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The Future of Nursing

Tama MorrisTama Morris, RN, PhD, CNE

Presbyterian School of Nursing Director Tama Morris reflects on changes in the profession and in nursing education. 

Tama Morris, RN, PhD, CNE, brings three decades of nursing expertise to her post as the Associate Dean of the Blair College of Health and Director of the Presbyterian School of Nursing.  Her research focuses on excellence in nursing education and she has worked to assess the implementation of national standards for nursing education.  She also focuses on the implementation and evaluation of simulation in nursing education. 

We spoke with Dr. Morris recently about the evolution of the nursing profession and how higher education is changing to meet the needs of the 21st century nurse.

Q: How has nursing changed since you became a practicing nurse?
A: Over the course of my career, nursing has increasingly been recognized as a professional role.  Nurses today are seen as partners with families and the medical community in making decisions to improve health care for individual patients or even whole communities.  In the past, care decisions tended to be physician-driven but now there are more voices at the table.
Q: How do you see the nursing field evolving over the decades ahead?
A: We’ll be much more focused on research and outcomes, and the scope of research will expand from patient-centered research to explore areas such as the economic impact of healthcare and system efficiency and effectiveness.  In addition to conducting the research they have to take it a step further to implement their findings.  As we move forward, nurses will need to understand and advocate for best practices while they keep in touch with the dynamic forces that are affecting the entire field of healthcare.
Q: Why is it important to have more baccalaureate-prepared nurses?
A: Research demonstrates that patients have better outcomes when care is provided or led by nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees or higher.  The baccalaureate education is built on a foundation of science and liberal studies that helps nurses develop a broader perspective and deeper critical thinking skills.  Nurses who can deliver concise and critical information at the right time to impact the care of their patients are in high demand.
Q: What does this mean in the context of the changing health care landscape here in the United States?
A: The Institute of Medicine believes that nurses of the future will be focused on leading change and advancing health care issues.  It advocates increasing the proportion of BSN degree nurses to 80% by 2020.  Nursing programs across the country are moving in this direction.  It also recommends that healthcare organizations encourage their nurses with associate and diploma degrees to enter bachelor’s level nursing programs within five years of graduation.  This will ensure our nurses will have the education they’ll need to manage the challenges they’ll face in health care.
Q: If there’s one piece of advice you would offer to someone looking at the nursing profession, what would it be?
A: The profession offers you a wealth of opportunities to practice in so many different ways.  Many people carry a vision of nursing that’s associated with the bedside nurse.  And our bedside nurses are certainly critical! But today your choices don’t begin and end with that role.  There’s such variety in the types of roles and responsibilities for a well-educated nurse, from being a nursing professor at the university level to working on health care policy in Washington, D.C.  Nurses continue to be some of the most caring and compassionate people I know, but today those traits must be balanced with intellectual capacity and technical expertise.  It’s a high touch, high tech profession.
Q: What’s the employment outlook for nurses today?
A: We’re seeing high levels of employability with our graduating classes from the past several years.  According to a survey of our graduates from the Class of 2012, 84% were employed within three months and 100% were employed within six months.  As we’ve looked at this data over the past several years we’re seeing more graduates employed more quickly after graduating than in the past. Healthcare continues to show rapid growth in terms of job creation across the country, and certainly here in the Charlotte region as well.


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