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AACN Applauds JCAHO’s Efforts to Resolve the Nursing Shortage

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Press Release
For Immediate Release

American Association of Colleges of Nursing Applauds
JCAHO’s Efforts to Resolve the Nursing Shortage

New Report Calls for a Nursing Career Ladder, Stronger Ties
Between the Education and Practice Settings

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 16, 2002 – The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) applauds the efforts of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) to create a public policy action plan to address the nursing shortage. As outlined in a report released on August 7, 2002, the Joint Commission is calling for a collective response to the nursing crisis with recommendations to transform the workplace, bolster nursing education, and provide financial incentives to health care organizations that invest in high quality nursing care.

“JCAHO recognizes that long-term solutions to the nursing shortage demand sweeping changes in the way nurses are educated, introduced to the work place, retained as skilled clinicians, and utilized on the job,” said AACN’s President Kathleen Ann Long, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Hospitals, nursing schools, the federal government, private industry and the entire community of health professionals must come together to chart a bold new course for the nursing profession.”

The comprehensive report, Health Care at the Crossroads: Strategies for Addressing the Evolving Nursing Crisis, showed that the nursing shortage is compromising patient safety and diminishing health care quality. Findings point to a direct connection between the RN shortage and negative patient outcomes, including deaths and serious injuries attributed to hospital errors.

One of the primary strategies in the area of nursing education that was advanced by the expert involves the creation of a nursing career ladder commensurate with education level and experience. According to the report: “Nurses enter the workforce with a variety of educational experiences, although these different skill and competency levels are not necessarily recognized – through compensation and role differentials - in the work setting. This serves as a disincentive for nurses to raise their level of education.”

“AACN is strongly committed to improving the quality of our nation's health care by preparing a better educated nursing workforce,” added Dr. Long. “We support the concept of a career ladder in nursing and differentiated roles that allow nurses to practice to the full extent of their skills and capabilities developed in different education programs. Nurses pursuing higher education should be encouraged and rewarded for their commitment to education that enhances patient care.”

Also in the area of education, the commission encourages stronger ties between nursing schools and the practice setting to strengthen educational programs and ease the student’s transition into the work place. AACN is strongly committed to the need for partnerships with practice organizations and the need for both partners to assume mutual accountability in the preparation of professional nurses for today’s health care system. As cited in the report, AACN is currently working with the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) on a standardized nurse residency program to facilitate the student’s development from novice to expert clinician. Now being piloted at six academic health centers, residencies will soon be offered at all UHC-member facilities nationwide.

Beyond its work with the UHC on nurse residencies, AACN released guidelines in 1999 on how nursing schools can align with hospitals, HMOs, community health centers, and other facilities to support student learning and faculty development. In this publication, Essential Clinical Resources for Nursing’s Academic Mission, AACN identifies the clinical learning experiences needed to prepare skilled nurses for basic and advance practice as well as the clinical resources required for faculty practice and nursing research to develop and thrive.

“AACN welcomes the opportunity to work with JCAHO, health centers and the nursing community to foster stronger clinical connections and encourage the use of nurse residency programs in health facilities across the country,” said Dr. Long. “We welcome our colleagues from the practice world to join us in this effort to better prepare today’s registered nurse and reinvigorate the nursing profession.”

JCAHO assembled a panel of health care leaders to develop a list of achievable solutions that would have the greatest impact on stemming the nursing shortage. Panel members included hospital administrators, nurse executives, physicians, researchers, patient care directors, nurse educators, a union president and a licensure official. Solutions forwarded by the group include encouraging health care facilities to adopt “magnet hospital” characteristics and create a culture that fosters nurse retention; establishing standardized post-graduation residency programs; setting staffing levels based on competency and skill mix; limiting mandatory overtime; funding faculty positions and student scholarships; diversifying the nursing workforce; and making federal monies available to health care organizations that employ best practices in nursing services.

The panel also recommends that nurse employers, foundations and nursing schools work together to provide fast-track, low-cost opportunities for nurses to achieve higher levels of education. The full report from the Joint Commission is available online at http://www.jcaho.org.

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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 580 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice. www.aacn.nche.edu.

CONTACT:

Robert Rosseter, 202-463-6930, ext. 231
rrosseter@aacn.nche.edu