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Why Advanced Degrees for Nurse Leaders Matter

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, June 28, 2011

The healthcare landscape is shifting. The changes we are seeing today are mole hills compared to the looming mountains that healthcare will climb. Nurses must be engaged in the debate and must prepare for changes in care delivery.

To handle increasing complexities of care and greater responsibilities, nurses will need more education and training. Today, only about half of RNs have a baccalaureate degree. In 2008, the proportion with advanced (master's or doctorate) degrees was about 13.2%.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine, has identified increasing the educational levels of nurses as a critically important component of professional development and devoted two of its eight recommendations to the issue.

The first recommended that 80% of nurses should have baccalaureate degrees by 2020. It called on schools of nursing to partner with employers, public and private sectors, and communities to find ways to increase the number of nurses entering baccalaureate programs. The second recommended doubling the number of nurses with doctorate degrees by 2020, which would increase the cadre of nurse faculty and researchers.

At an individual level, nurse leaders around the country are taking the report to heart and looking for ways to encourage and support nurses to pursue further study. Some organizations are requiring that all nurses obtain their BSNs within a certain timeframe after hire. Others are emphasizing the value of education and serving as role models for pursuing advanced degrees.

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