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A Look at IOM Report and the Need for Doctoral Nurses

Most nurses are familiar with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report calling for 80% of nurses to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher by 2020. What many may not realize is that the IOM also recommended doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.

For RNs who want to advance as clinical nurse leaders and educators, now is the time to earn a DNP. Northern Kentucky University (NKU) offers an online post-master’s DNP program that students can complete in just 20 months. NKU’s DNP is accredited by CCNE — a sign that the program meets strict professional standards.

What Is the Expectation for Nursing Education?

The call for a BSN-prepared nursing workforce is no less important today than when the IOM (now the National Academy of Medicine) made the recommendation in its 2010 report, “The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education.”

The call for RNs to achieve higher levels of education centers on the increasing complexity of healthcare. ADN and nursing diploma programs typically focus on skills-based competencies. Research from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) shows that BSNs have the higher-level skills that lead to better patient outcomes.

The push for RNs with higher levels of education does not stop with the BSN. In fact, meeting the growing demand for BSN-prepared RNs is partly what is behind the IOM’s call to double the number of nurses with doctoral degrees.

Why Does the Nursing Profession Need More DNPs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for RNs far exceeds that of other healthcare and science occupations that require a bachelor’s. Keeping up with that demand means adding more than 200,000 RNs per year through 2026. Results from an AACN 2018 survey of hospitals show that over 88% of hospitals strongly prefer BSN graduates, with 45% requiring a BSN for new hires.

Meeting the growing demand for RNs, unfortunately, is not as simple as educating more nurses. The AACN found that nursing schools rejected 75,029 qualified applicants from BSN and graduate nursing programs in 2018. Most schools cited faculty shortages as the reason for this.

Nursing schools generally require or prefer candidates with a doctorate. Clearly, meeting the demand for nurses means increasing the number of RNs with doctoral degrees who can fill faculty vacancies.

DNPs can make a significant contribution to healthcare by educating more nurses at all levels, including those in graduate programs. Some DNPs who serve as faculty members also continue to work in clinical settings, usually in advanced practice roles.

The Nursing Profession Is Making Progress

The Campaign for Action tracks progress on meeting the IOM’s goals for nursing education. RNs are making slow but steady progress on the 80% BSN goal. As of 2017, 56% of RNs had a BSN or higher, up from 49% in 2010.

The nursing profession has more than met the IOM’s goal to double the number of RNs with a doctorate.

  • As of 2009, there were 8,267 employed RNs with a doctoral degree.
  • By 2017, that number had climbed to 28,004.
  • The number of RNs enrolled in DNP programs soared from 7,034 in 2009 to 32,678 in 2018.

Hospitals increasingly prefer more highly educated nurses, including doctoral nurses. Earning a DNP prepares nurses to make a difference all the way up to the highest levels of healthcare.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University’s online Post-Master’s DNP program.


National Academy of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment Outlook for Bachelor’s-Level Occupations

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nursing Faculty Shortage

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: CCNE Accredited Programs

Campaign for Action: Welcome to the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action Dashboard

Campaign for Action: Number of People Receiving Nursing Doctoral Degrees Annually

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