Today’s Issues, Tomorrow’s Opportunities

Dec 28, 2012, 9:00 AM, Posted by


The beginning of every year often serves as a time to reflect on events from the previous year, to consider opportunities that lie ahead, and make resolutions for things one wishes to accomplish.  As an educator, my New Year’s resolution for the United States health care system is to work toward a more efficient system for educating nurses. 

Nursing education represents a critical link among many efforts to improve the nation’s health care.  Our education system currently lacks the capacity to meet the current and future workforce demands, particularly in rural states.  Goals such as increasing workforce diversity, creating resource efficiency in education processes (particularly for advanced practice nursing education), and enhancing education systems leading to a more educated workforce are among the highest priorities for action in 2013.

Many of these goals are clearly reflected in the recommendations proposed by the Institute of Medicine in the Future of Nursing, Leading Change, Advancing Health, published in 2010.  The national Campaign for Action has provided incentives for state Action Coalitions for this work, such as the Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) grants, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Nine states, including my home state of New Mexico, recently received APIN funding to work on various projects that improve nursing education.

New Mexico’s project, known as the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium specifically is working to increase diversity of nursing graduates and increase access to pre-licensure BSN education through university and community college partnerships and a statewide concept-based nursing curriculum.  With backing from the New Mexico Higher Education Department and the Governor’s office, all state-funded institutions in New Mexico that offer pre-licensure nursing education degrees are in various stages of curriculum adoption.  The long term benefits of such a plan are to increase graduate-prepared nurses who can serve in advanced practice, research, and faculty roles.

Another priority for 2013 is to raise awareness of the need for new clinical education models for advanced nursing practice education. The predominant model involves the pairing of a student with a preceptor for a designated number of clinical hours. The current and future demand for nurse practitioners far outstrip the collective ability of nursing programs across the country to meet the need.  One of the identified bottlenecks preventing a significant increase in enrollments in such programs is the lack of clinical sites and preceptors.  Innovative models must be explored that are resource efficient, sustainable, and lead to a graduate capable of providing high quality care in a health care environment that is becoming increasingly complex. 

New Year’s resolutions are usually made with the best of intentions; more often than not, they are quickly forgotten or abandoned as the excitement of the New Year wanes.  I challenge my fellow colleagues to keep priorities such as these in the forefront of thought and action.  By addressing issues such as these, nursing really can transform the quality of health care delivery!  

Learn more about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.