By F. Patrick Robinson, PhD, RN, FAAN
Education and tuition assistance programs were once thought of simply as nice-haves in the human resource package. However, their importance is evolving as major workforce challenges continue to impact the nursing profession. Consider these numbers:
In the context of these challenges, education assistance isn’t simply a benefit that provides a personal stepping stone, but rather a core organizational strategy with potential implications for everything from employee engagement and hospital budgets to driving patient outcomes. This shift positions education as a strategic asset from which health care organizations may be able to reap a number of overarching benefits. Chief among these potential benefits include:
As adult learners with demanding careers and complicated personal responsibilities, nurses are challenged to fit into educational systems that were not designed with them in mind. However, the momentum of change to flexible and adaptable models of higher education is accelerating as even what were once considered traditional college students are far from who they were a short generation ago. In many ways, nursing education emerged as an early adopter of higher education innovation in response to its core constituency — full-time practicing nurses. Nursing education leaders must continue to innovate while partnering with colleagues in practice to ensure practice-relevant competencies to help drive desired patient, systems, and population outcomes in the emerging nursing workforce.
Additionally, practice- relevant competencies that focus on quality care and patient safety that are developed collaboratively with leaders in practice should be a priority at all levels of nursing education. Plus there must be further commitment to principles of seamless academic progression among degree levels with rigorous and valid methods of granting credit for prior learning.
Formal higher education coupled with ongoing professional development and when needed, technical training is crucial to any nursing workforce strategy aimed at improving quality and efficiency. This is the definition of the proverbial model of life-long learning. Both health care organizations and institutions of higher education benefit when they come to the table together to problem solve. But the real winners? Patients and nurses!
About The Author
Dr. F. Patrick Robinson serves as Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella University. He obtained his bachelors and masters in nursing from Indiana University, holds a PhD in Nursing Science from Loyola University Chicago and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in biobehavioral nursing research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He maintains certification as an AIDS nurse (ACRN) from the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board and is a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) through the National League for Nursing.