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Notable Changes in
Nursing and Nursing Education
The advances in nursing education have influenced
accreditation standards and programs of excellence. I also
believe that simulated clinical experiences will have a profound
impact on student learning. Simulated clinical experiences
allow consistent learning for larger numbers of students in a
safe environment as compared to the past. I am a big believer in
interactive teaching and learning between faculty and students,
and I am so glad that teaching has come far from the teacher
standing at the front of the classroom imparting all knowledge
to uninformed students, passively sitting waiting to absorb
information. Students have many experiences that if unleashed,
provide a rich environment for learning to construct what those
experiences mean. So many students work in health care—
students, who like the public in general, are much more educated
because of the vast amount of information available because of
the Internet, but the challenge is helping students sort out these
resources and to not be overwhelmed. Technology is only a tool.
It can be a blessing and a curse. You need to know when it is
helpful for the student’s learning.
Nursing has advanced in the ways we educate our future
nurses using simulation and distance learning to assist in
ensuring a good basic education for all nurses even in remote
areas; nursing moves toward integration of evidenced-based
practice in our practices and protocols to support why we do
what we do; more research is being done by nurses today to
support best practices; there is greater availability for nurses to
obtain advanced degrees such as N.P.s, C.N.S.s, and D.N.P.s.
Nurses are working in a more collaborative environment with
a team approach to providing patient- and family-centered
care. Additionally, nursing is moving in South Dakota to more
four-year programs, which is the goal for the rest of the nation
as recommended by the Institute of Medicine. The things
that remain constant are the needs of the patient and families.
Nursing is still a 24/7 career and the hours continue to be a
concern for many people. However, the flexibility also is there
for working part-time or full-time depending on the needs of the
The demographics of nursing students have changed
significantly. In the 60s and 70s, students were often younger
and less academically experienced—they were a lot of fun, but
many of them didn’t have a clue what to expect. As the years
have gone on, we saw them change to those who had been
out of school for a while. Maybe they were changing careers.
Maybe they had a family. Many of them came with a lot of
accomplishments. To find ways to build upon those was a lot of
fun. It was (and is) good to use their experience in the classroom
and pick their brains to embellish the classroom presentation
and participation. As time has progressed, more males are also
entering the profession and remaining in the clinical area as well.
The Future of Nursing
and Nursing Education
There will continue to be the necessary push for advancing
education for all nurses and nurse educators. Employers will
need to continue to support advancing education. I absolutely
believe the nursing shortage has been held off because of tough
economic times—both on families and health care facilities.
The biggest threat as we look ahead is the wave of retirements
in both practicing nurses and nursing faculty. A future nursing
shortage is not in question—there will be a shortage and it will
be long-term. We are going to need to encourage the young to
enter the field of nursing. Nursing education must be available in
part-time and accessible options. We are going to need everyone.
Every licensed nurse can impact another’s decision to enter our
field. Smaller and rural communities will need to invest more in
future nursing professionals at their local hospitals and long-term
care centers.
The future continues to be bright for nursing as a career
that does make a difference. Year after year nursing is voted the
most trusted career. The University of South Dakota is changing
the format for nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree, as the entry
level, while offering a transition from a two-year to a four-year
curriculum to help facilitate that change. The demand for nurses
with a four-year degree has escalated due to the complexity of
health care today and USD is helping to meet that demand,
just like the demand for a two-year academic based program for
nursing was in demand 50 years ago.
The strength of USD’s Department of Nursing has
always been—and I expect that this will remain true—academic
and clinical excellence of its students. We had a period of time
in the 80s and 90s where hospitals and facilities would call and
want to do a career day on campus. They would then hire many
of our students, and I would call to ask whether they wanted
a reference on the student. They would say, “We don’t need a
reference if they’re coming from the USD Nursing program.” I
think another strength USD has and will carry into the future
is the faculty’s desire to further their education—not only with
advanced degrees in the current faculty, but the hiring will be
done with an eye toward candidates with advanced degrees. •