It’s All about Education: The Push to Improve Nursing Education Under the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act is, without a doubt, one of the most profound changes to our nation’s healthcare systems since the Medicare and Medicaid programs were introduced in 1965. With that in mind, many are now focused on transforming the healthcare system from the inside out. In other words, the focus is now on the roles our current healthcare professionals play and the care they provide – and why education must be the core.

A Blueprint for the Future of Nursing

Nursing education, in particular, has been on the forefront of many minds since the launch of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) 2008 two-year initiative, which was designed to assess the state of the nursing profession in the United States.

The IOM formed the Committee on the RWJF Initiative on the Future of Nursing to assess the current state of the nursing profession. The end of the study culminated in a report that the IOM hoped would serve as a “blueprint for the future of nursing.”

The IOM report, entitled “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” detailed the challenges that the current nursing education system faces, as well as solutions needed to advance the system. In essence, the report came to one, clear conclusion:

Nurses must work to achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system.

Evolving Nursing Care to Meet the Changing Needs of the Public

The healthcare system of today must change to meet the needs of the nation. The population of America is older, as nearly 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older by 2030. Further, healthcare today is focused on treating chronic conditions, such as mental health problems, hypertension, and diabetes. This is a dramatic change from a healthcare system that was built on treating acute injuries and illnesses.

Along with a changing healthcare system, nurses are now being called upon to take on more roles and assume collaborative positions within teams of healthcare professionals. To do so effectively, the IOM report states that nurses must be prepared and educated in new ways to meet the needs of today’s healthcare system.

The committee recommends that the proportion of baccalaureate degrees increase to 80 percent by 2020. Further, it states that nurses with doctorate degrees will be needed to teach future generations and conduct research for improving nursing science and practice. The committee recommends that the number of nurses with doctorate degrees must double by 2020.