Students enter and progress through various education pathways to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). The educational pathways may include vocational education programs, community colleges or 4-year college programs leading to the LPN, ADN or BSN degree, respectively. Later, master and doctoral programs prepare advanced practice nurses and nurse educators. Nurses may enter and reenter the education system at different points in their professional career.
The profession requires a commitment to keep pace with rapid changes in patient care delivery approaches and health care technologies. The pace of these changes has increased the need for seamless transitions and progressions across the higher education system to support and promote lifelong learning and degree advancement for nurses. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report, the Future of Nursing: Advancing Health, Leading Change, October 2010, emphasizes this need in its recommendation that “Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.”
To meet this need, nursing education programs must recognize, build upon and align prior academic and professional achievement and help to accelerate nurse/student progression toward the next recognized academic outcome (specialized skills, certificates and degrees). Further, to address the increasing importance of community-based, non-acute care settings (primary care, long term care and home health care) within our healthcare system and in light of the challenges of caring for an aging patient population, the importance of geriatric/gerontological nursing must become an emphasis for all nursing education programs and must be promoted as a primary career option for nursing students.