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RWJF Brief Details Efforts to Increase Formal Education of Nurses

Just over a year ago, the Institute of Medicine's landmark report, Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, mapped out an ambitious plan for addressing the nation's looming nursing shortage and preparing the nursing workforce for the 21st century.

This week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released the first of four Charting Nursing's Future (CNF) policy briefs focused on the IOM report's recommendations. The brief examines ways to achieve the report's call for increasing the number and percentage of nurses with baccalaureate degrees and higher, and spotlights several initiatives RWJF says are already showing results.

The brief, "Implementing the IOM Future of Nursing Report-Part 1: How to Dramatically Increase the Formal Education of America's Nursing Workforce by 2020," notes that meeting the "80 by '20" goal will involve educating 760,000 additional nurses to at least the BSN level.

The "80 by '20" goal was one of two key IOM recommendations and called for increasing the percentage of nurses in the workforce with a BSN degree or higher to 80 percent by 2020, while at the same time doubling the number of nurses with doctorates.

The CNF brief cites a number of approaches RWJF says have already begun to succeed.

For example, the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education OCNE is creating pathways for students in associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs at any of eight community colleges in the state into BSN programs at any of five campuses of the Oregon Health & Science University. The program offers co-admission at both institutions, financial aid, a common curriculum, shared institutional resources, and more.

In Texas, a partnership between Angelo State University and 15 hospitals in the state, many in rural areas is offering licensed vocational nurses an accelerated path to earning a BSN.

Meanwhile, according to the RWJF brief, some employers are creating incentives to encourage their nurses to complete BSN programs.

The brief points to the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, which according to RWJF is requiring nurses to either hold or begin working toward a BSN within 18 months of being hired. North Shore funds tuition up front, provides time release, offers BSN and MSN completion programs onsite, and provides salary increases for additional degrees as an incentive and retention tool, according to the brief.

The RWJF brief also highlights the pilot of its New Careers in Nursing program administered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and funded by RWJF. The program supports students from underserved or economically disadvantaged groups who already have a non-nursing bachelor's degree as they pursue an accelerated second-degree BSN or MSN degree.

Additionally, the brief highlights approaches to implementing the IOM recommendations focused on doubling the number of nurses with doctorates by 2020, so as to meet projected shortages of nurse faculty and primary care nurses, and to take on leadership roles of all kinds in the profession.

The RWJF brief further notes that increasing graduate school admissions will require several approaches, including honors programs for nursing students, more mentorship programs to guide students toward advanced degrees, scholarship support and expedited programs for advanced study.

For example, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation is funding a BSN-to-PhD program that includes instruction in economics, interdisciplinary teamwork and health policy, to prepare students as "effective change agents capable of transforming the delivery of care," according to RWJF.

The RWJF brief also notes former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's work to create the Michigan Nursing Corps, which provides advanced education to both clinical and classroom faculty. Participants receive tuition and stipends in exchange for a commitment to teach in Michigan nursing programs upon completion.

The brief is available for free download at

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