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The Future of Nursing Report: The Progress We’ve Made, and the Work We Still Need to Do

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Nurses make up the largest segment of the U.S. medical field. With over 3 million women and men in nursing, we nurses can come together to accomplish a lot. Many of our nursing leaders came together in 2010 to develop “The Future of Nursing” report for the Institute of Medicine. The goal was to help nurses — and the entire medical field — solve large-scale challenges and determine how nurses’ education and responsibilities in the field might help solve them. The report made many now-famous recommendations, like setting a goal for 80% of nurses to complete their BSN by 2020. Because we’re over halfway there, we wanted to examine the progress our industry has made, and the work we still need to do for the future of nursing.

Goals of the report

First released in 2010 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine, the “Future of Nursing Report: Leading Change, Advancing Health” was the effort of many medical professionals and organizations. They wanted to create a plan to improve nurses’ ability to give the best care with the best resources for those who need it. The blueprint for this plan included four main messages:

  1. Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.
  2. Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
  3. Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other healthcare professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.
  4. Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and information infrastructure.

The report knew it couldn’t make nurses solely responsible for implementing these changes. Governmental organizations, businesses, healthcare organizations, professional associations, and the insurance industry had to join forces to help nursing be the best version of itself within the ten-year timeframe that was proposed.

Related Resource: Why a BSN Degree Matters More Now Than Ever

How far we’ve come as a nursing industry

The Future of Nursing Report recommends 80% BSN completion by 2020To understand how the nursing field has progressed, we need to look at where the medical experts of 2010 envisioned we’d be today. One major step was the partnership of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with the American Association of Retired Persons (the AARP) to help advance the report’s goals. Together, they created “The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.” The campaign put together many groups of nurses and other professionals into smaller coalitions, each rallying around needed points of change. Their efforts are paying off in the form of rising education levels among nurses, earning their BSN degrees.

Another of the main factors of the report was addressing the role nurses would play in implementing the changes from the Affordable Care Act. This law was the largest overhaul of the medical field since the advent of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. The report creators felt that nurses needed more options for delivering the best care they can without the legal and bureaucratic barriers that prevented them from doing so. The report aimed to increase the number of both nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants in order to meet the rising demand of shifts in insurance coverage for most Americans. Luckily, those numbers are indeed on the rise — although both roles are still in need of further growth.

Related Resource: These Are the Best States to Work As a Nurse Practitioner

The work for nurses ahead

What lies ahead in terms of helping nurses seek out and thrive in greater leadership roles? The report set out some pretty tall orders, but the organizations in question are coming together from across the board to make sure those orders are met. In addition to the four foundational messages of the report, there were eight recommendations for moving forward:

The Future of Nursing Report sets out eight recommendations

  1. Remove scope-of-practice barriers.
  2. Expand opportunities for nurses to lead and diffuse collaborative improvement efforts.
  3. Implement nurse residency programs.
  4. Increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020.
  5. Double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.
  6. Ensure that nurses engage in lifelong learning.
  7. Prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health.
  8. Build an infrastructure for the collection and analysis of interprofessional health care workforce data.

While some of these recommendations are concrete, others — such as “ensure that nurses engage in lifelong learning” — are a little harder to measure. So what progress has taken place since the report and the campaign for action set the country to task? A second report was released in 2015 to try to answer that question, called “Assessing Progress on the Institute of Medicine Report.” Stuart Altman, PhD, the Sol C. Chaiken Professor of National Health Policy and Heller Graduate School of Social Policy at Brandeis University, said that “Much progress has been made in terms of furthering the recommendations of the original FON report.”

The new report found that the number of residencies in the country is going up, as well as the education level of nurses. Collaboration between organizations has also improved, but one of the remaining challenges is getting more nurses into higher leadership positions among those organizations. One of the key factors to getting there is BSN completion. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of nurses holding a BSN rose an estimated 86.3 percent. While the number is likely higher today, statistics such as these take time to assemble. We likely have a ways to go before we reach the 80 percent goal projected for 2020, which is why now is such an important time for nurses to enroll in a BSN program.

At Ameritech, our students excel as professionals from the moment they enroll in our online RN-BSN completion program. This program allows working registered nurses to earn their Bachelors of Science in Nursing in only three semesters — and so fulfill one of the major goals of the Future of Nursing report.

Related Resource: The Art of Studying, Working, and Raising a Family As a BSN Student

For many, earning your BSN is a huge step toward becoming a nursing leader. Our graduates, faculty, and other nursing innovators are helping to move the nation forward in accordance with the Future of Nursing report. We welcome you to learn more our BSN program here.

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