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The Future of Nursing Report: 2018 Update

How nurse leaders are making progress in four key areas.

In October 2010, the Institute of Medicine released The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report. The report focuses on prevention and primary care as central elements of the U.S. healthcare system. In the report, eight recommendations were made regarding how nurses can contribute to better healthcare.1 Let’s see what progress has been made in four key areas.


  1. Increase the number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree.
    One recommendation of the Future of Nursing report was to increase the number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree to 80% by 2020.2 When the report came out in 2010, about 49% of nurses had a bachelor’s degree. More recent data suggests the number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree has risen to just 54%.3 This is despite policy changes that make nursing education more appealing. For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is now requiring that nurses have at least a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for certain promotions.4 Even with such initiatives, the number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree is far from 80%. Unless significant progress is made over the next two years, we are going to fall short of the goal to have 80% of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020.
  2. Double the number of nurses with a doctorate.
    Another recommendation of the Future of Nursing report also focused on nursing education. It called to double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.2 There were 10,022 employed nurses with a doctorate in 2010. As of 2016, there were over 22,000 nurses with a doctorate in the workforce—more than twice as many as in 2010.3 This recommendation has been achieved.
  3. Improve access to care by nurse practitioners.
    The Future or Nursing report also recommended that advanced practice registered nurses, like nurse practitioners, be permitted to practice to the full extent of their education and training.2 Since 2010, nine states have removed statutory barriers that prevented nurse practitioners from providing healthcare services to the full extent of their training and education. In total, consumers in 22 states and Washington, D.C., now have full access to nurse practitioners.5 While nurse practitioners can provide more services than in 2010, more than half of states still have barriers limiting what care nurse practitioners can provide. Progress has been made, but there is still more work to do to achieve this goal.
  4. Create more nurse leaders.
    The Future of Nursing report recommended that healthcare leadership positions be filled by more nurses. As part of this effort, the Nurses on Boards Coalition was formed in 2014 with the goal was of having 10,000 nurses serving on boards in the U.S by 2020. As of November 2018, there were only 5,435 nurse leaders on boards.6 More than 4,000 nurse leaders would need to gain board positions in the next two years in order to meet the goal, which seems out of reach. Progress has been made to have more opportunities for nurse leaders, but it doesn’t seem likely that the Nurses on Boards Coalition’s goal of 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020 will be met.

Progress has been made in the recommendations from the Future of Nursing report. For those who wish to become a change agent and help ensure the delivery of safe and effective healthcare, a Master of Science in Nursing can be an excellent degree choice. Whether you wish to advance the recommendations in the Future of Nursing report or make other changes, an online MSN program from an accredited university can prepare you to improve healthcare as a nurse leader.

The Future of Nursing report challenged the healthcare industry to make improvements for everyone’s benefit. Many nurse leaders have been successful in making progress on several recommendations. While there is still work left to do, with a Master of Science in Nursing you can gain the skills and experience to create positive social change and provide better healthcare.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Science in Nursing degree program. With Walden University, you can earn your MSN in a convenient, flexible online format that fits your busy life.