Educating the Nurses of Tomorrow

To provide optimal patient care and attract the nurses of tomorrow, the Department of Nursing at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is expanding the education, research and clinical rotations it offers at its fastest rate ever.

In the past four years, the number of nursing educators has doubled. The number of nursing research papers and posters went up 100 percent just last year. Nursing areas including the sterile processing department, which cleans and supplies all equipment for the 38 Hospital Center operating and procedure rooms, asked for and received an educator to keep ahead of rapid developments in scopes, drills and other tools they process.

Almost every nurse hired today has a Bachelors of Science in Nursing, notes Chief Nursing Executive Susan Eckert, MSN, BSN, NEA-BC, CENP. New-to-practice nurses must participate in a one-year University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) residency program with monthly classroom time and an evidence-based research project.

Technology upgrades, such as the global shift to electronic medical records, have meant even long-time nurses spend more and more time in a classroom. Seismic shifts in medical care are driving nurses to education: The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts shortages of 31,100 primary care doctors and 63,000 other physicians in the U.S. in the next ten years. Filling the gap: nurses are becoming advanced practice clinicians, like nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners, at record rates. The number of licensed NPs has doubled in the past ten years to 205,000, according to Consumer Reports.

What this means for acute care teaching hospitals is that demands on nursing departments for constant education are becoming an ever-larger financial and practical commitment.

With its tuition reimbursement and robust bridge programs, the Hospital Center attracts more and more nurses with specialist ambitions. That, too, raises education demands— it costs approximately $60,000 to take a nurse through a training program, and requires experienced nurses to serve as clinical coaches, or mentors, on a unit. “The idea of one job for a lifetime is no longer true in society in general,” notes Janis Donnelly, MBA, MS, BSN, vice president of Nursing Excellence. “For a hospital, that means you have to provide internal opportunities to grow.”

“As an academic medical center, we have always provided a lifelong learning opportunity,” says Eckert. “We’re just offering more now.” This year Eckert started a Nursing Leadership Academy to provide management training for nurses who want to move into executive roles. “Thankfully, we are large enough and have the support to take our nurses into 21st century medical care.”