National League for Nursing Aims to Bridge Gap Between Education and Practice

Nov 27, 2013, 12:00 PM

Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, is chief executive officer of the National League for Nursing (NLN). She was recently elected to the Institute of Medicine. Last month, the NLN announced the launch of Accelerating to Practice, a new program designed to help new nurses move more seamlessly from education to practice. It is the inaugural program of the NLN's Center for Academic and Clinical Transitions.


Human Capital Blog (HCB): Why is Accelerating to Practice needed?

Beverly Malone: We've always known that there is a difference between how nurse educators view graduates of nursing programs and how nursing directors view graduates. But we never knew how deep the divide was. A recent survey showed that 90 percent of educators thought that nurse graduates were doing just fine, but almost 90 percent of directors felt that nurse graduates did not have the skills that were needed to practice. That kind of a divide is not a small one. It has so much to do with how care is delivered, and the League felt compelled to do something about it.

HCB: What explains the divide?

Malone: We don't talk enough to one another. There are some exemplars out there where educators and administrators are on the same wavelength, and they have worked very hard to ensure that graduates are prepared in a way to move quality patient care forward. But overall, that's not the picture throughout the United States.

HCB: How are new demands on nurses affecting the divide?

Malone: New nurses now face many pressures that I didn't experience when I practiced in the 1960s and 1970s. Patients today are more complex, and are sicker than they ever have been. We're also looking at an older population of patients, and technology is more sophisticated than ever before. The rapid patient turnaround also adds pressure to new nurses. Nurses used to see seven or eight patients a day. Now, nurses race through 15 to 20 patients a day. That requires them to function at very high level.

When I was practicing, we certainly worked with our colleagues, but it wasn't called interprofessional collaboration then. That concept is bigger now. We understand that it takes a village to provide health care, it takes a team. And that team element adds another level of complexity. There's one other complexity: language. We now have a global society in our backyard. Diversity today is much broader, and it includes linguistic diversity too.

HCB: What do these new demands on nurses mean for patient care?

Malone: It means we've got to work harder at honing the preparation of that graduate from the practice side as well as the education side to make sure the best care is delivered. And we need a stronger emphasis on what patients need to do when they get out of the hospital. Community is a much larger part of health care than it ever has been before.

In some ways this is an old problem. The whole idea of moving out of education and into the hot water of practice has always been there. But we've never really paid attention to the root cause of it. We believe that part of the root cause is lack of communication and collaboration between education and practice. We believe it's solvable because we've got the right people at the right table looking at the issues and finding answers.

HCB: How will Accelerating to Practice solve the problem?

Malone: The National League for Nursing pulled together seven pairs of educators and practice partners to come together to determine what those gaps are and to find ways to bridge them. Our inaugural partners include:

  • Indiana University School of Nursing and Indiana University Health
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Johns Hopkins University Medical Center
  • Miami Dade College and Jackson Health System, Florida
  • Northern Virginia Community College and Novant/ Health Prince William Hospital
  • University of Kansas School of Nursing and University of Kansas Medical Center
  • University of Texas, Arlington, College of Nursing and Texas Health Resources -Presbyterian Dallas
  • Western Governors University and Cedars Sinai Medical Center

HCB: What are your hopes for the program?

Malone: I think that it will be an opportunity to say, through the educational and the practice perspectives, that these are areas that we can work on together to refine the delivery of health care services through the nurse graduate. Our mission applies to nurse graduates at the baccalaureate level, the associate-degree level, and at the graduate level. The ultimate goal is to make a difference in the lives of patients and make sure that quality care is delivered. The question is how to do that as effectively, and as efficiently, as possible, and at as low a cost as possible, so that we have the highly skilled, and diverse, nursing workforce we need.

This program satisfies our core values at the League, which are: caring, integrity, diversity, and excellence. We're very excited about this initiative. We're sometimes seen as solely focused on education, but we really do see that link to practice. This is an exciting way to lay the foundation for that.

Read a news release about Accelerating to Practice.

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