Nurses are the largest segment of the health care workforce and patients’ primary professional caregivers. Their education and training directly affect the safety and quality of patient care. However, the American health care system is evolving, and patients’ needs are changing. The population is growing older and becoming more diverse, and health needs are becoming more complex; increasingly, nurses work in teams of providers from different areas of expertise; and health care technology is advancing rapidly. To ensure that nurses are prepared to meet these challenges, the education system needs to adapt. The education system needs to provide high-quality education from basic to advanced levels. It needs to ensure that there is adequate capacity to educate the right number of nurses across all levels with the right competencies and skills. And it needs to enable seamless progression to higher levels of education.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the IOM, seeks to build a blueprint for the future of nursing as part of larger efforts to reform the health care system. The Initiative held three public forums to explore challenges and opportunities in the nursing profession. The third forum, which took place on February 22, 2010 in Houston, examined nursing education. During the forum, experts considered innovations and strategies in three areas: what to teach, how to teach, and where to teach. The information and perspectives discussed at this forum informed a final report on the future of nursing,released in October 2010.