Feb 112013



By Michael Abramowitz

Saturday, February 9, 2013

East Carolina University’s College of Nursing is not looking back from its post at the frontier of health care reform, but is focusing on the opportunities and challenges ahead for nursing education, the college’s dean said after receiving recognition for its online education programs.

The college ranked 10th out of 72 master’s or doctorate of nursing practice programs in the country for online education in a January report by U.S. News and World Report.

Online degrees have grown in popularity the past 10 years, driven by a competitive job market and economic conditions, according to U.S, News, but the vision of health care reform brings more urgency to these advancements, especially in North Carolina, nursing dean Sylvia Brown said.

“ECU was one of the first to adopt online advanced education in the 1980s,” Brown said. “We saw a real need because most of our nurses were family nurse practitioners working in rural areas where their work commitments made it difficult for them to come here for classes. So we made a commitment to transition all of our graduate specialties.”

The only course not offered online is nurse anesthesia, because of the intense clinical studies required for it, she said. The East Carolina college’s RN to BSN education program serves nurses who have completed their associate’s degree at a community college and want to continue for a bachelor’s in nursing. There are currently about 187 nurses enrolled in the program.

“We’ve found that students from all over the state are able to access education online that they otherwise would not be able to come to campus to obtain,” Brown said. “They practice in the communities in which they live. About 80-85 percent of our students stay in North Carolina, with the majority practicing in the east, with others practicing in the rural western part of the state.”

Brown said that as health care reforms take hold, more nurse practitioners will be needed because of the efficiency and effectiveness of the care they provide.

“Many studies have shown that nurse practitioners demonstrate quality outcomes from their care, comparable to physicians and physician assistants, and in a cost-effective way,” Brown said.

With more people coming under the umbrella of covered care through the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, the challenge to produce advanced practice nurses is growing, Brown said. The advanced education is needed to keep up with the increasing complexity of the care being provided.

“Employers are really encouraging their nurses to return to college and get their bachelor’s degrees. We now normally have two to three times more students applying for advanced nursing courses than we can accept,” she said. “We’d like to have 80-85 percent of nurses in North Carolina prepared at the baccalaureate level by 2025. We currently have about 30 percent at that level.”

Brown works on a state task force looking at ways to revise the curriculum and make it easier for nurses with associate degrees to transfer into a baccalaureate program.

Many hospitals and medical centers, including Vidant, are now seeking “magnet” status, developed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she said. The recognition of health care organizations for quality patient care through nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice gives them the potential to attract and retain top nursing talent, improve patient care, safety and satisfaction, advance nursing standards and practices and foster the collaborative culture necessary for achieving health care reform goals.

As the goals of nursing education expand to meet the growing demands, the challenges associated with them also grow, Brown said.

“Declining resources and lack of funding means we can only take so many students,” Brown said. “We could increase our enrollment a whole lot more — we have a lot of students enrolled in our nursing education concentration — if we had more faculty, but we’ve had to give back a lot of positions because of (state educational) budget cuts.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.

via The Daily Reflector.


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