a bad investment of the baccalaureate education that primed this nurse educator’s master-level and doctoral studies!
NYSNA absolutely supports all levels of entry into the profession, with an additional requirement for a baccalaureate degree in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure in the state. It’s time to move the educational advancement for RNs legislation out of committee, to the floor for a vote, and to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law!