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Associate degree nursing programs across this country have produced highly qualified graduates over the past 50 years. Community college nursing graduates have provided exceptional nursing care to people of this country. Many of the graduates have continued their education and had careers in nursing education, nursing administration, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and many other career paths, including a community college president.
The National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (N-OADN), an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges that is the leading advocate for associate degree nursing, promotes academic progression of associate degree in nursing (ADN) graduates in furthering education to reach their maximum professional potential. N-OADN supports the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report which states “nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.”
As the largest and most trusted healthcare profession, it is imperative that nurses unite at this most crucial time in meeting the healthcare needs of this country. N-OADN commends the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP, for bringing all levels of nursing education and nursing practice in collaboration through the state health care coalitions.
We are at a crucial time in this country with health care reform, an aging population, increasing health care costs and a high-tech society. Although presently the nursing shortage is somewhat curtailed due to the economic climate, the shortage is predicted to be significant. The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project that there will be more than 1.2 million available positions in nursing by 2020. The National League for Nursing reports in the 2008- 2009 academic year alone, the nation’s schools of nursing were unable to meet the admission demand of more than 119,000 qualified enrollment applications primarily due to a shortage of registered nurses (RNs) educated at the graduate level who can serve as faculty.
Aligned on academic progress for nurses
Community college nursing programs currently educate approximately 57 percent of the nursing workforce, according to U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These programs are vital to the health care needs of many rural communities across our country. As cited by HRSA, 75 percent of ADN graduates seek work in the state where they were educated. Data shows 75 percent of RNs in rural settings received initial nursing degrees through an ADN program.
A 2009 Urban Institute study emphasized that many rural and underserved communities rely on community colleges for their nursing workforce. The report concluded that nurses work where they are educated and simply producing more nurses may not address the critical shortage areas.
Additionally, community college nursing programs educate the largest number of minorities in nursing. This is significant as HRSA data indicates only 16.8 percent of all nurses represent a minority racial or ethnic group. Recognition of diversity is a critical component in the health care reform goals in developing a health care system that understands and addresses the needs of a rapidly diverse population.
N-OADN does not support mandated legislation for entry into practice or a specified time period to complete an additional degree in nursing. Every associate degree nurse should have access to pursue additional nursing education. In many areas of the country, access to education beyond the associate degree is still a challenge.
However, innovative strategies should be developed to assist the associate degree graduate in academic progression. This may include employer incentives, university completion programs on community college campuses and affordable online programs. N-OADN welcomes partnerships and collaboration with the other key national nursing organizations to support academic progression. N-OADN supports the following models as examples of to ensure academic progression:
The debate about the level of nursing education began in 1965, and the challenge is to no longer fragment the nursing profession but rather to unite. The joint position statement on academic progression is an essential first step as we work collaboratively and move forward for the future of the students, profession and health care in our country.
Meyer is president of the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing, dean of health sciences and project director of the Lewis and Clark Family Health Clinic at Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois.
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