By Katherine Shek
Community College Times
May 28, 2002
Faced with increasingly threatening efforts from four-year nursing associations to relegate associate degree nurses to a status below that of baccalaureate degree nurses, the American Association of Community Colleges is launching an aggressive campaign to help its members respond to such challenge.
AACC is taking the unusual step of asking its member institutions for voluntary contributions to step up the effort in protecting the professional status and earning power of AD nurses.
The AACC board unanimously approved the three-year initiative at its Seattle convention in April.
“The four-year degree nursing associations stepped up their activities with a number of proposals (to limit the scope of practices for AD nurses),” said board chair-elect Pamila Fisher. “That’s why we became even more concerned. We need to do something to protect the (associate degree) programs.”
AACC officials said the latest campaign was triggered by the “aggressive, expanding and extremely threatening efforts of BSN advocates to limit the category of ‘professional’ nurse to those holding a baccalaureate degree.”
Among some of these efforts are establishment of a separate accreditation agency that excludes associate degree programs; sponsoring reports to dispute the ability of AD nurses in delivering care; limiting professional opportunities for AD nurses by influencing the Department of Veteran Affairs, the largest public employer of nurses; and advocating legislation to separate ADNs and BSNs.
The major component of AACC’s AD nursing campaign is to bring an additional AACC staff member who will be the spokesperson on the issue. The person will be charged with building coalitions, monitoring federal agencies’ activities and identifying foundations that are interested in healthcare related issues.
In addition, the campaign will call for more research activities in data collection, information dissemination, a long-term assessment plan and grant opportunities. It will also beef up public awareness and media outreach efforts through commentaries in publications and public service announcement.
AACC officials said reassessing eligibility for professional RN licensure will exacerbate an already critical nursing shortage in the nation. Statistics indicated that there are approximately 126,000 RN vacancies in hospitals today. Approximately 60 percent of the nurses entering the workforce are prepared at the associate degree level. Over the years, enrollments in both associate and bachelor’s degree programs have declined.
AACC officials argued that there is no evidence showing that a four-year degree RN is better than an associate degree RN when they enter into practice. The passing rate of the RN exam is comparable between the two groups. Associate degree programs enable nursing students to enter the workforce more rapidly.
“For the past couple of years, these associations have repeated that the BSN prepared RN is the only one that can function in a ‘complex’ medical healthcare system,” said Carolyn Teich, program associate for AACC. “Again, there is no evidence to support this.”
AACC is asking for contributions from all member institutions. Currently about 600 community colleges have ADN programs.
Recommended contributions will be made on a sliding scale based on the full-time equivalent enrollment at the colleges. Institutions with fewer than 3,500 students are recommended for $500 each; those with 3,500 to 7,500 students and with more than 7,500 students are recommended for $1,000 each and $1,500 each, respectively.
The scope of the campaign will depend on the number of colleges volunteering contributions, AACC officials said.