It’s no secret that America’s healthcare system is evolving. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of citizens will now have access to healthcare insurance, increasing the demand for primary care services within and outside of the traditional hospital setting. The ACA emphasizes the importance of educating the public on disease prevention and community health, changing the way we approach healthcare. Nurses have the opportunity to be part of this evolution, and part of the solution to adapting to this changing healthcare environment in the face of a growing physician shortage.
The September edition of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) policy brief, Charting Nursing’s Future, outlines the following benefits of academic progression in meeting these challenges:
1. A Focus on Community Health
The ACA emphasis on public and community health will send nurses into homes, community centers, schools and other non-hospital environments. They’ll manage care coordination and prevention, and improve quality, safety and efficiency of care delivery in the community. Baccalaureate degree programs provide public and community health content to prepare nurses to meet these needs.
2. Responding to the Nurse Faculty Shortage
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,587 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2011, due in part to insufficient number of faculty1. This problem will intensify as baby boomers retire from the faculty ranks2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)-prepared nurses are more likely to continue their education to attain graduate degrees and become part of the solution to the nurse faculty shortage3.
3. Meeting Demand for Primary Care
The primary care physician shortage has driven demand for primary care services nationwide. Nurses educated at the graduate level for nurse practitioner (NP) roles are prepared to help meet these needs. Family nurse practitioners, specifically, are credentialed to perform 60 to 80 percent of primary and preventative care services and treat patients across the age spectrum, so they’re well positioned to increase access to healthcare.
According to the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, NPs who hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree are the fastest-growing group of primary care providers. The number of NPs is projected to double by 2025, topping 200,0004. These nurses will help respond to demand created by the growing shortage of primary care physicians, which is expected to exceed 45,000 by 20205.
4. Education Improves Patient Outcomes
Research suggests that nurses with baccalaureate degrees and higher are better prepared to handle professional responsibility and more complex practices. In turn, hospitals that employ a high proportion of BSN-prepared nurses on staff are linked to having better patient outcomes. In its 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, RWJF outlined positive outcomes researchers connect to BSN staffing in healthcare settings, including “lower incidence of pressure ulcers, postoperative deep vein thrombosis, hospital-acquired infections, and post-surgical mortality.”6
According to RWJF, building a more educated nursing workforce requires a coordinated effort and significant resources. Through advancement of education, nursing institutions can create a stronger nursing workforce, benefiting healthcare nationwide. You can find RWJF’s full September issue of Charting Nursing’s Future here.
1Nursing Faculty Shortage Fact Sheet. American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2012 Kovner CT, Brewer CS, Yingrengreung S, Fairchild S. New Nurses’ Views of Quality Improvement Education. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010;36 (1): 29-35
2Kovner CT, Brewer CS, Yingrengreung S, Fairchild S. New Nurses’ Views of Quality Improvement Education. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010;36 (1): 29-35
3Kovner CT, Brewer CS, Yingrengreung S, Fairchild S. New Nurses’ Views of Quality Improvement Education. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010;36 (1): 29-35
4Kovner CT, Brewer CS, Yingrengreung S, Fairchild S. New Nurses’ Views of Quality Improvement Education. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 2010;36 (1): 29-35
5[Infographic] Family Nurse Practitioner: A Supercharged Career Path. Chamberlain College of Nursing. http://blog.chamberlain.edu/2013/08/12/family-nurse-practitioner-to-the-rescue/
6The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Institute of Medicine, 2010