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 AACN Clarifies Position On Associate Degree Nurses 

By Kathleen Ann Long, President, AACN
Community College Times
July 23, 2002
The unfolding nursing shortage has shed new light on the pivotal role nurses play in our nation’s complex healthcare system. With the demand for nurses far outstripping the supply, the need for nurse educators to work collaboratively to prepare new nurses is growing in importance. 

Unfortunately, efforts to build partnerships and expand nursing school capacity are now being threatened by heightened concerns at many community colleges that baccalaureate programs are aggressively seeking to downgrade the importance of the associate degree in nursing (ADN) and the contribution ADN-prepared nurses make in the nursing workforce.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education programs, has no interest in promulgating “us against them” scenarios with our community college colleagues.  Recently, we have spent considerable time and energy correcting misstatements related to our goals and intentions. 

For the record, AACN does not seek to close associate degree programs, we do not wish to limit ADN graduates’ access to RN licensure, or to deny those graduates entry into practice. We recognize the vital role ADN nurses play, and will continue to play, in the delivery of healthcare.

AACN has a long history of working collaboratively with the associate degree community, and we seek to maintain this important connection. In 1995, we collaborated with the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (N-OADN) and the American Organization of Nurse Executives to create models of differentiated nursing practice based on educational preparation. We continue that work today through the Call to the Profession, a coalition of 60 nursing organizations working to chart nursing’s future, and through the national Nursing Practice/Education Consortium.

Associate degree and baccalaureate programs should be natural allies, and these relationships should be nurtured and strengthened. AACN has historically supported a career ladder in nursing based on different points along the educational continuum. The association is on record as supporting articulation models that can move ADN graduates into higher degree programs. In fact, almost 90 percent of AACN’s member schools offer RN-to-BSN programs and 20 percent offer RN-to-MSN programs for ADN graduates wishing to complete a higher degree. 

If the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), AACN and N-OADN all agree that ADN programs are vital, and we all support the concept of advancing nursing education, wherein lies the threat? With nursing at another crossroads, it is important for AACN and AACC to find ways to work together and use our collective resources to address the real issues facing nursing education: building student capacity, increasing the pool of nursing faculty, streamlining articulation between programs, lobbying for the passage of the Nurse Reinvestment Act, advocating for workplace reforms, increasing the education level of the nursing workforce, and promoting nursing as a dynamic career choice in an effort to attract the best and the brightest into the profession.

The nursing shortage presents a unique opportunity for nurse educators to come together and seek collective solutions to a national crisis. From a position of mutual respect, I hope we can move past the current tensions and move forward for the good of the nursing profession, and more importantly, the patients we serve.
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