Advanced Education Helps Nurses Care for Sicker Patients

A nursing leader explains why she is a strong supporter of the BSN for entry into the profession of nursing.

By Irma Cooper, RN, MS, CNS
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"I am a strong supporter of the BSN or MSN

for professional nurses.”

By Irma Cooper, RN, MS, CNS
Director of Transitional Care Services, Citrus Valley Medical Center, Covina, CA

Irma Cooper, RN, MS, CNSI am a strong supporter of the Baccalaureate Degree in nursing as the minimum educational preparation for entry into the profession of nursing. In order for nursing to be recognized as a profession it must be grounded in a scientific knowledge base with only one level of entry. In 1965, The American Nurses Association (ANA) published its position on education for nursing. The ANA stated that nursing education should be taught at a college/university or institution of higher learning. There would be two levels of nursing: the technical and the professional. The technical nurse is the Associate Degree nurse and the professional nurse is the Baccalaureate Degree nurse. The long-term goal was to phase the two levels into one.

This position started a battle of awareness in the nursing community that I believe resulted in many positive changes. Hospital-based schools were phased out as education moved into the colleges and universities. There were also many programs designed to help technical nurses to return to school to obtain their Baccalaureate Degree. However, 50 years later, the issue has not been resolved—there are still two levels of entry into practice.

The Complexity of High Technology and Sicker Patients

Advances in medicine and healthcare systems have created multiple new units and care settings inside and outside of the hospitals. (Examples: ICU, CCU, DOU, Outpatient Surgery, etc.) The complexity and unpredictability of high technology in hospitals required nurses to be educated in nursing science and skilled in critical thinking rather than ritualistic practice.

There are more challenges now facing the nurse on the floor. In 1983, prospective payment legislation changed Medicare’s reimbursement formula for acute care hospitals. Payment based on the diagnostic-related groups encouraged a different form of utilization of inpatient care than payment under the fee-for-service method. New financial incentives resulted in patients being admitted sicker and discharged earlier from hospitals. A shorter length of hospital stay and sicker patients resulted in an intensity of care that required professional nurses in large numbers.

The professional nurse has all the skills and abilities to function independently in a high-tech environment. She can handle a workload of very sick patients with multi-disease processes. She can set priorities and problem-solve. She is a patient advocate, health care educator, case-manager, and discharge planner all in one.

Why I Chose to Pursue a Master’s Degree

I completed nursing school in the middle of the battle over entry-into-practice for nursing. During my initial nursing education, an Associate Degree program, our class discussed the ANA position paper. We were encouraged to return to school to become professional nurses. After graduating from nursing school, I joined the ANA and became very active in my various professional nursing organizations.

I believe that my Baccalaureate Degree improved the way I practiced nursing in terms of my knowledge base and critical thinking/problem–solving skills.

My nursing administration interests led me to return to school to earn my Master’s Degree in Nursing. This degree increased my understanding of the healthcare system and healthcare finance, as well as greatly improving my nursing practice. Utilizing my Advanced Practice Degree gave me opportunities for nursing leadership and administrative roles. These roles allowed me to participate with non-nursing healthcare professionals in making decisions concerning patient care, nursing education, and policy.

BSN Gives the Nurse More Credibility

23 years ago, I agreed with my nurse’s association that nursing is a profession, that nursing education must to be taught at a university, and there should be one entry into practice: the Baccalaureate Degree. Healthcare systems are becoming more high tech and sophisticated.

Professional and financial autonomy and career advancement are directly correlated with higher education. The Baccalaureate level of education gives nurses more professional control. A Masters’ Degree in a clinical specialty or primary care, and certification in a field of advanced practice, open the doors for greater autonomy.

In my opinion, professional Registered Nurses remain the undereducated members of the healthcare team compared with physicians, social workers, physical therapists, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners. The nurse also often lacks the educational credentials of people within the business and insurance communities who now play significant roles in healthcare decisions. Undereducated members of the health team rarely sit at policy tables or are invited to participate on governing boards. Consequently, there is little opportunity for the majority of practicing nurses to engage in clinical or healthcare policy.

In conclusion, professional nurses are needed to meet the demands of the evolving healthcare system. It’s best for the profession, the patient, and our society.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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