Dr. Roswitha Davies
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “nurse?” Do you think of a person who
takes care of sick people in a hospital? Do you think of a person who works in a doctor’s office or a clinic who give pills and shots? Most students who apply to the Nursing program at San Antonio College have an idea of what it means to be a nurse.
When looking at nursing on a broader level of a profession, however, our image is not as clear. Within nursing, we have licensed vocational nurses (LVN) and registered nurses (RN). Both levels are licensed to practice by the state upon completion of their programs, but the amount of training is different. Licensed vocational nurses receive one year of training and a certificate upon completion. Registered nurses may receive their training at a two-year community college and receive an associate degree or at a four-year university where they receive a bachelor’s degree. Registered nurses may further their education at a master’s or doctorate level.
Licensing ensures that all nurses are safe to practice in their jobs, and institutions that hire nurses ensure that the nurse’s job responsibilities do not exceed the level of training the nurse received. However, some research is finding that nurses at the bachelor’s level or higher can better deal with the evolving and complex healthcare system of the future.
In 2008, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine undertook an initiative for the purpose of making recommendations for the future of nursing. A report, released in 2010 was titled “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” Regarding nursing education, the report recommended that “nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.” The report further recommended that by 2020, the proportion of nurses with a bachelor’s degree should increase from 50 percent to 80 percent.
The ability to progress to the next level of education is not new in nursing. Mobility programs have been in existence for many years for LVNs to further their education and become registered nurses. Programs are also available for registered nurses with associate degrees to obtain bachelor’s degrees. Many of RN- to-BSN programs are available but currently only about 17 percent of nurses with associate degrees continue to a bachelor’s degree. From this report, an idea was born in Texas to reduce barriers in the state that hinder successful academic progression from an associate to a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
This initiative became the Consortium for the Advancement of Baccalaureate Nursing Education in Texas (CABNET). San Antonio College is among 45 community colleges and 16 universities that have expressed interest in participating. In addition to reducing transfer and financial barriers to educational progression, CABNET has taken on a broader goal of revising the way nursing education is taught. Content taught in the various nursing programs would build from basic knowledge and skill taught at community college level to deeper learning at the university level. This common curriculum would eliminate duplication of courses and re-teaching of content that currently exists.
The CABNET plan allows for all required general education courses to be taken at the community colleges that would further reduce tuition costs. Finally, the CABNET plan still allows for the student, upon completion of the associate degree requirements, to become licensed and enter the workforce as a registered nurse. The CABNET initiative is moving into its development phase with the plan to begin implementation in Fall 2013.
Dr. Roswitha Davies is an associate professor in the Nursing Department @ SAC.