Recent Research About Nursing, April 2012

New research focuses on enrollment trends in the nation's nursing colleges, and explores the dangers of blood exposure during insertion and removal of peripheral IV catheters.

    • April 30, 2012

AACN Survey: Nursing Colleges Admit More, Reject More

New survey research from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) finds that nursing colleges both accepted more students last year and turned away more qualified applications.

AACN's annual survey of nursing schools finds that schools accepted more students at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels of nursing education last year than in years past. Enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate programs increased by 5.1 percent over the previous year. Applications to baccalaureate programs were up as well—by 5.6 percent. In all, nursing colleges received 255,671 applications for their baccalaureate programs, an eight-year high that reflects a doubling of the number of applications since 2004.

Nursing colleges registered gains at the graduate level as well. Enrollment in doctoral nursing programs increased by a full 28.9 percent, according to the survey.

AACN also reported that student diversity increased, with 26.9 percent of entry-level baccalaureate nursing students coming from underrepresented backgrounds. Master's and doctoral programs registered increases, as well. In addition, men are 11.4 percent of nursing baccalaureate students, 9.9 percent of master's students and 9.4 percent of practice-focused doctoral students. By comparison, the current nursing workforce is 6.6 percent male.

Those increases notwithstanding, nursing colleges turned away thousands of qualified applications, chiefly because of a shortage of faculty and facilities. According to the survey, nursing schools rejected 58,327 applications that met the admission criteria for entry-level baccalaureate programs, a 10-year high. An additional 17,260 applications that met the standards for admission to graduate programs were rejected.

“With the release of the Institute of Medicine’s report on the Future of Nursing, the national conversations about increasing the education level of the nursing workforce are accelerating,” said AACN President Kathleen Potempa in a news release. “Last year’s enrollment increases across all types of baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs clearly indicate a strong interest among nursing students in advancing their education and developing the skills needed to thrive in contemporary care settings.”

Peripheral IV Catheters Pose Risk of Exposure for Nurses

Despite the past decade’s progress in reducing accidental needlesticks, nurses continue to be at risk of a related danger: exposure to blood in their mucous membranes when they insert or remove a peripheral IV catheter. According to a new study from the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia, such exposure is all too common.

Fully half of nurses in the Center’s study reported that, during insertion of peripheral IV catheters, they got blood on their skin or in their eyes, nose or mouth at least once a month. Just as significantly, 69 percent of those incidents went unreported, usually because the nurses themselves concluded that the exposure was not significant enough to report.

The lead author of the study, Center Director Janine Jagger, PhD, MPH, said she was surprised not just that exposure was so common, but that the risk of exposure during removal of IV catheters was almost as significant as the risk during insertion.

According to the study, most exposures occurred in the eyes, leading the research team to emphasize the importance of eye protection, in addition to gloves. The team also urged that equipment be designed to “minimize leakage around and from the catheter hub and splatter from the catheter during insertion and removal.”