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Op-ed: Continuing education advances the nursing profession

Nurses are multitaskers. It is a skill used all day, every day. We are constantly assessing, diagnosing, planning, implementing and evaluating outcomes on those in our care with every interaction. We watch, listen, comfort, anticipate and intervene with skills that make the difference in lives.

How does this finely honed intuition come about? Education, experience and time.

Yet, with all that nurses do, we can’t stop learning and leading. There comes a time when, as nurses, we need to do more. This comes in the form of higher education and continuous learning. 

Why should a nurse go for a higher degree? I can list the obvious reasons: job opportunities, leadership roles, filling a need, higher wages, more skills, teaching/mentoring, researching, better hours, becoming an expert in the field and personal fulfillment. But let me tell you the real reasons nurses do more. 

An associate-prepared nurse at bedside wants to be an advocate for the patients in her care. She decides to go back for her bachelor’s in nursing to advance and be the voice that can’t speak. A bachelor’s prepared nurse decides he wants to use his experience and take the path to a master’s in nursing in leadership or administration to impact public policy or lead health systems and be the voice of a group of nurses.

A nurse who has always been the preceptor or the student mentor decides she wants to go for her master’s in nursing education to be the educator of a new generation of nurses. A nurse wants his doctorate in nursing because he knows there is a method to research and expand evidence-based practice findings to educate the public. 

Obtaining the next level of nursing education can be as simple as taking online courses. Both RN-BSN and MSN degrees are offered online. This method offers the flexibility and convenience working nurses need as their educational journey continues. 

Regardless of how a nurse chooses to advance his or her education, the need is urgent. Nurses have an implied contract with society to be their advocate and voice. It is why nursing is one of the most trusted professions.

Nurses have a societal obligation to teach and educate our patients/clients and community, and to advance the profession. Each nurse needs to ask himself or herself: What impact can I make with an advanced degree?

Sharon Willey, RN, DNP, is director of nursing at Trine University.