26 FOCUS ON EDUCATION | 2018 | www.advanceweb.com draw attention away from the clinical issues; instead, the discussion expands to include health care systems. The rapid growth of the baby boom population (children born between 1945 and 1965) has presented and stressed the ability of health care to address and han- dle the volume of patients. Bringing nurses to the discussion table and engaging them in the problem will lend to significant perspective and managing care through the lifecycle as opposed to a one inpatient admission perspec- tive. Maximizing nurses who have expertise and advanced degrees will only improve col- laborative outcomes over time (The American Nurse, 2018). Perhaps the greatest challenge mentioned in the IOM committee report relates to con- tinuing education. As noted earlier by the ANA, nurses completing associate’s degree programs are less likely to continue further academic pursuits for a BSN or higher edu- cation. The existing health care system is profoundly complex, and navigating it is for- midable. To assist nurses in understanding the continuous evolution, lifelong learning and continuing education can help them remain current and stimulated. The report cited some very encouraging observations that, in many instances, continuing education and other opportunities for learning already exist at the health care facility level (IOM, 2010). These include joining professional societies and attending regular meetings and conferences. These societies often present updates in the areas of interest. As a benefit, they many times award continuing education credits (CEUs) for active participation in the programs. These societies are specifically helpful for nurses practicing in smaller nonacademic facilities where accesses to in-services or on-site confer- ences are rare to nonexistent. Fortunately, technology has evolved over the past decade, which has significantly enhanced access to continuing education. The power and advantage of the Internet has lev- eraged the possibility of educational resources to the nurse’s benefit. The opportunities range from a one-hour education and CEU training to a complete and accredited online college degree program accessible through a personal computer. To achieve these recommendations, the health care system will likely require access avenues for nurses to gain success in these areas. The IOM report strongly recommends that 80% of the nursing workforce obtain bac- calaureate preparation or higher by 2020 (IOM, 2010). To accomplish this, nurses contemplat- ing a BSN or higher degree and future students will need to prepare themselves for the work required to achieve this goal. That being con- sidered, the complexity and advanced technol- ogy in health care will continue to evolve and not slow down. The advent of computer-aided/ driven technology will only increase the speed and accuracy by which these advances will be discovered and implemented. A nurse pre- pared with a BSN or higher will be at an advan- tage as these occurrences play out (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2014). The IOM 2010 report included a number of other recommendations related to these observations and predictions. The net result indicated that current and future nursing practices would benefit from a higher degree of educated colleagues. Enhanced educa- tion will open up improved dialogue when addressing issues concerning workforce diver- sity, delivery of health care resources, evolving reimbursement payment systems, and work- force data analysis. Considering the issues of removing barriers to higher education, we can look at the cur- rent status of the nursing workforce for poten- tial guidance. The ANA reports that within the next 10 years, close to half of nurses will either be retiring or within retirement age (McMenamin, 2014). This suggests that a sig- nificant number of the nursing workforce is currently between 50 and 60 years of age. The number of retiring nurses could be as much as 500,000. This concern only amplifies the unequal number of nurses and students enter- ing the workforce each year. Over time, this may produce an ongoing nursing shortage (American Nurses Association , 2014). Combatting this issue through increased nursing program enrollment may present another conundrum. Of the number of nurses leav- ing or retiring from the workforce, a por- tion of this group is nursing school faculty. Incentivizing nurses into academics has been difficult with the salary gap existing between clinically practicing nurses and college/univer- sity-level nurses. Academic institutions may be able to open seats for enrollment; however, not providing for enough instructors to teach in the classroom and clinical setting is a harsh reality (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2014). Even though the empirical observations indicate we are going to be in a chronic state of nursing shortage, all is not lost or hopeless. Our aging population is living longer and remaining connected to the workforce lon- ger. It is not uncommon to see nurses working well past retirement age. Diversification and flexibility in the contemporary workplace have evolved to provide such an opportune environ- ment for productivity and longevity for staff. Organizations are capitalizing on the vast wealth of experience this population brings to the workspace. Link this with the intercon- nectivity of the electronic age, and nurses can position themselves for positive influences and professional outcomes. Keeping the mind active, eating well, and staying in motion as one ages contributes to a longer and more pro- ductive work life. SO HOW DO WE GET THERE FROM HERE? The authors of this course have been watching, listening, and engaging in this subject for the better part of 35 years. There are many per- spectives of the issue, each containing valid and salient points. We each began our pro- fessional career from hospital-based diploma programs and an associate’s degree in nurs- ing from a community college. The decision for our path was financially driven: a four-year university pathway was not financially feasi- ble. We learned (personal opinion) overtime that our entry-level education was not enough to provide us with the changes continuously occurring in the contemporary health care environment. We never placed different val- ues on our colleagues’ levels of education, but instead refocused our vision on how we could contribute to the improvement of health care, provided we were driven to acquire higher lev- els of education. In researching for this course, we were struck with the focus of the narratives that described the reasoning for moving for or against the BSN discussion. Some were harsh with less than constructive progressive discus- sion, comments with a demanding tone such as, These actions will have a negative impact if … . ” Or, “We have to move this issue forward CONTINUING EDUCATION  |  FOCUS ON EDUCATION