Thursday, January 14, 2010

More on Entry to the Nursing Profession

by Daniel L. Bennett

Last week I wrote in opposition to higher ed's desire to mandate a bachelor's degree for entry to the nursing profession, describing it as a barrier to a profession that is only beneficial to special interest groups due to artificial labor supply reductions that lead to higher compensation for a restricted number of workers. Today, Beverly Malone -CEO of the National League for Nursing - writes for Inside Higher Ed on the matter:
The NLN remains convinced that the more reasoned and effective strategy is to focus attention on how best to propel those with associate degrees, and also those with baccalaureate degrees, to continue their education.

Options (such as RN to BSN or RN to MSN) that are not based on entry but are rather viewed as opportunities for lifelong learning and progression for those who enter the nursing profession through diploma and associate degree programs
Although Malone's statements somewhat support my argument that mandating a credential for entry to a profession is an artificial barrier, I digress that Malone's NLN is not a disinterested party in the debate. Her organization represents nursing education and advocates for increased "lifelong learning" (aka more education credentials) among practicing nurses who have already gained entry to the field.

While I argue that the medical field changes with new discoveries quite frequently and practitioners staying up to date with the latest medical breakthroughs is likely beneficial to the consumer, I seriously doubt that nursing education programs offered by colleges are the best method to achieve this. As with other professional fields, there is often a disconnect between the real world and what is taught in the classroom. Rather, what is likely to be included in college nursing education are the latest fads that scholars think will improve the profession, and are often not based on any empirical evidence.

It appears to me that Malone is representing the interests of NLN members (nursing faculty) in calling for more education of nurse practitioners, only at a point after entry. Her motive is obvious in statements calling for things such as more government support of nursing education and higher compensation for nursing education faculty. Both of these things are certainly in the interests of the nursing education field, but are they in the best interest of the profession and the consumers who rely on its services? These are the questions that need to be addressed empirically before we allow barriers to entry and advancement to be erected for the profession.

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