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3 Obstacles to Higher Education Levels in Nursing

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 23, 2011

There is no "better" or "worse." Most of what makes a good nurse is learned on the job, caring for patients and gaining practical experience. The average age of nurses is 46 and they have decades of experience that have made them competent professionals. I would guess that years of on-the-job experience trump classroom education.

Imagine, though, what additional education could do.

Nurse leaders need to have a sensible discussion about this without being overly concerned about hurt feelings among staff.  

3. We ignore evidence.

Much of rank-and-file nursing lags in incorporating evidence-based practice. When you're a nurse in the trenches putting patients needs before your own and helping get them well—or at the least, trying to stop them dying on your watch—there's little time to worry about the latest evidence.

The profession, however, needs to become more comfortable with evidence as a basis for daily practice. Nurse leaders should take the lead so that nurses become confident and comfortable with evidence, both clinical and non-clinical issues. To support their arguments for safe patient care and the importance of having enough time at the bedside nurses must be comfortable with research so they stop talking from the heart and talk from the head.

If nurse leaders aren't comfortable with evidence-based practice and research they are letting down their organizations.

Many argue that it's easier in urban settings to encourage nurses to pursue higher education as there are more options. Nurse leaders in rural hospitals shouldn't take that as an excuse to give up. Subscribe to professional journals, read them, and encourage staff to read them. Have the medical staff invite nurses to clinical meetings so they are exposed to the latest research and discussions about patient care.

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23 comments on "3 Obstacles to Higher Education Levels in Nursing"


Beth Freed, CCRN, MSN, FNP-BC (12/30/2012 at 7:09 PM)
In an ideal world, every nurse would strive to gain the highest education possible. Money, time, responsibilities, lack of support, raising families, caring for elderly/sick parents, etc can be blamed for not achieving these goals. It is easy on the outside looking in to downplay 'the whys', and unrealistic to think the only good nurses are BSN trained. I have former coworkers (ICCU) that range from having Associate to BSN education of whom I would trust my life because of their experience, critical thinking skills, caring, and compassion. In that setting, if you are not passionate about what you do, you do not survive. The focus needs to be on CONTINUED education in order to train already talented nurses to remain on top of their profession.

Christy (10/12/2011 at 3:30 PM)
I am currently working on my ASN in California. My sister-in-law has a BSN (also in California). She works with nurses who have graduated from the school I am attending and as far as she can tell, the major difference in education is management type classed required for a BSN. The program here is so impacted that most nursing students (myself included) must take additional classes while waiting to gain admittance to the nursing classes. I am currently taking psychopathology. A class not required, but relevant to my chosen profession. Next semester I will be taking organic chem and nutrition. Again, classes not required, but may aid me later in my studies. I can accept that "better out comes" happen with a BSN. Now find out why and incorporate that into an ASN program. Also, figure out a way to get more nursing students through school. I don't want to do the classes faster, I just don't want to have to wait 2 years to start. There is no perfect solution. If as a country we are worried about a nursing shortage, then we need to do what we can to get more qualified people the education they desire to become nurses.

KATHY MARSHALL (10/6/2011 at 9:23 AM)
Yes, nurses need to be educated at least to a BSN level. But I am not. Why? First, let me say I have over 20 yrs. experience and I have many "certifications" as well as "extra" college credits that don't apply to a BSN program. I have checked into numerous RN to BSN programs and have found the minimum # of credit hours I need to fufill the requirements for a BSN is 42. I work full time so part-time attendance is my only option. If I took 2 classes a semester (6 credits) it would take me 7 semesters (2 1/2 yrs with summer classes) and cost me about $17,000. During those 2 1/2 yrs there would be no time for vacations, etc. I am 54 years old. Although I'd love to get my BSN and work on a Master's, the requirements don't make sense to me, considering my past education and experience.