are expected to use a variety of technological tools and complex information management systems that require skills in analysis and synthesis to improve the quality and effectiveness of care. Across settings, nurses are being called upon to coordinate care and collaborate with a variety of health professionals, including physicians, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and pharmacists, most of whom hold master’s or doctoral degrees. Shortages of nurses in the positions of primary care providers, faculty, and researchers continue to be a barrier to advancing the profession and improving the delivery of care to patients.
To respond to these demands of an evolving health care system and meet the changing needs of patients, nurses must achieve higher levels of education and training. One step in realizing this goal is for a greater number of nurses to enter the workforce with a baccalaureate degree or progress to this degree early in their career. Moreover, to alleviate shortages of nurse faculty, primary care providers, and researchers, a cadre of qualified nurses needs to be ready to advance to the master’s and doctoral levels. Nursing education should therefore include opportunities for seamless transition to higher degree programs—from licensed practical nurse (LPN)/licensed vocational nurse (LVN) degrees, to the associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), to master’s of science in nursing (MSN), and to the PhD and doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Further, nursing education should serve as a platform for continued lifelong learning. Nurses also should be educated with physicians and other health professionals as students and throughout their careers. Finally, as efforts are made to improve the education system, greater emphasis must be placed on increasing the diversity of the workforce, including in the areas of gender and race/ethnicity, as well as ensuring that nurses are able to provide culturally relevant care.
While the capacity of the education system will need to expand, and the focus of curricula will need to be updated to ensure that nurses have the right competencies, a variety of traditional and innovative strategies already are being used across the country to achieve these aims. Examples include the use of technologies such as online education and simulation, consortium programs that create a seamless pathway from the ADN to the BSN, and ADN-to-MSN programs that provide a direct link to graduate education. Collectively, these strategies can be scaled up and refined to effect the needed transformation of nursing education.
Strong leadership is critical if the vision of a transformed health care system is to be realized. To play an active role in achieving this vision, the nursing profession must produce leaders throughout the system, from the bedside to the boardroom. These leaders must act as full partners with physicians and other health professionals, and must be accountable for their own contributions to de-