More Nurses See the Value in Advancing Their Education

By Chris Hassan
Posted December 06, 2012 01:00 PM

Many nurses are pursuing advanced degrees.
Many nurses are pursuing advanced degrees.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have access to preventative healthcare. This, in turn, will create a greater need for primary care providers, which many parts of the country simply do not have enough of.

While the lack of physicians in several states is a problem, Barbara Redman, dean of the Wayne State University College of Nursing in Michigan, believes that training more advanced practice registered nurses could be a solution. In a recent opinion piece for the Lansing State Journal, Redman wrote that these graduate degree-holding caregivers who practice to the full extent of their ability could take the place of physicians and provide primary care that is both cost effective and of high quality.

Redman, and others who share her views, will be pleased to learn that many nurses understand the importance of pursuing college degrees and advanced their education across the board between 2011 and 2012, based on preliminary survey data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The association recently issued a press release containing responses from 664 of the nation's 856 nursing schools.

Growth at the Baccalaureate Level

According to the AACN, enrollment for entry-level bachelor's degree programs increased 3.5% from 2011 to 2012. Much more significant was the 22.2% growth in enrollment for baccalaureate degree completion programs during the same time frame. Interest in these academic offerings, which are referred to as RN to BSN programs, has been growing for the past decade. From AACN officials' perspective, the increase in enrollment reflects employers' need for more bachelor's degree-holding nurses, as well as caregivers' desire to earn an undergraduate credential.

Growth at the Graduate Level

Based on the AACN's preliminary survey data, nursing schools with master's degree programs saw an 8.2% enrollment increase between 2011 and 2012. Even greater interest in earning an advanced degree was reported among the nation's doctoral nursing programs, as enrollment for Doctor of Nursing Practice programs was up 19.6%. The number of students enrolling in research-focused doctoral programs in particular also rose by 1.3%.

Overall, AACN President Jane Kirschling and other officials from the association are pleased with the nursing program enrollment increases they have observed across the board.

"As the national voice for professional nursing education, AACN is committed to working with the education and healthcare community to create a highly qualified nursing workforce able to meet the expectations and challenges of contemporary nursing practice," Kirschling said.

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