Rounds With Leadership: A Milestone for Baccalaureate Nursing Education

Rounds With Leadership: A Milestone for Baccalaureate Nursing Education

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

AACN has long advocated for the creation of a more highly educated nursing workforce in the interest of improving patient safety and ensuring quality care. As academic nursing leaders, we understand that education matters and has a direct impact on a nurse’s ability to provide essential services along the continuum of care.

The work of AACN member schools to elevate nursing education is having a real impact on reshaping the nation’s healthcare workforce. For the first time in our history, more than 70% of registered nurses (RNs) are educated at the baccalaureate or higher degree level, according to new data released earlier this month via the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey.  Further, most RNs now enter the workforce with a baccalaureate or entry-level master’s degree (51.5%).

The drive to accelerate academic progression in nursing – a key recommendation in the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report on the Future of Nursing – is widely embraced by organizations, employers, and practice leaders interested in moving the profession forward. Nurses in record numbers have returned to school over the last 20 years to continue their education in baccalaureate and graduate programs, recognizing the impact education has on their practice. Though we are now seeing enrollment dips in baccalaureate programs offered for entry-level and post-licensure students, we must continue our work to mobilize support for advancing nursing education.

For the latest research on how having more highly educated nurses benefits patient care, see AACN’s newly updated fact sheet on the Impact of Education on Nursing Practice.

A Closer Look at the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey

Every two years, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers conduct a national survey focused on the entire U.S. nursing workforce. This survey collects a wealth of data on Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses, including demographics, educational attainment, employment, practice characteristics, and trends. Key findings include:

  • The total number of active RN licenses in the U.S. is 5,239,499.
  • 89% of nurses who maintain licensure are employed in nursing, with roughly 70% working full-time.
  • The median age of RNs was 46 years, which reflects a decrease of 6 years from 2020. This decline was associated with estimated losses to the workforce of at least 200,000 experienced RNs.
  • Since 2020, the percentage of men in nursing increased from 9.4% to 11.2%.
  • Though increases in the number of nurses who identify as Hispanic, Asian, and two or more races were realized since 2020, the number of Black/African American nurses decreased from 6.7% to 6.3%.
  • 28% of nurses reported plans to leave nursing or retire over the next 5 years.

Nurses also were specifically asked how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted them, and more than 60% of respondents cited an increase in their workload because of the pandemic. This finding mirrors those published in the April 2023 study in the Journal of Nursing Regulation on Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Burnout and Stress Among U.S. Nurses.

Download the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey

Access a series of articles published by NCSBN on in the impact of the pandemic on nursing education, regulation, APRN practice, and the adoption of clinical simulation.