1. Freda, Margaret Comerford EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN, EDITOR

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Could it be? Yes it could. Something's coming-something good[horizontal ellipsis] maybe tonight.


Those famous lyrics from West Side Story came to mind for me today because I think something good is happening. I think, I really think, that nursing is starting to be recognized for the great profession it is, and that nurses are beginning to be appreciated for the life-saving work they do daily. I've spent a lot of time in these editorials moaning about how the public doesn't understand us and how we are misrepresented (or worse, not represented at all) in the media. A few things have happened recently, however, that tell me things are changing. The New York Times Sunday magazine section (11-20-05) had a 10-page spread as a "Tribute to Nurses," and it wasn't even Nurses Week!! Okay, it was also advertising, but I don't intend to nitpick. While important institutions that hire nurses did advertise, more importantly the work of seven extraordinary nurses from around the country was highlighted, describing not only the old reliable angel-of-mercy stuff we usually see, but also the contributions they have made to healthcare in general. Hooray for them, and hooray for the New York Times!!


It isn't just the New York Times that makes me think things are changing. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has published their data about nursing program enrollments. In 2004, there was a 15.5% increase!! The word is clearly out there that nursing is a wonderful profession, and people are clamoring to join us. The bad news is that this increase in enrollments could have been better, for 39,797 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs. The top reasons that schools of nursing gave for turning so many students away were insufficient faculty (76.1%), no available admission seats (75%), insufficient clinical teaching space (54.5%), and insufficient classroom space (47.7%) ( The AACN is advocating an increase in advanced education nursing grants to prepare more nurses to be faculty members. We need to take part by supporting efforts to make the move to a faculty position financially worthwhile for the nurse. Partnerships and cooperative agreements with practice sites will have to be forged to make this happen, but it can be done. In medicine, it is expected that faculty members both teach and practice. There's no reason this can't be the model for nursing faculty as well.


The AACN has also championed a new doctoral degree in nursing for advanced practice nurses called the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which they suggest should replace today's master's degree in nursing. This would recognize the vital role that advanced practice nurses play in health-care by rewarding them with doctoral degrees. The AACN found that


[horizontal ellipsis]in a review of current master's level nursing programs[horizontal ellipsis]many already have expanded credit requirements beyond the norm for a master's degree[horizontal ellipsis]raising concerns that professional nurse graduates are not receiving the appropriate degree for a very complex and demanding curricular experience[horizontal ellipsis]many programs require a program of study closer to the curricular expectations for other professional doctoral programs rather than master's level study[horizontal ellipsis]


There is great debate about this in the nursing literature and among nursing leaders, but I have come to believe that this is an appropriate and welcome move on the part of AACN. About 12% of nurses obtain advanced degrees. Most of those nurses want to practice rather than do research, yet if they want a doctorate our profession suggests they obtain a research doctorate. Nursing is a practice profession, and the DNP would recognize the advanced practice nurse as a top level practitioner, as does the MD in medicine. Of course the PhD would remain as the research doctorate (and I encourage nurses who love research to plan a research career-we need you badly!!), but nurses with either degree would be eligible to serve as faculty.


Could it be? Yes, I believe it could. Nursing is the new hot profession!! Tell your children and schoolchildren everywhere. Something's coming. Something good. And it's nursing.