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Rounds with Leadership: Surveying the Landscape of Higher Education

Published March 28, 2018

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a new forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

March 28, 2018 -   

Surveying the Landscape of Higher Education

As academic nursing leaders, we often are called to survey the landscape of higher education to better understand who we teach, what we teach, and how we prepare those entrusted to teach. Earlier this month, The Chronicle of Higher Education released the 2018 Trends Report, which outlines 10 key shifts in higher education and offers case studies, analysis, and ideas to help college leaders stay informed.

Identified trends for this year include negative perceptions in the public policy arena about the value of higher education; the growing influence of students on campus; loss of global prestige for U.S. academic institutions; diminishing support for the peer-review process; the new era of deregulation by the U.S. Department of Education; intensifying efforts to improve student success and graduation rates; and increased efforts to address hazing. Though all of these issues affect our campuses, the following three trends are of particular concern to nurse educators:

Reigniting Passion for the PhD: At AACN’s Annual Deans Meeting held in Washington, DC earlier this week, it was announced that enrollments in PhD nursing programs have dipped for the third consecutive year. Since 2014, enrollments declined by 12.4% (658 students). This trend must be reversed if we are to meet the growing demand for PhD-prepared researchers, faculty, and leaders. Addressing the PhD pipeline issue likely will require a creative response and intentionality in focus from all stakeholders in education, research, and practice to generate renewed interest in the PhD and careers in nursing science.
Data Scientists in Demand: With The Chronicle dubbing data science a “hot field,” nursing is in dire need of informaticists who are able to mine big data, conduct scientific research, implement and evaluate health IT, lead system redesign efforts,  and test new quality improvement measures. According to the American Medical Informatics Association, nursing informatics involves “science and practice that integrates nursing, its information and knowledge, with information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families, and communities worldwide.” As we seek to grow the population of PhD nursing students, a special emphasis should be given to students looking to focus on informatics and the interprofessional opportunities for knowledge development and implementation this provides.
Historically Black College Renaissance: Enrollments at many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are rising after years of decline. AACN is proud of the 23 HBCUs that are member schools for their work to enrich the student population and the nursing workforce. Through our renewed emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, AACN is seeking to further diversify the educational pipeline into nursing and to move more nurses from under-represented groups into leadership roles in academic nursing.

When assessing these trends and other issues facing your school of nursing, please know that AACN is here as a resource to help you navigate the changing landscape of health care and higher education. Through our programming and services, we are committed to helping members position their programs for long-term sustainability and success.  We encourage our community of nurse leaders to share best practices and lessons learned, which will ensure that all schools benefit from our collective wisdom.

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