In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM now known as the National Academy of Medicine) released its landmark report: “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health”. It recognized the important role nurses play in managing patient care. This report outlined the essential competencies nurses need to deliver safe, high-quality care and developed a set of recommendations for the nation to follow. Four key recommendations follow:
- Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.
- Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through and improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression. The goal is to increase the proportion of nurses with BSN degrees to 80% by 2020.
- Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health care professionals in redesigning health care in the United States.
- Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and an improved information infrastructure.
Two decades of research demonstrates that baccalaureate-prepared nurses (BSNs) in hospitals result in better patient outcomes and more efficient, cost-effective care. Specific studies have documented outcomes in the following areas:
- Decreased mortality and complication rates
- Reduction in infections and other hospital-acquired conditions
- Reduced lengths of stay
- Decreased hospital admission rates
- Improved critical thinking skill
- Greater interest/pursuit of graduate education
In 2015, the National Academy of Medicine completed a five-year progress report titled “Assessing Progress on the Institute of Medicine Report – The Future of Nursing”. Key recommendation included removing barriers to practice, transforming education, collaborating and leading, promoting diversity and improving data. Within the recommendation of transforming education, the progress report stated that nurses should achieve higher levels of education, at the time they start their nursing profession and throughout their career. The four recommendations include:
- Support academic pathways toward the baccalaureate degree
- Explore ways to create and fund transition-to-practice residency programs
- Promote the pursuit of doctoral degrees, with an emphasis on the PhD.
- Promote interprofessional and lifelong learning
The Future of Nursing 2020-2030 “Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity” was released in May 2021. Highlights of this report focus on health equity, the need for everyone to be able to live their healthiest life possible. The report stresses the critical role nurses will play to help the nation achieve this goal through education, autonomy and a supportive work environment. The achievement of health equity will be built on strengthened nursing capacity and expertise.
This new report continues to support the goal of increased education for all Registered Nurses but also directs efforts to build the nursing workforce to assure health equity for all. Going forward, goals for 2020-2030 center on efforts to continue to strengthen nursing education and provide resources that also address nurse leadership, well-being and emergency preparedness and response. The roles of nursing in acute care, community and public health as front-line health care providers and influencers and collaborators can impact the goal of achieving health equity for all.