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 AD Nurses Critical To Quality Healthcare 

By Libby Mahaffey, President, N-OADN and George Boggs, President, AACC
Community College Times
July 23, 2002
Cooperation with all who seek to address the nation’s acute nursing shortage by advancing professional nursing education and practice is a goal both the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (N-OADN) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) wholeheartedly support. Both organizations have sought and continue to seek opportunities for dialogue and collaboration with colleague organizations – including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Although both N-OADN and AACC applaud AACN’s recent statements in support of ADNs, let us be clear about the discrepancies between AACN’s “talk” and its “walk.”

AACN says that it does not seek to “downgrade” associate degree nursing.  Yet in its Fact Sheet: Associate Degree in Nursing Programs and AACN’s Support for Articulation, AACN unequivocally states that it “recognizes the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as the minimum educational requirement for what the organization holds to be professional-level nursing practice.” AACC has asked AACN to halt efforts to remove the professional status of AD nurses.

In most states, the license for registered nurses includes designation as “Registered Professional Nurse.”  To omit the term “professional” from the title that associate degree graduates earn would automatically limit their scope of practice, their entry into the profession and their standing within the medical community.

AACN says that it “does not seek to close associate degree programs” nor “limit ADN graduates’ access to RN licensure.”  In response, AACC has asked AACN to revise its policy statements and to remove from its Web site all references to closing 20 percent of associate degree nursing programs by 2010. When waiting lists persist to get into many ADN programs, to lessen the number of those programs would most certainly deny access to future graduates.

AACN says it has a “long history of working collaboratively with the associate degree community.”  Yet AACN is on record to exclude N-OADN from the Tri-council, a group comprising AACN, the American Nurses Association, the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the National League for Nursing, that claims to be the “national voice for nursing education and practice.”  If the associate degree programs that currently produce 60 percent of all new nurses for our nation have neither representation nor a leadership role in framing the national mission, the “voice” of the majority of nursing professionals is silenced and their concerns go unheard.

In her recent letter to the Community College Times, AACN President Kathleen Long rhetorically asks “wherein lies the threat” to advancing nursing education if both the BSN and the ADN communities agree that cooperation and articulation are essential.  The threat lies not in words, but in actions and intent.

Current models proposed at regional, state and national levels are designed to limit the scope of practice of associate degree nurse graduates. Such limitations would swiftly and dramatically restrict career options and future advancement for the majority of professional nursing graduates. Far worse, implementation of these proposals would gravely undermine the delivery of safe and quality healthcare at a time when our nation needs more, not fewer, good nurses. AACC and N-OADN would welcome the visible support of AACN in our efforts to protect the professional status and scope of practice of AD nurses in states where they are threatened.

AACN further cites the 1995 publication, A Model for Differentiated Nursing Practice, as evidence of agreement between AACN and N-OADN.  Yet the current N-OADN board has unanimously voted not to support any interpretation of that document or any other documents that attempt to redefine the scope of practice for the professional registered nurse.

Long notes that nursing is at a “crossroads,” and both N-OADN and AACC agree.  Both organizations stand ready to work, without reservation, to address the nursing profession’s most critical issues — through legislation, in the workplace and in the classroom.  The key lies in open and inclusive dialogue, true and unvarnished candor and actions to demonstrate the “mutual respect” AACN so professes to desire.
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