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1/19/2011 - Jackson, Miss.

The Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine recently released The Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, a thorough examination of the nursing workforce. The report looks at nursing practice, education and leadership and explores how nurses' roles, responsibilities, and education should change significantly to meet the increased demand for care that will be created by health care reform and to advance improvements in America's increasingly complex health system (www.thefutureofnursing.org).

Launched at the National Summit on Advancing Health through Nursing, the key recommendations of the report include:

  • Remove scope-of-practice barriers.
  • Expand opportunities for nurses to lead and diffuse collaborative improvement efforts.
  • Implement nurse residency programs.
  • Increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020.
  • Double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.
  • Ensure that nurses engage in lifelong learning.
  • Prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health.
  • Build an infrastructure for the collection and analysis of inter-professional health care workforce data.

"This is a landmark report that will shape nursing and nursing education for years to come," said Dr. Janette McCrory, Director of Nursing Education, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Mississippi is one of five states invited to participate in the pilot implementation phase of the report's major recommendations. The other states include California, Michigan, New Jersey and New York. The states were selected to form Regional Action Coalitions based on their strong nursing capacity and known opportunities for non-nursing partnerships with business, government and philanthropic partners.

Mississippi is already implementing or planning to implement a number of programs and initiatives to achieve the goals outlined by the Institute of Medicine's recommendations.

"The report emphasized the need for nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training," said Wanda Jones, RN, PhD(c), Executive Director, Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce and chairperson for Mississippi's Regional Action Coalition. "We have assisted in implementing nurse residency programs with some healthcare facilities in Mississippi, which will help strengthen their skills and better prepare them to handle any situation."

Mississippi currently has articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions to enable nurses to improve their skills through increased educational attainment. Currently, over half of registered nurses hold an associate degree in nursing while almost 30 percent hold a bachelor's degree in nursing. Only eight percent hold a master's degree in nursing and less than one percent of registered nurses hold a doctorate. The articulation agreements are reviewed periodically to ensure that students have a seamless transition from one institution to another.

"Our articulation agreements promote a seamless academic process for nurses who want to increase their level of education," said Dr. Janette McCrory, Director of Nursing Education, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. "Just as the report cited, it is important for nurses to achieve higher levels of education and training through a strong education system that promotes seamless transitions."

The University of Mississippi Medical Center and The University of Southern Mississippi Schools of Nursing offer RN-to-MSN programs that allow registered nurses with an associate degree to work while pursuing a master's degree in nursing. Funded through a grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Service Administration, The University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing offers an RN-to-MSN Early Entry program, Pathways to Advanced Practice Nursing, This program allows current associate degree nursing students to choose the early entry option and begin working on a master's degree upon graduation and passing the registered nurse licensure exam. In addition, the curriculum is delivered in a variety of ways, including distance education and intensive course formats on a community college campus.

"The Future of Nursing report highlighted the need for nurses to be full partners with physicians and other health care professionals in redesigning healthcare," said Dr. Patricia Waltman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and project director for Pathways to Advanced Practice Nursing. "Increasing the number of nurses with graduate degrees expands the leadership role nurses play in the healthcare continuum and gives them experience in using technology throughout the educational process. Technology will likely play an even larger role in nursing and nursing education in the future."

The report noted that effective workforce planning and policymaking require strong data collection and information infrastructure. Mississippi has a robust system for collecting and reporting nursing education and nursing workforce data. Through partnerships between Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning's Office of Nursing Education, the Mississippi Board of Nursing and the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce, the state's policymakers have access to the kind of information needed to make decisions regarding workforce planning and policy. The data collected is also available online.

This data is used by the Education Redesign Committee of the Mississippi Council of Deans and Directors of Schools of Nursing as they discuss ways to enhance the process as students transfer from one educational level to the next and one school of nursing to another.

"As the need for nurses increases, so does the need for nurse educators," said Dr. Libby Mahaffey, Hinds Community College Dean of Nursing and Allied Health and co-chair of the Education Redesign Committee. "This information helps us understand the policy changes needed to help nurses increase their skills and become the leaders that will teach the next generation of nurses."

Sue Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine, will present at the Mississippi Nurses Association Summit to be held at the Mississippi TradeMart on January 25, 2011.

The Summit gives nurses and nursing students the opportunity to hear about statewide and national nursing issues and to learn the importance of being advocates for nursing.


The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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