Major changes in the U.S. health care system and practice environments will require equally profound changes in the education of nurses both before and after they receive their licenses. In Chapter 1, the committee set forth a vision of health care that depends on a transformation of the roles and responsibilities of nurses. This chapter outlines the fundamental transformation of nurse education that must occur if this vision is to be realized.
The primary goals of nursing education remain the same: nurses must be prepared to meet diverse patients’ needs; function as leaders; and advance science that benefits patients and the capacity of health professionals to deliver safe, quality patient care. At the same time, nursing education needs to be transformed in a number of ways to prepare nursing graduates to work collaboratively and effectively with other health professionals in a complex and evolving health care system in a variety of settings (see Chapter 3). Entry-level nurses, for example, need to be able to transition smoothly from their academic preparation to a range of practice environments, with an increased emphasis on community and public health settings. And advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) need graduate programs that can prepare them to assume their roles in primary care, acute care, long-term care, and other settings, as well as specialty practices.
This chapter addresses key message #2 set forth in Chapter 1: Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression. The chapter begins by focusing on nurses’ undergraduate education, emphasizing the need for a greater number of nurses to enter the workforce with a baccalaureate degree or to progress to this degree early in their career. This section also outlines some of the challenges to meeting undergraduate educational needs. The chapter then turns to graduate nursing education, stressing the need to increase significantly the numbers and preparation of nurse faculty and researchers at the doctoral level. The third section explores the need to establish, maintain, and expand new competencies throughout a nurse’s education and career. The chapter next addresses the challenge of underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority groups and men in the nursing profession and argues that meeting this challenge will require increasing the diversity of the nursing student body. The fifth section describes some creative solutions that have been devised for addressing concerns about educational capacity and the need to transform nursing curricula. The final section presents the committee’s conclusions regarding the improvements needed to transform nursing education.
The committee could have devoted this entire report to the topic of nursing education—the subject is rich and widely debated. However, the committee’s statement of task required that it examine a range of issues in the field, rather than delving deeply into the many challenges involved in and solutions required to advance the nursing education system. Several comprehensive reports and analyses addressing nursing education have recently been published. They include a 2009 report from the Carnegie Foundation that calls for a “radical transforma-