Details of a Nursing Education
A nursing education provides the training and experience necessary to pursue a career in nursing, whether as nurse’s assistant, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), a registered nurse (RN) or even a nurse practitioner (NP). Currently in the nursing education world there are disagreements about the ideal balance of practical preparation and the need to educate the future nurse practitioner to manage healthcare. Nurse educators want their students to be able to administer treatment effectively, while also participating in nursing research and the broader conversation about the industry.
Professors of nursing educations are usually nurses or other medical professionals themselves who have qualifications to teach. Nurses can be educated in general nursing practice for jobs such as LPN or RN, or can pursue certain specializations, such as mental health or pediatric nursing. Therefore courses vary, although the basic education typically lasts three to four years. Nurses learn how to assess the health of patients and use data and experience to design an “intervention plan” or treatment plan. They also utilize research when making clinical and managerial decisions. The goal is to develop a confident, inquiring graduate who contributes to the nursing care team as an equal.
There isn’t just one path for nursing education. Instead there are multiple entry-level and graduate level degrees. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can receive their degrees from community colleges or technical medical schools. LPN training is the bottom-tier of nursing education. An LPN certification does not give a person a full RN status, but one must take the LPN nursing test in order to practice. Community colleges often offer an Associate of Science in nursing (ASN) degree, too. Some diploma programs have also switched to the ASN model. ASN degree programs are typically two to three years and prepare students to become a registered nurse. Universities and colleges usually offer the Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree. This is typically a 4-year degree that also prepares a nurse for RN certification. Following the ASN and BSN degrees are graduate level educations, including the Master of Science in nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees.
History and Important Role Models in Nursing Education
There have been dramatic changes in nursing education throughout the decades. Nursing was originally seen as an apprenticeship. This was often undertaken in religious orders such as convents with young women becoming nuns. Florence Nightingale, a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician, became a pioneer nurse during the Crimean War where she tended to injured soldiers. It was during this time she was dubbed “The Lady with the Lamp,” as she often made rounds during the night. She set up the first nurse training school in London in 1860. Her curriculum was based around nursing practice with her main instruction focused on the need for hygiene and task competence.
Ethel Gordon Fenwick was also a British nurse who campaigned to procure a nationally recognized certificate for nursing. As one of the first nurses in favor of formalized nursing registration and curricula, she changed nursing education so it would be based purely in higher education. She ordered this in order to safeguard the nursing title. She also lobbied English Parliament to introduce a law to control nursing and limit it to “registered” nurses only.
In the United States nursing education was and currently is conducted within the university setting. In 1923, Yale School of Nursing became the first autonomous school of nursing in the U.S. It was also the first school on nursing to have its own dean, faculty, budget, and degree meeting the standards of the university. Annie Warburton Goodrich was appointed the first Dean of YSN. She was also the first female Dean at Yale. In 1934, bachelor’s degrees were required for admission and Yale Corporation authorized the Master of Nursing degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program began in 1956. This new degree required students to have a prior background in nursing in order to gain entry into the program. The Nurse Practitioner track within the MSN degree was established in 1971 with the offering of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specialty. This was expanded in 1972 when the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty began.
The Core Principles of Nursing Education
There are many nursing degrees and specializations, yet the essential core practice for a RN degree program is to deliver holistic, patient-focused care. The following are common nursing principles that are taught through nursing education degrees.
- Assessment: All RNs use a systematic way to collect and analyze data about a client and within delivering nursing care. Assessment includes physiological, psychological, sociocultural, spiritual, economic, and life-style factors and data of a patient. For example, if a patient is in pain a nurse will record the symptoms of pain in addition to the patient’s response to the pain. If they have an inability to get out of bed or if they refuse to eat, these would be recorded as responses to pain.
- Diagnosis: This is the RN’s clinical judgment about the patient’s response to actual or potential health conditions or needs. This process not only reflects that the patient is in pain, but also that the pain has caused problems like anxiety, malnutrition, conflict within the family, etc. An RN also needs to record any potential caused complications. An example would be that respiratory infection has a potential hazard to an immobilized patient—this diagnosis is the basis for the nurse’s care plan.
- Outcomes and Planning: Based on the assessment and diagnosis, an RN is in charge of setting measurable and achievable short and long range goals. These goals may include moving from bed to chair three times a day or maintaining adequate nutrition by changing certain eating habits. Assessment data, diagnosis, and goals are written in the patient’s care plan so that nurses as well as other health professionals caring for the patient have access to it.
- Implementation: The RN care plan tells the nurse what care should then be implemented. Continuous care must be offered for patients in the hospital. Often patients will have multiple nurses, which is why the care plans are so important. These care plans must be implemented in preparation for discharge needs to be assessed.
- Evaluation: Evaluation is a very important process in nursing care. Both the patient’s status and the effectiveness of the nursing care must be continuously evaluated, and the care plan modified as needed.
Steps to become a Registered Nurse through Nursing Education
Obtaining a nursing education is the first step in becoming a fully working nurse. This nursing education prepares graduates to engage in the full scope of professional nursing practice. It should prepare students for all healthcare settings, particularly within specializations that a student selects. Students also receive a deeper understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence healthcare delivery.
Coursework is an important step in nursing education, no matter the degree. The first two years of a BSN degree often concentrate on psychology, human growth and development, biology, microbiology, organic chemistry, nutrition, and anatomy and physiology. The last two years then focus on adult acute and chronic disease, maternal/child health, pediatrics, psychiatric/mental health nursing, and community health nursing. Nursing theory, physical and behavioral sciences, and humanities are required. Additional content may include research, leadership, healthcare economics, health informatics, and health policy. Another important aspect of nursing education is clinical work. Many nursing programs require students to work in a variety of different nursing settings so they become acquainted with professional nursing tasks.
All working nurses must receive licensure. Every state has its own board of nursing with a mission for their practicing nurses. These boards’ purview includes: establishing requirements for initial licensure and retaining basic education, continuing education and/or competency; interpreting scope of practice parameters, defined by state statute; and investigating complaints of licensees and disciplinary actions. After education a nurse becomes eligible for the standardized National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). After passing the test a graduate can then get a nursing job and begin their RN career.
There are additional routes to continue education after becoming a practicing RN. Master’s degree programs, such as the MSN, offer a number of tracks designed to prepare Advanced Practice Nurses, nurse administrators, and nurse educators. Doctor of Nursing Practice programs focus on clinical practice or leadership roles.
Additional Information about Nursing Education
The internet is a great source for additional information on the nursing profession and education. There are available sites that give information on what to expect in a nursing program, nursing specialties, and what it’s like to be a nurse. Some of these resourses include: