Admission to practice-focused doctorate nursing programs up 955%

Barriers to advanced degrees include work, family and finances
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Barriers such as long hours, finances and childcare responsibilities aren't stopping nurses from obtaining advanced degrees. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that enrollment in master's programs has ballooned to 67 percent over a five-year period and admission to practice-focused doctorates rose a whopping 955 percent.

Nurses.com reports that the increase coincides with a nationwide push to hire nurses with advanced degrees. Because many nurses find it difficult to attend school due to family responsibilities and the cost of higher education, many nursing schools have created online classes and consolidated graduate classes to allow nurses to attend school for a limited number of days.

Jane Kirschling, R.N., president of the AACN, told Nurses.com that the AACN tracks enrollment in advanced degree programs and saw significant growth from 2006 to 2011. She attributed part of the reason for the increase to nursing schools recognizing the barriers to education and streamlining Doctors of Nursing programs to reduce course hours needed to achieve higher degrees.

The movement isn't limited to advanced degrees, however. As reported by FierceHealthcare last month, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has created a new program to help military veterans with healthcare experience or training earn bachelor's degrees in nursing.

The new Veterans' Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program will fund up to nine cooperative agreements at $350,000 each. Funding will go to accredited nursing schools to help increase veteran enrollment and determine how military healthcare experience can count toward academic credit. The program will also help fill the ranks of nurses across the nation.

The Obama administration is committed to workforce development and education and training for nurses, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in recognition of National Nurses Week, said Monday.

In addition to the military veterans program, several advanced nursing education initiatives will allow an additional 2,800 nurse practitioners and nurse midwives to enter the primary care workforce over the next five years. Furthermore, Sebelius said, since 2008 more than 1,600 nurses have taken advantage of a program offered by the National Health Service Corps, which offers scholarship and loan repayment in return for practice in underserved areas.

But the government isn't the only sector filling the need of affordable educational opportunities for nurses, according to the Nurses.com article. Susan Bakewell-Sachs, R.N., Ph.D., program director of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a joint venture by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce foundation and nine schools of nursing aimed to help nurses achieve advanced degrees and create a pipeline of future nursing faculty, says it's imperative that more nursing schools work with healthcare facilities and regional, state and national foundations to talk about available funds to help nurses obtain the education they need to fill nursing vacancies across the country.

"With the growth of the healthcare industry, the graying of the population, the demands from the Affordable Care Act--we're going to need every provider we can get," Kirschling told Nurses.com. "Anybody in graduate school today, with what's on the horizon, will not have problems doing the work that they want to do."

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