The American Association of Colleges of Nursing released new data that shows enrollment in baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral nursing programs increased last year, with the greatest gains being in baccalaureate degree-completion programs and the practice-focused doctorate. Data from AACN’s fall 2014 survey of baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs found enrollment growth across the board, including a 4.2% increase in students in entry-level baccalaureate programs and a 10.4% increase in RN-to-BSN programs for RNs looking to build on their initial education at the associate degree or diploma level.
“AACN applauds the nation’s nursing schools for their efforts to expand student capacity as momentum for advancing the education level of the nursing workforce continues to accelerate,” AACN President Eileen T. Breslin, PhD, RN, FAAN, said in a news release. “We strongly believe that encouraging all nurses to continue their education is in the best interest of patients and the communities we serve.”
AACN, the Tri-Council for Nursing and other authorities are united in their view that a more highly educated nursing workforce is critical to meeting the nation’s healthcare needs and delivering safe patient care, according to the release, which is consistent with the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report recommendations to increase to 80% the RN workforce at the baccalaureate level and to double the number of nurses with doctorates by 2020.
“This tremendous increase in RN-to-BSN education comes at a critical time in healthcare reform when more baccalaureate-prepared nurses are needed to fill critical roles across the continuum of care, especially outside of hospital walls,” Pamela Austin Thompson, MS, RN, CENP, FAAN, National Director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Academic Progression in Nursing program, said in the release. “Certainly, the market for the BSN nurse has been stimulated by demand from employers who recognize the important role baccalaureate nurses play in achieving both individual and population health outcomes.”
In graduate schools, student enrollment increased by 6.6% in master’s programs and by 3.2% and 26.2% in research-focused and practice-focused doctoral programs, respectively. “Strengthening the pipeline of nurses entering both research- and practice-focused doctoral programs is critical to meeting the nation’s growing demand for nurse scientists, faculty, expert clinicians, leaders, and innovators,” Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing with RWJF, said in the release.
AACN’s special survey on the Employment of New Nurse Graduates conducted last fall found 79.6% of employers require or express a strong preference for nurses with a baccalaureate degree. “Having a robust supply of nurses with advanced education is important to ensuring that nurses are recognized as full partners in transforming healthcare, shaping public policy and teaching the next generation of nurses,” Darlene Curley, MS, RN, FAAN, Executive Director of the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, said in the release.
For more survey findings, visit www.aacn.nche.edu/leading_initiatives_news/news/2014/employment14.