More Nurses are Advancing Their Education

“Learning is one of life’s most essential activities.” — Annie Murphy Paul

Enrollment in all types of professional nursing programs increased from 2011 to 2012, according to new survey data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. These findings are based on data reported from 664 of the 856 nursing schools in the U.S. with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs.

The survey also saw a 3.5% increase in entry level Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. The number of students enrolled in RN-to-BSN programs increased by 22.2% from 2011 to 2012, which, according to the AACN, signals a growing interest for baccalaureate-prepared nurses from both nurses and employers.

"AACN is pleased to see across-the-board increases in nursing school enrollments this year, given our commitment to encouraging all nurses to advance their education as a catalyst for improving patient care," said AACN President Jane Kirschling in a press release. "As the national voice for professional nursing education, AACN is committed to working with the education and health care community to create a highly qualified nursing workforce able to meet the expectations and challenges of contemporary nursing practice."

A few other interesting survey findings:

  • Enrollment in master’s and doctoral degree programs increased “significantly.”
  • Survey data indicated an 8.2% jump in enrollments for nursing schools with master’s programs (432 institutions reported data).
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice programs saw a 19.6% enrollment increase (166 schools reported data).
  • Baccalaureate nursing graduates are more than twice as likely to have jobs at the time of graduation than those entering the workforce in other fields.
  • Graduates from master’s degree programs (MSNs) were most likely to have secured jobs at graduation (73%).

"Momentum is clearly building for advancing nursing education at all levels,” Kirschling said in a press release. “Given the calls for more baccalaureate- and graduate-prepared nurses, federal and private funding for nursing education should be targeted directly to the schools and programs that prepare students at these levels."

"Further, achieving the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations related to education will require strong academic-practice partnerships and a solid commitment among our practice colleagues to encourage and reward registered nurses committed to moving ahead with their education."

This post was written by Erica Moss, who is the community manager for the online masters in nursing programs at Georgetown University.

Posted: 12/7/2012 9:07:36 AM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 2 comments

Categories: Education & Career

Getting back into scrubs

I think that every nurse I know has a story about jumping in to help during an emergency outside of the work setting. I’ve had several over the years, the most recent being this past summer while out with my kids. It was an evening out at the park, close to dinner time, so it wasn’t very crowded. Suddenly a young boy ran from the swings holding his head. His mom (or another caregiver – I’m not certain what the relationship was) was seated at the next bench, not very far from me. She started to scream and cry.

I could see the blood coming down the little boy’s neck and quickly ran over to help. Fortunately I had a towel in my bag since we had just come from the pool. As I approached, the mom/caregiver stepped away crying and fell into the arms of another woman who was there. I quickly assessed his head (it was a pretty big gash) and held pressure with the towel while lowering him to the ground where we sat and waited for emergency medical services (EMS) to arrive.

All the while, my own children were watching in fear. After the EMS team arrived and took over the boy’s care, which included a trip to our local emergency department, we collected our stuff and headed toward the car. I reassured them that the little boy would be okay and that he might just need some stitches. The conversation that ensued with my one son went something like this:

Me: “It’s a good thing there was a nurse around, huh?”

My son: “There was?”

Me (shocked): “Yes! Me!”

My son: “Oh yeah…I forgot you’re a nurse. You're more of a ‘typer’ than a nurse though, mom.”

The conversation went on a little longer, but I must say it was as if something just hit me right then. I’d recently been considering getting back to patient care, but hadn’t even begun to look into job opportunities or refresher courses in the area. This brings me to my reason for sharing this story…

I’ve been away from bedside nursing for more than 10 years and have a few questions for anyone else that took a similar “hiatus” and then returned to patient care.

1. What steps did you take to prepare for a return to bedside nursing?
2. Did you return to your prior place of employment or a similar unit, or did you start over in a new area or with a different patient population?
3. How easy or hard was it making the transition?

Please share your story! I look forward to any advice you may have for me!

Thank you :-)

Posted: 10/15/2012 2:04:26 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 6 comments

Categories: Education & Career

Teach People How To Treat You

In the opening address at Nursing Management Congress 2012, Sharon Cox presented ways that managers can “add value in a time of volatility.” While this was a conference geared toward nurse managers and other administrators and executives, her words and ideas are applicable to us all, both as nurses and as human beings.

One thing that she said (it’s on my list of favorite quotes from the conference) was “We teach people how to treat us.” While looking back at my notes, I found these words in all capitals and circled several times. This was a powerful statement!

Think about it. Do you have colleagues who aren’t true “team players?” Any bullying go on in the unit where you work? Are some nurses bullied more that others? Why?

You can ask yourself similar questions about any relationships, not just in the workplace. If we allow ourselves to be treated poorly, people will continue to do so. I agree with this statement by Sharon Cox because by allowing others to treat us with disrespect, it’s as if we are condoning that behavior.

So what is the solution? In my mind, the trick is to be “respectfully assertive,” that is, stand up for ourselves without being aggressive or becoming defensive. This is one of those things that is often “easier said than done,” but by being aware of how we receive and react to certain behaviors and making any necessary changes on our own end, perhaps we can make a difference.

Posted: 10/8/2012 3:04:01 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 4 comments

Categories: Education & Career

Dear New Nursing Graduate...

Dear New Nursing Graduate,

Welcome! What an exciting time for you! I realize that it probably is somewhat of an emotional and stressful time as well. My sons just “graduated” from elementary school and through all the events and ceremonies, I was reminded just how special these milestones and traditions can be. Probably the biggest one for me was finishing up nursing school and entering the “real world.”  

So, first let’s get out all of the stress that you are probably feeling right now. These were my top 3 sources of anxiety, if I remember correctly…

1. Leaving the security of school with instructors who guided me and classmates who supported me. I did find other mentors and formed another support network rather quickly and you will too! Get to know other new nurses during orientation. Be receptive to learning from more experienced nurses and other staff.

2. Facing the NCLEX exam. How could I possibly know all that I was expected to know? I did, and you do too (but don't stop studying!)

3. Encountering a discouraging job search. I had to be persistent and open to options that weren't my first choice.  Remember that any job can serve as a stepping stone to your dream job.

I recall hearing over and over again how the “real world” of nursing would be so different from nursing school. How can you make the transition a little easier? Here’s some advice:

  • Never stop learning! Learn from other nurses, other disciplines, support staff, anyone around you! Some of my most critical skills and communication techniques I learned from my very first preceptor – a nursing assistant who had been working on the unit for more than 20 years! Take advantage of the knowledge and experience of those around you. Really listen to advice and observe how others do and say things. You may not want to emulate all of what you see, but you can learn from it.
  • Keep up your education! I know you just finished school, but there is so much more to learn and things in healthcare are always changing. Attend inservices and maintain your continuing education requirements. Also, when the time is right, consider getting certified in your specialty and think about going back to school.
  • Ask questions! This goes hand-in-hand with learning and education. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else is wondering the same thing. Don’t assume – get the answer or find out how to get the answer. Then share it with others.
  • Join a nursing organization! This is a great way to stay informed and network with nurses who have similar interests.
  • Take breaks! Remember to take breaks during your shifts. Also, be sure to enjoy “non-nursing” time with family and friends. One of my favorite nursing tips is ""Nursing is a 24/7 operation that requires teamwork - do your best to prioritize and work safely & pass on the rest.""

A last word of advice is to not forget this feeling of uncertainty and stress, as uncomfortable as it may be. This will help you when students or new nurses are on your floor. Welcome them and treat them with respect. Share your knowledge with them, even become a preceptor. They’ll thank you for it.

Best of luck to you as you make this transition!

Posted: 6/14/2012 2:08:59 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 4 comments

Categories: Education & Career

Specialty certification

5-Reasons-to-get-Certified-250.pngMarch 19th is Certified Nurses Day. A large number of nursing certification programs exist (I count 92!). This number alone tells me that this is something important that all nurses should consider. I was proud to use the credential CCRN during my days working in a medical ICU. The exam was tough and maintaining the necessary continuing education requirements was challenging, but my own sense of pride and the respect I received from patients, my colleagues, and my employer made it worth it.   

So what is specialty certification exactly? The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) defines certification as “a process by which a nongovernmental agency validates, based upon predetermined standards, an individual nurse’s qualifications for practice in a defined functional or clinical area of nursing.” Many other definitions exist, depending on where you look or from which organization you are seeking certification. In general, being certified demonstrates that you have advanced knowledge and competence in a given specialty. 

Barriers to certification have been identified as time, cost of preparation and examinations, test anxiety, lack of support from supervisors, and continuing education requirements (Valente, 2010). Overcoming these barriers, both on personal and professional levels, are important because of the value and benefits associated with specialty certification. Kaplow (2011) categorized this value associated with certification into three realms: value to patients, value to employer, and value to self. 

With regard to value to patients, certified nurses demonstrate greater confidence in decision making, increased patient safety (including less falls and decreased pressure ulcers), and higher patient satisfaction. Also, certified nurses have been shown to be more likely to provide care based on evidence-based guidelines (Kaplow, 2011). 

Specialty certification sends a message of commitment to a current or potential employer. Nurses who are certified demonstrate a personal responsibility to their education, and in turn, patient care and outcomes. Some studies have even shown an association between certification and turnover, vacancy, staffing, nurse retention, job satisfaction, higher nurse performance, and patient satisfaction (Watts, 2010). 

Finally, the personal benefits that come with certification are numerous. The sense of accomplishment, feeling of empowerment, and validation of knowledge had a great impact on my confidence. Other benefits can include an impact on salary and career advancement, as well as improved marketability (Kaplow, 2011).

If you’re interested in learning more about certification, take a moment to explore our Guide to Certification. This handy table of specialty certification boards and contact information along with the associated credential and requirements is a good place to start your journey to certification. Good luck!
American Nurses Credentialing Center. (2012). What is Nurse Certification.  
Kaplow, R. (2011). The Value of Certification. AACN Advanced Critical Care, 22(1). 
Valente, S.M. (2010). Improving Professional Practice Through Certification. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 26 (5). 
Watts, M.D. (2010). Certification and Clinical Ladder as the Impetus for Professional Development. Critical Care Nursing Quarterly , 33(1).
Posted: 3/12/2012 10:19:51 AM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 4 comments

Categories: Evidence-Based PracticeEducation & Career

Feeling good about nursing!

There’s no better place to get excited about nursing than at a nursing conference! I spent four days this month in Denver, Colorado at the Dermatology Nurses’ Association 30th Anniversary Convention. What an amazing group of nurses! From a keynote address by Michael R. Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN which motivated us to enact the changes recommended in the IOM Future of Nursing Report to informative presentations by experts in the field, my days were filled. The camaraderie and networking among the attendees and interaction with the exhibitors was phenomenal. I left there feeling so good about being a nurse and feeling supported by my peers – thank you DNA nurses!

If you will be attending any upcoming conferences, take a moment or two to read A Closing Word: 10 Tips for Getting the Most From a Professional Conference. Here are the ten tips (but be sure to read the article in it's entirety - there is some good advice!): 

1.   Choose your sessions strategically.
2.   Networking is key.
3.   Dress the part. 
4.   Attend the poster presentations. 
5.   Attend the exhibits.
6.   Comfort is important.
7.   Take care of those who take care of you.
8.   Be respectful to your colleagues and to the speakers.
9.   Stay organized during the conference. 
10. Spread the enthusiasm and share what you learned.

Also, check out our events calendar for a complete list of upcoming nursing conferences.

Next up on my calendar is Nursing2012 Symposium in Orlando this April. Hope to see you there!

Reference: Aldridge, M.D. (2012). A Closing Word: 10 Tips for Getting the Most From a Professional ConferenceDimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 31(2).

Posted: 2/28/2012 1:47:34 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Education & Career

A call for courtesy, please

I had originally planned a different topic for this week’s blog post, but I would be remiss if I didn’t use this time and space to share my experience at my primary care practitioner’s office today. I went in for my flu shot, not a big deal; I only spent about 10 minutes there. However, in those ten minutes I was paying particular attention to the nursing staff (don’t we all do that?) A young woman called my name and I followed her down the hall as she studied her clipboard - no eye contact, no hello, no smile, and no introduction. I also quickly noticed that while she was wearing scrubs, she did not have a name tag on, or anything identifying herself by name or role.

Off we went into a small room where another woman was working on her computer. There was no sink in the room. Just a desk with a pile of the CDC’s Influenza Vaccine fact sheets (not that it was offered to me); a cup of prefilled syringes and a cup of needles; a pile of alcohol swabs; and some other non-related items and pieces of equipment. I did notice on the wall a piece of paper with information about Guillain-Barre syndrome - definition, signs and symptoms, and prognosis. I’m not sure if it was placed there for the staff or for patients. In either case, there was no information offered about why it was posted there.

This staff member prepared my vaccine, the whole while her long hair swinging around. She put on gloves, asked me which arm I wanted the shot in (then approached my right arm after I replied “left”) and gave me the vaccine. A quick band-aid application and she handed me my “receipt.” No good-bye, smile, or any farewell greeting.

What has happened to common courtesy and manners? I won’t assume that this staff person was a nurse, but I’m sure that many other patients do and will. How can we promote a professional image of nursing when even a nurse herself (me!) feels this way after a quick visit?

I may have shared this article with you before, New Nurse Notes: 7 tips to improve your professional etiquette, but I think it’s worth sharing again. Okay, I’ll say good-bye now (with a handshake and a smile!)

Posted: 12/7/2011 2:44:07 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 2 comments

Categories: Education & Career

What do you do when...

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about ethics lately as I prepare to update our Focus On: Nursing Ethics collection. Of course, so many dilemmas that I’ve faced in my practice are coming to mind and I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to these ethical issues and the decisions that I/the team made. Here are some of the issues that have been on my mind:

What do you do when…

…a patient wants to sign out AMA? Do you try to convince him to stay?


…you suspect someone you know personally has an eating disorder? Do you speak up?


…a patient is having pain and the prescriber refuses to order a pain medication? Do you go up the chain of command?


…you feel that your patient assignment is unsafe? Do you demand a change?


…you are sick but you know that the unit is already short-staffed for your shift? Do you go in to work?


What ethical dilemmas have you faced in your practice? How did you and your colleagues handle it?

Posted: 11/29/2011 2:01:43 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 1 comments

Categories: Education & Career

Back to reality

I just returned from Italy - an absolutely glorious vacation…the people, the culture, the food…wonderful!!! I am now settling back in to home and work routines and got to thinking about how different this transition is for those of us who don't work in a clinical setting. As a clinical editor, I have the luxury of picking and choosing what to catch up on first - reading the latest journal articles, catching up on social media, writing the next eNewsletter, or editing some upcoming articles. The list goes on…

Sure, I need to prioritize what needs to be done sooner rather than later, however my return to work is a lot different now then when I was taking care of patients.  As a clinical nurse, there really is no easing back into work. Assessments need to be done, medications need to be given, procedures must be performed, and patient education and support must be provided. This list also goes on...

Thinking about this also brought to mind another common occurrence in my experience. After a return from vacation, I remember being given a heavier assignment, maybe the sicker patients or the families who needed a little more time and TLC. I was considered fresh, well-rested, and ready to go. Never mind the jet-lag or any family drama experienced while away!

I will confess that these are not only memories of my returns from vacation, but also in my role as charge nurse when colleagues returned from vacation. “Sure, Sally can take the patient maxed out on pressors who is a full-code. She just spent a week in Hawaii.” Or, “Give Jeff the ER admission with the fresh GI bleed. He’s been off all week.”

As I write this, I am disappointed in myself and think…would this be considered horizontal violence? It’s just the way that things were and no one ever questioned it, but that shouldn’t make it right. Thoughts?

Posted: 5/3/2011 9:41:30 AM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Education & Career

The Future of Nursing Roundtable

On March 22, 2011, the Editors-in-Chief of the top LWW nursing journals got together for a roundtable discussion about the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Report on the Future of Nursing. For those of you who listened in, I hope you enjoyed the conversation about how these nurse leaders interpret and understand the key messages and recommendations from the report. For me, the task at hand is now clearer. It is now up to us nurses to bring our profession and our own careers to the level we deserve. I’d like to share some of what I took away from this discussion.

Anne Dabrow Woods, MSN, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, Chief Nurse of Wolters Kluwer Health/ Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and Ovid Technologies, moderated the discussion and reminded me that there are 3.1 million nurses (which is the largest group of health care providers) in the United States and we “need a seat at the table” to “make changes happen.” Anne then went on to explain in detail the key messages and recommendations in the report.

Maureen ""Shawn"" Kennedy, MA, RN, Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Nursing, spoke next about what the Report means to “nurses at the point of care” - which includes staff nurses, nurses practicing in home care, nursing homes, and other areas where direct patient care is occurring. She speaks about professional practice and having a voice when it comes to priorities of care.  Later in the webcast, Shawn talks about the education of nurses being for the public good and she includes good points about responsibility for funding.

Rich Hader, PhD, NE-BC, RN, CHE, CPHQ, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief of Nursing Management and Senior Vice-President and Chief Nursing Office of Meridian Health System gave his take on the report and what it means for managers and other nurse leaders. Some of his great words included “forge partnerships with academic colleagues” and “produce lifelong learning.” He commented on the timeliness of the report and brought up the idea of economic incentive for nurses going back to school. Rich also lists some key ideas for leaders and managers.

Jamesetta Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, Editor-in-Chief of The Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Associate Professor at New York University shared her views on the report with regards to advanced practice nurses (APNs). She commented about APNs being trained holistically and the push to move the healthcare system to one of wellness, instead of illness.

Janet Fulton, PhD, RN, Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Nurse Specialist and Associate Professor at Indiana University spoke about clinical nurse specialists in acute care. Her comments about all APNs collaborating with each other to provide inpatient and outpatient care were eye-opening, especially her quote “nursing collaborating with itself.” Another good one…for all APNs to “push the boundaries to meet the public’s need.”

Suzanne Smith, EdD, RN, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Nursing Administration and Nurse Educator spoke about the meaning of the report for educators and students. She suggested that we refer to guiding reports from organizations such as the NLN and the AACN. Specifically, Suzanne refers to the AACN’s “call for imagination” and the need for “dramatic change in Master’s education.” This discussion proceeds to the issue of cost.

The entire webcast has been archived and will be available for a limited time. 

Posted: 3/28/2011 2:26:45 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Education & Career

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