2012 AONE Conference: A Nursing Workforce Strategy for the Future

During the third week of March, nurse leaders from all over the country met in Boston to share ideas about preparing for health care reform, implementing the IOM recommendations, and addressing other hot nursing issues.  The occasion was the American Organization of Nurse Executives’ 45th annual conference, and American Sentinel faculty member Ellen Brzytwa, MPH, MSN, RN, was there.

“The conference was great and I met lots of people,” reports Ellen. “It was an exciting way to learn what nursing leadership is looking at, going into the future. And what really struck me was how well our curriculum at American Sentinel addresses their mission, values, and behaviors. All of our programs really touch on those areas very directly and very innovatively.”

One of the top highlights of the conference was a presentation by Deborah Zimmerman, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, the chief nursing officer at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. She directly addressed the IOM recommendation that 80 percent of the nursing workforce should have a BSN degree or higher by the year 2020. “It was a terrific workshop, and very well attended – almost to the point there was standing room only,” says Ellen. “It described a very focused and specific strategy that hospitals can use to help them reach that staffing goal. And the amazing thing was that even though the presenters had done all this work to develop this strategic tool, they gave it out for free on a disk to everyone there!”

The tool is a predictive modeling spreadsheet that allows CNOs to determine exactly how they have to tweak their hiring trends each year, to reach the 80 percent by 2020 goal. To use it, nurse executives begin by gathering and plugging in data on the RN population within the hospital, regarding levels of education. The spreadsheet lists all the variables that might help or hinder progress toward the goal, and allows the user to “forecast” different scenarios, based on retirement/turnover rates, the percentages of new hires that have a BSN degree or higher, and strategies like requiring newly hired RNs to obtain a BSN within five years. By using this tool, hospitals can increase the ratio of BSN-prepared nurses a little each year, and can be assured they are making steady progress toward the goal.

“The reason it resonated with me as such an outstanding presentation was that it indicated that CNOs are becoming much more focused on reaching this goal,” says Ellen. “Everyone talks about how we need to do this, but this was action rather than talk. It’s a data-driven, evidence based tool.”

Ellen also noted that nurse executives are becoming more interested in collaborating with nursing schools as partners, rather than just as suppliers of new graduates. “Nursing leadership in hospitals will start taking a more active role in determining the competencies of their workforce,” she says.

Educated nurses are better equipped to advance the standards of nursing practice. As a first step, you can develop new skills and empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in areas like infection control and executive leadership.

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