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Nursing Science: Why A 200 Year-Old Structure May Be Losing Its' Way

If every student who graduates from an accredited nursing school can't articulate what nursing science is and what it is not, we have not only failed them, but all who have gone before us.

In the over 200 years that nursing has been in existence, it has always prided itself in its' contributions to medicine and research. This is largely due to the root cause of our existence is based on science. In 1859 Florence Nightingale published the legendary book, Notes on Nursing, and made it clear that nursing is not a mistake, but rather what it is and what it is not.

Notes On Nursing, Florence Nightingale

Recently, hundreds of students graduated from accredited nursing schools, unleashing the potential of new nurse scientists. Although their development is encouraging the notion that 100% of them not only have never heard of nursing science, but do not know what it is, never mind what it is not, gives me pause. Furthermore, I offer up the following statistic so that we may have a bigger conversation about why my insistent advocacy for nursing science intensifies; According to new data released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the number of students in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs decreased by 1.4% in 2022 ending a 20-year period of enrollment growth in programs designed to prepare new registered nurses (RNs).

Eventually, therefore, the nursing profession will have to confront head on the complexities that can result from a continued scientific theoretical framework that no longer serves us well, such as incompetent workforce, disparities in education, poor patient health outcomes and loss of credibility.

The student experience has changed---historically, culturally, and socially. Being the most trusted profession on an annual basis is not the prize that will sustain us, science is the movement. With that in mind, how we continue to raise the consciousness of our science will dictate our longterm existence as a credible profession.



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