A Vision for Post-Baccalaureate Nursing Education

Article excerpt

IN APRIL 2011, the National League for Nursing brought together nursing education leaders from across the United States to discuss multiple options for advanced nursing practice as a way to increase the nation's potential to meet national health care needs. Members of the Roundtable on Post-Baccalaureate Nursing Education clearly affirmed the viability of the master's credential for specialty practice and acknowledged NLN principles that embrace diverse pathways to advanced nursing practice. All agreed that as the nursing profession moves toward the redesigning of both nursing education and clinical practice, it is imperative to ensure an adequate nursing workforce to meet the needs of American society.

Building on the imperative voiced by this group of nursing leaders and responding to national calls, specifically the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Future of Nursing report (2011), to decrease health disparities and strengthen nursing's leadership for health care reform, the NLN has released a vision statement on post-baccalaureate nursing education. The latest in the NLN's Vision Series calls on the national nursing community to develop efficient and diverse pathways for academic progression to increase the numbers of master's-prepared nurses to lead new models of health care delivery and advance the health of the public. Excerpts from the document, which can be found in its entirety on the NLN website (www.nln.org/aboutnln/livingdocuments/index.htm), are presented below.

Introduction/Call to Action

The National League for Nursing believes that master's education is a valid and valued means by which to prepare nurses for entry into advanced nursing practice. The NLN's vision includes the development and implementation of future models of master's and doctoral education that embrace diverse pathways to advanced nursing practice. We must ensure that both master's and doctoral programs are acknowledged as necessary to meet the varied needs of today's complex health care system.

By promoting advanced nursing practice at the master's level in a variety of functional roles--e.g., nursing administration, nursing education, APRN practice, community health, nursing informatics--we increase the nation's potential to meet regional and national health care needs of multi-ethnic/racial and vulnerable, highrisk populations. Recognizing the urgency for action now in the context of the current health care reform agenda, the NLN calls for the nursing community to explore and define an inclusive approach to post-baccalaureate nursing education, one that offers multiple options for specialty practice at both the master's and doctoral levels. The League's history of championing educational reform and our core values of caring, integrity, diversity, and excellence compel us, at this moment, to act.

It is important that post-baccalaureate nursing education programs focus on local and regional health care needs, on access to quality, cost-effective, and sustainable health care, and on developing a health care system that addresses the needs of our rapidly diversifying population. This is not the time to exercise restrictive control of post-baccalaureate nursing education, to limit the number of graduates available to lead and transform a system of health care that has patient-centered care as its ultimate end. For nursing to stay true to its core purpose--i.e., meeting the health care needs of the people by providing safe, quality, efficient, evidence-based care in a wide variety of expanding health care settings--decisions about the length and types of post-baccalaureate nursing education must be made in the best interest of patient care.

The NLN has long held that to exclude nurses from a variety of entry points for both pre-licensure and post-licensure programs is shortsighted and delays the fulfillment of the patient-centered, community-responsive vision that a reformed health care system can offer. …