Lifelong Learning in Nursing

No matter how long you have been a nurse, much has likely changed since you first entered the profession. From emerging research that modifies patient care strategies to policy reform that enhances patient engagement, healthcare continues to evolve at a fast pace.

Ongoing learning is integral to maintaining a solid nursing practice. Nurses must “regularly … expand their knowledge and skills,” says the journal Health Management, “which means continuous education is not a nice-to-have but an absolute necessity for … high-quality patient care.”

Why Is Lifelong Learning in Healthcare Important?

Healthcare is more complex than ever. Not only is the patient population more diverse than ever, but patients are also more likely to be sicker and deal with multiple comorbidities. As a result, nurses must develop the skill sets necessary to deliver culturally appropriate care alongside comprehensive interventions and treatments.

While nurses undoubtedly acquire knowledge and refine their skills through workplace experiences, the pursuit of higher education can offer a significant jumpstart. For example, nurses enrolled in the Registered Nurse (RN) to BS in Nursing online program at Fitchburg State University dive into the most relevant issues affecting modern nursing practice, including the latest in evidence-based care, forensics nursing, policy reform, social justice and advocacy.

According to a growing body of research available on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website, this accumulation of nursing knowledge has tangible and lasting impacts on patient care. Compared to RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or diploma, BSN-prepared nurses correlate with better patient outcomes, including reductions in mortality and failure-to-rescue rates.

A superior level of care is possible, says the AACN, because “RN to BSN programs build on initial nursing preparation with coursework to enhance professional development, prepare for a broader scope of practice, and provide a better understanding of the cultural, political, economic and social issues that affect patients and influence care delivery.”

How Does Lifelong Learning Affect Career Options?

Nurses who invest in lifelong learning can often function confidently at the top of their scope of practice. Earning a bachelor’s degree, for example, can create more job opportunities and facilitate entry into in-demand roles such as case manager, charge nurse and informatics nurse. Because BSN-prepared nurses have a wealth of knowledge and versatile abilities, many employers require a BSN degree as the minimum educational level for applicants. According to the AACN, 82% of employers strongly prefer hiring nurses with a BSN, and 41% require the degree as a condition of employment.

Nurses may also seek specialization, which allows them to move away from the bedside and into a nursing career better aligned with their interests and preferred work-life balance. When applying for a new position, says, having a specialty certification “makes you much more marketable … and demonstrates your commitment to education.”

Which Format Is Most Effective for Nursing Continuing Education?

Finding the time to learn new skills is challenging, but online programs are a popular option for continuing education. Online learning is ideal for all members of the healthcare field, including busy nurses, employers, nursing schools and industry associations. A digital format encompasses a range of technologies, from webinars and virtual classrooms to simulation tools and mobile applications. Nurses can complete the learning objective or activity online and at their convenience, without the hassle and expense of a commute.

Health Management notes that virtual learning also means every participant has access to the same learning content. Plus, the electronic format streamlines subject matter updates and accommodates the rapid rollout of time-sensitive information.

To be successful, nursing professionals must stay informed and involved in ongoing development opportunities. A commitment to lifelong learning improves the quality of care and patient outcomes, enhancing career prospects. Luckily, online nursing programs make access to this constant flow of information more accessible.

Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s online RN to BS in Nursing program.

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