I am writing in response to the commentary by Linda Rener regarding the study, "Educational Levels of Hospital Nurses and Surgical Patient Mortality". After reading the study in its entirety, I had similar concerns.
As a result, I wrote the principle investigator, Linda Aiken, and much to my delight, she responded. I'd like to share some of what she wrote to me.
One of my concerns was the grouping bachelor's prepared nurses with those with master's degrees. The two preparations are not similar; one is an advanced practice role which builds upon the knowlege base of the other. As it turns out, in the Aiken study, only 1.7 percent of this group were actually master's prepared, not statistically significant.
Regarding the concern that hospitals should be encouraged to hire only bachelor's prepared nurses, Aiken responded, "We see the paper as presenting a great opportunity to nurses everywhere to argue for increased employer investment in nurses' career advancement and continuing education as well as increased public support to remove the financial and other barriers to nurses obtaining more education. Community colleges are an essential component of the nation's system of higher education offering geographic and financial access to higher education. It should be possible to continue the contributions of community colleges to the education of the nurse workforce while advancing the overall educational levels of nurses consistent with the increasing educational levels of all other health professionals."
Dr. Aiken stressed that this study, which is part of a larger study on the contribution of nurses to safe patient care, "is not about the effect of the educational level of a single nurse on the outcomes of a single patient...Indeed our paper reinforces the importance of the patient to nurse ratio which includes all RNs."
I hope this information is helpful. This is not the time for the nursing community in Colorado to be divided. We need to work together for the good of our profession and the continued safe effective care of our patients.