1. Puetz, Belinda E. PhD, RN

Article Content

A recent article published in the Journal of Professional Nursing (Kovner, Brewer, Katigbak, Djukic, & Fatehi, 2012) described a study of nurses' motivation to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. The impetus for the study was attributed to the Institute of Medicine's (2010) report on The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health, in which one recommendation was that nurses achieve higher levels of education, with a goal of 80% of nurses holding a BSN or higher degree by 2020.


The RN Work Project was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and was a 10-year study of newly licensed registered nurses in 34 states representing 51 metropolitan areas and 9 rural areas. The RN Work Project was a multistate, longitudinal study of new nurses' intentions, satisfaction, organizational commitment, and preferences about work.


The nurses involved in the study indicated that the primary motivators for seeking additional education were an interest in career and professional advancement, gaining new knowledge, improving social welfare skills, and being a positive role model for their children. Barriers to obtaining advanced degrees were listed as cost and family obligations. Not having sufficient time was also identified as a barrier.


These RNs reported that support from employers and educational institutions increase the likelihood that they will return to school for advanced degrees. Support from employers was described as organizational incentives such as tuition reimbursement and compatible work and class hours, as well as Web-based and worksite classes.


Although nursing professional development (NPD) specialists are not in a position to ensure some of these aspects of support from employers, they certainly are in a position to facilitate new nurses' access to benefits such as tuition reimbursement offered by employers. Generally, a new nurse is overwhelmed by the transition to the workplace and not aware of all of the programs offered by the employer (even those thoroughly described in orientation programs). The NPD specialist most likely can assist the new graduate to obtain these benefits or at the least be made aware of them for future reference.


NPD specialists also play key roles in providing recognition of nurses who are seeking additional education. These individuals can be used as assistants in teaching content, mentors, and role models for other nurses in the educational setting. Simply acknowledging that specific individuals are working on advanced degrees in a group education session can be a form of recognition and reward.


NPD specialists can also work with local colleges and universities to arrange for Web-based classes to be offered in the practice setting. Increasingly, articles in this journal describe collaborative efforts with college and university faculty; arranging for onsite academic education for working nurses seeking a BSN would seem a logical collaboration that would benefit the academic institution, the healthcare employer, and, most of all, the busy working nurse.


Finally, the NPD specialist can role model behaviors for new registered nurses by seeking advanced nursing education or certification, if that is a more appropriate goal. NPD specialists certainly face the same barriers to additional education as the nurses in the RN Work Project study. By demonstrating that it is possible to overcome these barriers and focus on the motivation to achieve advanced education, the NPD specialist can provide an invaluable contribution not only to the nurses employed in the facility but to the nursing profession as a whole.




Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. [Context Link]


Kovner C. T., Brewer C., Katigbak C., Djukic M., Fatehi F. (2012). Charting the course for nurses' achievement of higher education levels, Journal of Professional Nursing, 28 (6), 333-343. [Context Link]