Nurses Heading Back to College; Higher Education Standards Are Becoming the Norm

By Boyce, Cari | The Florida Times Union, May 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Nurses Heading Back to College; Higher Education Standards Are Becoming the Norm


Boyce, Cari, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Cari Boyce

A report published by the Institute of Medicine in 2011 has far-reaching effects on nursing.

The report recommends 80 percent of registered nurses be at the bachelor of science in nursing level or higher and doubling the population of nurses with doctoral degrees.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center 2014 Magnet Application Manual incorporates these recommendations into its Magnet recognition requirement.

The Magnet movement recognizes health care organizations, systems and facilities for quality patient care, excellence in nursing and innovative professional nursing practices. UF Health Jacksonville attained facility Magnet recognition in 2011.

"There are many benefits to being a Magnet-recognized facility," said Roberta Christopher, director of nursing research at University of Florida Health Jacksonville. "Magnet facilities tend to attract the top candidates, have higher retention rates and higher safety and satisfaction scores as well as improved patient care."

Baptist Health attained initial systemwide Magnet recognition in 2007 and completed systemwide redesignation in March 2012. Kathleen Murray, vice president of nursing at Baptist Beaches, said the organizations that are Magnet-recognized or are moving toward Magnet recognition must have a plan in place to meet the educational goals set forth by the report.

For area nurses, this may mean returning to school. Christopher says key differences exist between associate and baccalaureate degree curriculums.

"Associate degree curriculums typically do not go into depth on subjects related to research, theory, leadership or evidence-based practice," she said.

Billie Blake, associate dean of nursing and director of BSN programs at St. Johns River State College, said associate degree level is the minimum entry level to nursing practice. That qualifies students to sit for the RN licensure exam. Some enter the workforce at that point while others stay in school to earn their bachelor of nursing degree.

Baptist Health is moving to an all BSN workforce and requires all newly hired nurses to hold a bachelor's degree or commit to earning one within four years of employment.

Pam Chally, dean of the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida, said there is a gap between the current percentage of baccalaureate or higher prepared nurses and the 80 percent goal to be met within the next five years.

Starting in the fall, UNF will offer an RN-to-BSN program entirely online. UNF offers a master's program in nursing as well as a doctorate in nursing practice. All programs are designed with the needs of working nurses in mind.

Most schools in the region offer extensive information online about their program offerings from admission requirements to sample courses and costs. Health care organizations are taking steps to simplify the comparison process for nurses trying to determine which program best fits their needs. …

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