Nursing education update
EDITOR'S NOTE: Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer.
editors-note
Nursing education is evolving as healthcare becomes more complex. That’s because nursing is at the frontlines of changes to education designed to meet the needs of not only today’s patients, but also systems of care. Nurse.com asked Martha M. Scheckel, PhD, RN, dean and professor of nursing, health and human behavior, Viterbo University, La Crosse, Wis., to update readers on education trends in nursing.
A: Today’s degree options include practical nursing, the associate degree, baccalaureate degree, diploma, master’s degree and doctoral degree.
The diploma has been phased out over a number a years, but some diploma programs still exist.
Practical nurses work under the supervision of registered nurses. Their scope of practice can include assessing a patient’s needs, to performing particular skills, to providing patient education.
The registered nurse is prepared with an associate degree, a baccalaureate degree or a diploma. In nursing you can take the state board exam after any of those degrees. The scope of practice for a registered nurse is to care for patients across the lifespan, bringing to that care a high level of knowledge and skills in areas, such as providing high-quality bedside nursing; bringing clinical reasoning and judgement, and critical thinking to patient situations; ensuring quality and safety of all patient populations; and acting as leaders in nursing.
Today’s registered nurses use evidence-based practice to provide care. I often give new nursing students an example of why evidence-based practice is so important. Say, for example, the nurse is working in the emergency room and has a patient with a heart condition who comes in frequently due to ongoing cardiac symptoms. That nurse needs to be able to read, understand and use evidence-based practice in order to help keep that patient out of the emergency room and at home.
Now the master’s degree [is] undergoing a transformation to where the future will have more doctor of nursing practice, or DNP nurses, and fewer master’s-prepared nurses. This transformation is due to complex healthcare environments, which are requiring more and more nurses with advanced preparation in nursing practice.
Nurses can also obtain a PhD, which prepares them to generate research for use in the discipline of nursing and other closely related disciplines.
A comprehensive description of nursing education across time is in the new second edition of Trends in Nursing Practice Policy and Leadership, by Gayle Roux and Judith A. Halstead.
CO_ThinkstockPhotos-488563681quote-mark
We’re seeing partnerships forming between community colleges and universities, so a student can still get that associate degree and move right into baccalaureate completion.”
- Martha Scheckel, RN
A: No. I think in the U.S., we will continue to see associate degree programs in full force. I do think that we will continue to see momentum to meet the goal in the Institute of Medicine’s 2011 report of having 80% BSN-prepared nurses by 2020.
Nowadays, what we’re seeing, because of the IOM report, is that institutions are mandating that an associate degree-prepared nurse acquire the bachelor’s degree in a specified amount of time—perhaps five years or six years. In essence, nurses who go to a community or technical college graduate with the associate degree and pass their state boards, can continue to work and earn income while getting their bachelor’s in nursing degree. The other thing that has happened over the last few years since that IOM report is seamless academic progression programming from a community or technical college into a university. We’re seeing partnerships forming between community colleges and universities so a student can still get that associate degree and move right into baccalaureate completion. There have been lots of initiatives around the country and funding for creating these academic progression programs.
A: AACN has a great document about the differences among the doctoral degrees.
According to the AACN document, the DNP prepares “nurse leaders at the highest level of nursing practice to improve patient outcomes and translate research into practice.” AACN states that the objectives of the PhD and DNS are to: “Prepare nurses at the highest level of nursing science to conduct research to advance the science of nursing.” Having both the DNP and PhD is really a beautiful combination. I’m a PhD nurse, prepared in research. But the DNP prepared nurses are really good at taking that research and knowing how to synthesize it and translate it at the bedside.
A: Advancing one’s education prepares nurses for leadership whether it be at the bedside where it is critical or whether it is for policymaking to improve healthcare. In addition, the utilization of PhD prepared nurses has come a long way. It used to be that you wouldn’t see a PhD-prepared nurse in an acute care facility. Now it’s commonplace. A hospital in my community has nurse scientist on staff, coordinating research projects.
DNPs, of course, are in many settings. We can expect to see the doctor of nursing practice being very widespread and in a lot of settings. I see that as a positive. But there is a significant concern that there won’t be enough doctorate-prepared nurses with a research focus. The AACN is calling for more PhD-prepared nurses because the generation of nursing science is so critical. We really have to strike a better balance.*
Q: What’s happening with the associate degree in nursing? Is it transitioning to the BSN?
Q: What is most important for nurses to understand about higher education, in your mind?
A: It’s imperative for developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be part of the healthcare team – to ensure quality and safety in patient care and excellent patient outcomes. It is so important. I was initially an associate degree prepared nurse, and I knew there were things that I was missing. I had enough to function as a safe, excellent nurse, but I knew there was course work that I didn’t get. Public health was one area. In my program, pathophysiology was another area. I felt that I was an effective nurse, but I felt I was a more effective nurse with that additional education.
A: Absolutely. According to AACN’s The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education even at the level of preparing the baccalaureate nurse, there’s huge emphasis on teaching nurses systems’ level thinking, which does encompass helping them understand QI initiatives.
Q: How does higher education open doors in nurses’ careers?
See the difference between managers and leaders
Learn more
Q: Describe today’s degree options.
Q: What are basic differences among doctorate nursing degrees?
Q: You mentioned that healthcare complexity is resulting in a greater emphasis on higher education. What about the increasing emphasis on quality improvement in healthcare? Is that putting more pressure on the profession to become more highly educated, as well?
Q: Finally, where is the nursing workforce in terms of its pursuit of higher education?
A: I think we’re getting closer to full doctor of nursing practice, with less emphasis on master’s-prepared nurses. The baccalaureate degree remains a force in the profession, especially since the IOM report cited research by Linda Aiken and others that demonstrated the more baccalaureate-prepared nurses at an institution, the better the patient outcomes and lower the mortality rate. That, I think ultimately, moved nursing ahead. We started to see policy changes in hospitals, where they said the associate degree is fine but we want you to have your bachelor’s degree in x-amount of time. Associate degree nurses continue to play a huge role, however. In rural America, for example, where there are community and technical colleges, associate degree nurses are absolutely critical for supplying nurses to rural hospitals.
Scheckel_Martha_ILThinkstockPhotos-486482819
*According to the AACN’s Fall 2014 Survey of Nursing Schools, enrollment in PhD programs increased by 3.2% in 2014 while enrollment for the DNP increased 26.2%.

In an AACN press release, Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, Senior Adviser for Nursing with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said: “Strengthening the pipeline of nurses entering both research- and practice-focused doctoral programs is critical to meeting the nation’s growing demand for nurse scientists, faculty, expert clinicians, leaders and innovators.”
Navigating today's degree options
article-down-arrow
By Lisette Hilton
share-dots-shadowleft-arrowright-arrowright-arrow-3
© 2017 OnCourse Learning Corp. All rights reserved
facebooktwitterLinkedinyoutube
Contact Nurse.com
20225 Water Tower Blvd. Brookfield, WI 53045
Advertise with Nurse.com
google-pluspinterest
MENU
toc-imageX
Contents
HOME
arrow-TOC
arrow-TOC
Take charge in negotiations
Negotiating your salary can have a huge impact on lifetime earnings.
Market, culture influence pay
Find out what drives pay rates in the healthcare market.
arrow-TOC
Look beyond pay rates
Cost of living can make a huge impact on your take-home pay.
arrow-TOC
CE COURSE: Interview like a pro
Ace a job interview with this comprehensive CE module.
arrow-TOC
A special kind of compensation
Never underestimate the value of thanks from patients, families.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-506752188_TOC_RZ
CE catalog
Learn how to switch specialties, build your network and more.
arrow-TOC
Travel nursing's special perks
Find out what attracts nurses to this specialty.
arrow-TOC
Nurse staffing's future course
Nurse shines light on how what specialties will be in high demand.
arrow-TOC
RN salaries always a hot topic
Learn more about issues that can help you increase your salary.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-511472442__1_
Revisit the Equal Pay Act
There's still work to be done in reaching equal pay across genders.
arrow-TOC
hamburguer-icon-shadow
MENU
toc-imageX
Contents
HOME
arrow-TOC
arrow-TOC
CE Catalog
ThinkstockPhotos-506752188_TOC_RZ
Learn new ways to teach, switch your specialty and more!
iStock-159329134
The benefits of an FNP
Discover the many professional paths available with an FNP.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-92275385
Degree status update
Discover how nursing degrees...
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-520265671__1_
CE COURSE: The APRN role
This CE module provides complete info about AP nursing roles.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-166841908
A cure for the nursing shortage
Nursing schools are working hard to combat the nurse faculty shortage.
arrow-TOC
LP_ThinkstockPhotos-469693050__1___1_
Nursing's come a long way
Take a trip back in time with this journey through nursing education.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-479707865
Consider a PhD
Find out why a PhD degree may be right for you.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-497448396
Get ahead of the competition
An advanced degree provides an competitive edge in the workforce.
arrow-TOC
LP_ThinkstockPhotos-810113776
Nursing education a must
Learn why an advanced degree is necessary in today's nursing world.
arrow-TOC
iStock_000056975752_Large
Traits of an advanced practice
Empathy and fearlessness are just two of the traits of an AP nurse.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-511472442__1_
Shape tomorrow's nurse leaders
Nursing faculty have a hand in shaping students into leaders.
arrow-TOC
LP_ThinkstockPhotos-653792166-_1_
The shift to DNP
A DNP degree is a viable choice in higher nursing education.
arrow-TOC
Nurse-logo
How to Navigate
© 2017 OnCourse Learning Corp. All rights reserved
Contact Nurse.com
20225 Water Tower Blvd. Brookfield, WI 53045
Advertise with Nurse.com
X
How to Navigate
BROWSE
FIND
right-arrowleft-arrow
hamburguer-icon-shadow
MENU
Move forward or backward between articles by clicking the arrows.
Click or tap to bring up the Table of Contents.
READ
share-dots-shadow
facebooktwitterLinkedingoogle-pluspinterest
SHARE
scroll
Share articles by clicking on one of the social media icons in the upper right corner of the page.
Use your mouse wheel, keyboard arrow keys, or scroll bar to move up and down in an article.
CSE_logo_full_RGBNurseCom-Desktop
COMMUNITY FOCUSED.
INDIVIDUALLY DRIVEN.
RN-BSN, 1-year accelerated,
18-month traditional
MS Nursing (on campus & online)
BS-MS Health Administration
MS Nutrition, online
Master's Public Health
ENROLL TODAY!
CLASSES BEGIN AUGUST 26.
FOR MORE INFO:
973-290-4605
LRagno@cse.edu
NurseCom-Mobileclose