Report Calls for Increased Role of Nurses in Healthcare

by U.S. Medicine

November 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC—Nurses should be playing a stronger role in the nation’s healthcare systems, and should be among the leaders in the redesigning of care in the United States, according to an IoM report released last month. To ensure that nurses are well prepared, the report recommends that the profession as whole institute residency training for nurses, increase the percentage of nurses who obtain bachelor’s degrees to 80% by 2020, and double the number who pursue doctorates.

The current healthcare system does not provide sufficient incentives for nurses to pursue higher degrees or additional training, the report states. The report also notes that healthcare organizations, including nursing schools, need to provide greater opportunities for nurses to develop and practice leadership.

Another area of particular concern to the report’s authors is “scope of practice barriers” that limits nurses from practicing to the fullest extent of their education and training. Scope of practice barriers are particularly problematic for advanced practice registered nurses (APNs). APNs include nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists. Lack of additional education has kept nurses from working in faculty and advanced practice roles at a time when there is a significant shortage in those areas.

According to the IoM researchers, data from studies of APNs and the experiences of healthcare organizations that have increased the roles and responsibilities of nurses in patient care, such as the VA, show that APNs deliver safe, effective care.

The study was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, which will organize a national conference for November 30 through December 1 to discuss ways to implement the report’s recommendations.

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