Back to School

CHW LogoAt the ripe old age of 18, my mother was a newly minted RN, fresh out of a two-year diploma program.  Not too many nurses got bachelor’s degrees back then.  Years later – while continuing to work two jobs and raise two kids – she went back to get a bachelor’s (in psychology, not nursing), and eventually a master’s in health administration.  Why?  In large part, I think, because of new requirements.  I certainly don’t think she believed the additional years of school made her a better nurse (she was already an awfully good one).

A study published this year in the Lancet suggests otherwise.  Looking at 300 hospitals across nine European countries found two nursing factors that correlated most strongly with mortality rates.  One was the nurse:patient ratio.  The other was the proportion of nurses with a bachelor’s degree.

Knowing how important the quality of nursing is to the overall quality of care, this is perhaps not surprising.  Nurse education is one of the many criteria evaluated by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition program.  (CHW was verified as a Magnet hospital for the 3rd straight time in 2014, a distinction held by only about 1% of all hospitals in the country.)  Over 76% of direct care nurses at children’s have at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly a quarter have some form of national specialty certification.  Among our nursing leaders, 72% have a graduate degree.  This is one of the reasons we are able to deliver the best and safest care.

Not only are our nurses well educated, many of them are educators themselves.  I recently read through our annual advanced practice nursing report, which presents an impressive array of teaching and research being done by our many talented APNs.

The Lancet study doesn’t show why nurse education level is associated with better outcomes, but some speculation includes a greater ability of university-trained nurses to interpret sophisticated monitoring data, and a greater willingness to question the traditional hierarchy to raise safety concerns.

My mother is certainly proof that one doesn’t need a bachelor’s degree to be an excellent nurse.  (She’s also proof that you don’t need a degree to challenge authority.)  But when it comes to education for nurses, the data show that more is better – and kids deserve the best.

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