Five Top Innovations in Nursing Education


Nursing schools are evolving to develop creative nursing education programs.

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

When it comes to innovation in nursing education, the time is now…and tomorrow.

The nursing profession has long embraced innovation--in professional practice and in education. It has had to, experts say. Over the years, nursing has had to cope with various shortages of nurses and faculty members to educate them, as well as evolutions in technology and models of health care delivery, an increasingly diverse population, and a shift toward more patient-centered care.

Without innovating, the profession could not have kept up.

“Nursing had to step up to the plate and we stepped up to the plate incredibly well,” said Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, chief executive officer of the National League for Nursing.

In the last few years, the Affordable Care Act has also affected the broader landscape of health care delivery, opening up new opportunities for nurses as well as new challenges.

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“The health care delivery system is really evolving rapidly, and there are a lot more opportunities for nurses to step forward and help lead the changes,” said Eileen Breslin, PhD, RN, dean of the University of Texas Health Science Center’s School of Nursing and chairperson of the board of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

5 innovations in nursing education

So how have nurse educators kept up with those evolutions? Here are highlights of five innovations in nursing education that are keeping an eye on the present and the future:

1. Online education. Fifteen years ago, you might have had to shop around for a nursing program that offered a comprehensive array of online classes that would allow you to become an RN. Today, nursing schools everywhere offer a variety of online courses so that you don’t have to quit your day job to further your education, whether it’s for a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree.

2. Interprofessional education. A growing number of nursing schools are teaming up with their counterparts from medical and pharmacy schools--and others--to establish opportunities for students to learn with people from other health care disciplines. Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice were even developed by a panel sponsored by the Interprofessional Educational Collaborative to help schools determine what to teach--and how. Now, some schools are launching virtual interprofessional education programs to further the reach of their curriculum and enable more students to participate.

3. New degree programs. Remember when DNP programs were new? It wasn’t that long ago. Today, the AACN reports that there are more than 260 programs offering the DNP degree--and more in the works--with more than 18,000 students enrolled. But nursing schools are also looking for ways to expand their offerings in new and creative ways. For example, in 2014, Duquesne University became the first U.S. university to launch a dual degree program that combines degrees in nursing and biomedical engineering for undergraduate students. According to the program’s developers, graduates will be prepared to bring valuable nursing and engineering perspectives to solving clinical problems.

4. New models of academic progression. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health called for more nurses to acquire a baccalaureate degree. A couple of years later, the Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) initiative was launched to support the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Action Coalitions in their efforts to develop partnerships supporting seamless academic progression between community colleges and universities. Today, in a growing number of areas, students can begin their coursework in nursing at a community college, transfer those credits and finish their baccalaureate degree at a university.

5. Simulation and virtual simulation. Simulation has become integrated into health care training programs, providing valuable opportunities for nursing students to develop and practice their skills. There may be even more in the future, since simulation got an added boost of support in 2014 from a study released by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which found that “high quality simulation experiences” could replace as much as half of traditional clinical experiences with comparable results. “This is exciting because it means that we won’t have to be playing the game of trying to find clinical spaces where there are none,” said Malone, referring to the ongoing shortage of clinical placements for students in many nursing programs.

There will undoubtedly be more innovation on the horizon, said Breslin, noting that AACN is working hard to make sure nursing educators are well-prepared to guide nursing students forward.

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© 2016. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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