Nurses make major gains on transformation goals, but work remains

The nursing profession has made great strides toward the goals set forth five years ago by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), but more work is necessary to improve workplace diversity, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The United States' 3 million registered nurses have made progress toward meeting the goals set forth in a 2010 IOM report titled The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, according to the new report.

The nursing workforce has been "galvanized" at the national and local level to remove scope-of-practice barriers so that they might put into practice their full education and training, the follow-up report states, with eight states loosening their restrictions on nurses' practicing and prescription authority in the last five years, bringing the total to 21.

The 2010 IOM report noted a lack of diversity among U.S. nurses, emphasizing that a more diverse workforce will be better positioned to meet the changing needs of the healthcare profession. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more and more healthcare opportunities are being made available to people who were uninsured or too poor to afford treatment. A workforce composed of nurses from many different social, cultural, racial and economic backgrounds gives patients and healthcare personnel more opportunities to connect and build relationships in the community. 

In 2010, roughly half of the nurses in the U.S. held a baccalaureate or higher degree and fewer than 1 percent of nurses held a doctoral degree. The IOM put forth a goal of 80 percent of nurses holding a baccalaureate degree by 2020. Significant progress has been made toward that goal, but many schools need more faculty, particularly for Ph.D. nursing programs, the latest report finds. 

The IOM also recommended that nurses improve data collection standards by using an infrastructure built by the National Health Care Workforce Commission. However, Congress has denied funding for that program, so the recommendation has not been fulfilled. 

In addition to fulfilling the recommendations put forth by the IOM, many nurses are already struggling in the workplace with issues such as excessive patient loads, staffing shortages, long shifts and workplace bullying.

To learn more:
- read the report announcement
download the report