Recognize Nurse Education and Commitment This Week

Nurse education is something that impacts every one of our lives. Anytime we receive emergency care in a clinic, are treated at a doctor’s office, or have surgery in a hospital we reap the benefits of advanced nursing education. This year from May 6 – 12, during National Nurses Week, we salute the professionals who have invested their time and talent to develop the skills necessary to care for us – their patients.

Americans realize how important nurses are to their well-being and they respect them for the work they do. For the past 15 years people have ranked nurses at the top of the list when they are asked to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various professions. In the 2016 Gallup poll 84 percent of people ranked nurses “high” or “very high.”

Other medical professionals also appreciate the work nurses do. Medical educator and editor Arnold Relman learned first-hand the importance of nursing care when he became a patient, hospitalized following an accident. While being cared for he realized “how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort.” Physician Lawrence Altman recognizes how nurses are a vital part of a healthcare team. He says that physicians rely on nurses for the “crucial elements in patient care – the physical touch and the personal touch.”

Higher levels of nursing education are important for the care nurses give their patients today. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report presents studies that show a correlation between BSN levels of nurse education and decreased patient-related incidents such as falls, pressure ulcers, deep vein thrombosis and hospital acquired infections. The Commission on Magnet Accreditation also has identified this link between nurse education and patient outcomes. Healthcare facilities applying for Magnet designation need to show that they have a plan for 80 percent of nursing staff to achieve the BSN level of nurse education by 2020.

The differences in nurse preparation at the bachelor’s degree level compared to a lower degree or certificate level can be seen in several areas:

• Critical thinking: Nurses with higher levels of education will have a broader approach, including more understanding of the illness, when they develop care plans for complex patient cases.
• Evidence based practice and research: Nurses with higher levels of education bring the advantage of being able to access research and evidence that can apply to a case.
• Leadership: Nurses who have developed good leadership skills and manage complex cases and work with multidisciplinary teams.
• Healthcare policy: Policies and laws are complicated today. Nurses with this knowledge will understand the resources available for patient care. Understanding public healthcare law can also help nurses coordinate care beyond a hospital or doctor’s office.

Nurse education doesn’t stop with a BSN. There are opportunities for nurses to seek higher education to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). An advanced practice registered nurse is a registered nurse who has expanded their education to at least a Master’s degree and has clinical practice beyond their basic RN education. Some types of APRN include:
• Nurse practitioner (NP): NPs provide a wide range of primary and preventive health care, prescribe medication, and diagnose and treat minor illnesses and injuries.
• Certified nurse-midwife (CNM): CNMs provide well-women gynecological care and low-risk obstetrical care.
• Clinical nurse specialist (CNS): CNSs work in a variety of settings and handle a wide range of physical and mental health problems. They also consult, research, teach and are administrators.
• Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA): CRNAs administer more than 65 percent of anesthetics given to patients each year.

Nursing is the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in the United States and one of the fastest growing occupations in the country. In spite of this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will 1.2 million unfilled nursing positions between 2014 and 2022. The primary reason for this is the aging baby boomer population – people who often have chronic conditions that require nursing care – and the aging nurse population – who are reaching retirement age.

As the need for nurses grows, the need for advanced nursing education will also grow. A BSN will help nurses acquire the skills for the many aspects of their job. Scientific knowledge, evidence-based best practices and critical thinking skills are just part of what nurses bring to their patients every day. They also deliver vigilant constant care and the personal touch that patients need.