Friday, January 08, 2010

Erecting Barriers to Career Entry

by Daniel L. Bennett

A new book from the Carnegie Foundation recommends that:
The minimal educational level for entry into nursing practice should be the baccalaureate degree.
Currently, one can enter the field with only an associates degree - often a much lower cost proposition for prospective practitioners in terms of actual tuition fees and opportunity costs (lost wages, reduced leisure time, etc). To my knowledge, there is no empirical evidence which suggests that nurses with bachelor degrees outperform those with only associate's degree, so this proposal from the Carnegie Foundation is preposterous. While the authors do make a rational recommendation for more hands-on practical training in nursing education programs, erecting greater entry barriers into the profession in order to enforce this is likely not going to lead to improved performance or better health outcomes - just as education degree requirements for teachers do not improve student outcomes.

In vocational fields such as nursing, on-the-job training plays a huge role in preparing employees for the situations that they are going to face. I'm sure that there are many associate degree-holding nurses who perform exceptionally well on the job, as there are also likely many nurses with bachelor degrees who perform at a low level. No amount of classroom training is going to replace the learning that takes place from practical hands-on experience. In fact, it is in the actual field where nurses prove their value to the medical field - not beforehand by earning a degree. By erecting artificial barriers to entry in the field at a time there is already a shortage of qualified nurses, we would be doing a great disservice to the consumers of health services similar to the disservice that we are doing to K-12 students by erecting artificial barriers to the teaching profession a la education degrees (where there is no evidence that teachers with an education degree perform better in the classroom than teachers without).

Americans needs to move past the stigmatic notion that a bachelors degree is the only path towards a successful life, and wake up to the fact that establishing artificial entry barriers to certain professions linked to education credentials is only beneficial to special interest groups due to artificial labor supply reductions that lead to higher compensation for a restricted number of workers.

1 comment:

Overlook said...

Amen. Soon, my BS degree will qualify me only to drive a forklift. However, I would prefer to drive a CAT D9 bulldozer, so will continue pursuing an MS.