The Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing Reflects on the Future of Nursing Town Hall

On June 7th, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) held the first of three “Future of Nursing 2020-2030” Town Hall meetings. The meetings, held in locations across the US, aim to gather insights on how to advance the profession of nursing, with particular attention to creating a culture of health, reducing health disparities, and improving the health and well-being of the U.S. population. 

Several members of the Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing (IACN) attended. Presentation topics spanned research, practice, and education. They were thoughtful, innovative, future-oriented, and addressed important health related issues in our country and the nursing profession. Valid questions were followed by thought provoking dialogue that moved the discussion forward.

Nursing in the State of Illinois—like much of the nation—faces serious challenges. Among those challenges is the well-established fact that, while four-year institutions are more than able to accommodate licensed RNs wanting to transition from ADN to BSN, “traditional” methods of educating pre-licensure students will not produce the quantity of new nurses necessary to replace the wave of RNs reaching retirement in the next 5-10 years. As an association of nursing educators, we at the IACN hold this particular challenge close to our hearts.

For the past two years, Illinois’ Deans and Directors of ADN, BSN, and higher degree programs have collaborated, centering on a commitment to seamless academic progression. Collectively, we strongly believe we need everyone in order to rise to this challenge. We need to strengthen bridge programs for CNAs and LPNs to the ADN, and ADNs to the BSN and to advanced nursing practice and doctoral education.

But that is not enough. We need to examine our model with an objective eye, and find thoughtful and creative ways in which each of us can expand capacity while continuing to offer quality educational experiences to our students. Nursing educators must collectively rise to this challenge; saying it cannot be done is no longer an option. And that begins with finding ways to attract faculty and expand clinical offerings. 

It is our opinion that if we come together, nursing has the answers for how the profession can best address solutions within nursing. Now is the time for nursing to stand up and take the lead in this important discussion. Healthcare is changing—that is a given. We as a profession need to not only be at the table, but lead the discussion and transition of nursing solutions or others — legislators, hospital administrators, or the National Academy of Medicine – will drive that change for us.

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