The need for a more highly educated nursing workforce has been widely recognized (Benner, Sutphen, Leonard & Day, 2010; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine (NASEM, 2011). Extensive research now supports the 2003 findings of Aiken, Clarke Cheung, Sloane & Silber in demonstrating the relationship between higher levels of nursing education and improved patient outcomes (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2014). The landmark IOM report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, advanced a recommendation that 80% of Registered Nurses be prepared with a baccalaureate or higher degree (IOM, 2010). At the time of the report approximately 50% of nurses in the U.S. were educated at this level (Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 2008).
How best to close that gap remained unclear, as the nursing education pipeline was widely impacted and often inefficient, with academic institutions who educated nurses at the baccalaureate level generally operating in isolation from those preparing nurses at the level of the diploma or associates degree. (Benner, Sutphen, Leonard & Day, 2010). The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided additional financial support to identify and evaluate improved mechanisms for nursing academic progression (RWJF, 2012). This work was one aspect of the Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of RWJF and AARP to transform healthcare nationally through improved utilization of the nursing workforce (RWJF, 2012b).
A learning collaborative of nursing education and thought leaders convened by the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA) identified four potential models to address the need for more nurses to obtain a BSN: RN to BSN degree conferred by community colleges, accelerated options such as RN to MSN, competency or outcomes based curriculum, and shared curriculum (Campaign for Action, 2012). RWJF built upon this identified structure in creating a program to further explore and develop options to accelerate change within the nursing education system.