The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is committed to working with the larger education and healthcare communities to create a highly educated nursing workforce able to meet complex healthcare demands today and in the future. To that end, AACN encourages all nurses to advance their education and supports the many pathways to achieving academic progression in nursing. Because education has a significant impact on the knowledge and competencies of the nurse clinician:
The goal of having at least 80% of the RN workforce prepared at the baccalaureate level by 2020 (Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), 2011) has generated momentum to explore an array of pathways to the BSN. Nursing schools have made achieving this IOM goal a priority and are working to expand capacity in their baccalaureate programs to meet the growing demand. Current pathways for nurses to obtain a baccalaureate degree include the traditional four-year program, which offers entry as a freshman, sophomore, or junior depending on the individual school of nursing. Accelerated BSN programs are now available in 49 states and are designed to efficiently transition individuals with baccalaureate and graduate degrees in other disciplines into nursing. Since the 2011 release of the IOM report, 88 new entry-level BSN programs have opened nationwide, and enrollment in RN to baccalaureate degree completion programs has increased 76% (AACN, 2017). Despite this expansion, the capacity of university-based BSN programs to educate more nurses is challenged by the growing shortage of nursing faculty.
In addition to individual agreements between ADN and BSN programs, several statewide models of academic progression have been successful in moving more nurses to the baccalaureate level. These models include the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (Gaines & Spencer, 2013) and the California Collaborative Model for Nursing Education (Close & Orlowski, 2015) as well as regional dual-degree and shared curriculum models in several states, including North Carolina, New York, Texas, and New Mexico (Bastable & Markowitz, 2012; Close et al., 2015).
According to the findings of the Academic Progression in Nursing initiative launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Gerardi, 2017), facilitators of successful academic progression programs include intentional coordination of degree requirements using easily understood pathways; in employer settings, offering group tuition rates; and in most models, a strong relationship among leaders with explicit strategies to sustain long-term partnerships. Of strategic importance with any of the models is a program organized so that interested students are able to see the experience as a whole and understand the importance of a baccalaureate degree for education mobility and career progression (Close & Orlowski, 2015; Gaines & Spencer, 2013; Bastable & Markowitz, 2012; Close et al, 2015; Pittman, Kurtzman, & Johnson, 2014; and Kumm et al., 2014).
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