Background

The national spotlight on the nursing shortage has raised awareness of the pivotal role nurses play in health care delivery as well as the many career opportunities available in the field.  In addition to providing direct patient care, nurses today can conduct research, teach in universities, advise public policymakers, lead healthcare organizations, establish independent practices, and share their expertise in many other ways.  This dynamic profession is attracting an increasing number of highly skilled individuals from other disciplines who are seeking new careers in nursing. 

The most efficient way to prepare new nurses at an advanced level is through accelerated baccalaureate and master's programs in nursing.  These intense programs target students who have baccalaureate degrees in other disciplines and wish to transition into nursing.  Students receive the same number of clinical hours as their counterparts in traditional nursing programs and accomplish programmatic objectives in a shorter time by building on previous learning experiences.

Expanding capacity in all types of baccalaureate nursing programs, including accelerated options, is crucial to addressing the nursing shortage.  Nursing schools nationwide are working to admit all qualified applicants, yet a shortage of faculty is constraining these efforts.  Research shows that nurses prepared in baccalaureate programs are four times more likely than other nurses to pursue graduate degrees in nursing, the required credentials to teach.  By focusing on preparing more baccalaureate nurses, the population of potential future faculty will expand considerably. (See Fact Sheet)

A growing body of research also shows a relationship between higher levels of nursing education and better quality patient care. Graduates of baccalaureate nursing programs are particularly well-equipped to meet the demands placed on today's registered nurses and to satisfy the public's mandate for high-quality patient care.  The baccalaureate-prepared nurse enjoys the greatest opportunity for career advancement as well as the ability to move seamlessly into roles requiring a master's or doctoral degree.

In addition to preparing more qualified nurses, the need exists to develop a nursing workforce that reflects the nation's population. Nurse leaders recognize a strong connection between having a diverse nursing workforce and the ability to provide culturally-competent patient care.  Though nursing has made great strides in enhancing the diversity of graduates, more must be done.