IOM: Nurses Need More Education, Training

Jeff Elliott for HealthLeaders Media, October 7, 2010

With ranks of more than 3 million, nurses represent the largest workforce segment in healthcare. But if they are to have a greater impact on patient outcomes and safety, nurses require higher levels of education and better training, according to a report just released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, was a two-year, $10 million effort to identify actions the nursing community could take to "reimagine and reengineer the nursing profession so that it could radically change and address the big issues confronting our healthcare system," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey during a webcast to announce the report's findings.

"It's a seminal document that establishes the centrality of nursing in providing patient-centered, high-quality care that's efficient and effective," she said.

The RWJF Initiative on the Future of Nursing that produced the 550-plus-page report determined that the current healthcare system does not provide adequate incentives for nurses to pursue higher levels of education and training. In addition to positively impacting healthcare quality, better educated and trained nurses would fill more faculty and advanced practice roles that are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified individuals, the report concludes.

The initiative's committee, chaired by former Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) head Donna Shalala, recommends that "public and private organizations should provide resources to help nurses with associate degrees and diplomas pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing within five years of graduation and to help nursing schools ensure that at least 10 percent of their baccalaureate graduates enter a master's or doctoral program within five years."

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