Lifelong Learning in Nursing Practice

Topic: Nursing
Words: 1768 Pages: 6


There is currently a large nursing shortage and a growing trend to acquire BSN and higher degrees. Healthcare organizations are actively encouraging a nursing desire for professional development. Although there are a number of barriers, lifelong learning is an integral part of the activity, providing both personal and career growth. As new technologies are created, new diagnoses and treatments are discovered, and new evidence-based practices are published, nurses must embrace lifelong learning to remain productive and relevant.

Reasons for Lifelong Learning

Encouragement of BSN degree by Healthcare Organizations

Continuously improving the level of nursing education is the goal of most healthcare organizations. For example, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2011 recommended an 80% increase in the number of baccalaureate degree nurses and a doubling of the number of doctorate degree nurses by 2020 (as cited in Altman et al., 2016, p. 57). Most importantly, one of the recommendations was to provide lifelong learning for nurses. Although most employers do not require a BSN degree, advanced education is widely preferred (Altman et al., 2016). Moreover, “ANCC Magnet recognition required that organizations have a plan for how they will achieve an 80 percent baccalaureate-educated nursing workforce” (Altman et al., 2016, p. 69). The unemployment rate among BSN professionals is also lower than among nurses with an associate’s degree, and the gap continues to widen (Altman et al., 2016). These factors make continuing education and lifelong learning highly relevant for nurses.

Despite the goals of medical institutions to stimulate education, the number of nurses with BSN degrees has grown in the past. Ma et al. (2018) underline that between 2004 and 2013, the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees in acute care units increased from 44% to 57% (p. 88). However, it is noted that since 2010, the growth in the number of BSNs has also started to accelerate. In particular, the “proportion of BSN RNs on a unit increased by 1.3% annually before 2010 and 1.9% annually in 2010 and after” (Ma et al., 2017, p. 88). This may be related to the nursing education promotion programs and IOM recommendations.

Better Patient Outcomes

Encouraging BSN and higher degrees, as well as professional growth in medical institutions, is primarily associated with better patient outcomes. Skills and knowledge levels are critical for nursing acute care units, where they have a direct impact on patient outcomes (Holle et al., 2019). This factor is indicative since “acuity in hospitals continues to climb and nursing care remains more challenging and complex” (Straka, 2019, p. 52). BSN degree is directly associated with lower mortality rates, less prevalence of hospital-acquired infections, lower failure-to-rescue rates, as well as shorter stays and better outcomes for patients undergoing surgery (Straka, 2019). These findings are also supported by Halm (2021), who claims that falls and hospital-acquired rates are lower in healthcare facilities with higher certification rates. The study conducted by Harrison et al. (2019) demonstrates that in organizations with a higher number of BSN nurses, patients have “greater odds of surviving to discharge with good cerebral performance following in-hospital cardiac arrest” (p. 1092). The data presented identify a correlation between the level of education of nurses and the quality of care provided, especially in acute care units.

Nurses are responsible for a variety of critical patient indicators, and a higher level of knowledge and professionalism leads to more positive outcomes. For example, the nurse plays a key role in identifying the deterioration of the patient’s condition, which directly affects the failure to rescue rates. BSN nurses reduce this indicator by 10%, and their patients are 5% more likely to survive health-related complications (O’Brien et al., 2018, p. 4). It is also noted that BSN nurses reduce the length of stay of patients by 0.8%, and for those who received more than 80% of care from nurses with higher education, this indicator decreases by 1.8% (O’Brien et al., 2018, p. 4). Additionally, an increase in the number of BSN nurses in an organization is associated with a 6.5% decrease in hospitalization costs, an increase in patient satisfaction, as well as a decrease in readmission rates, which result in approximately $ 5,653,022.97 savings annually (O’Brien et al., 2018, p. 4). Thus, advanced nursing education has a direct positive impact not only on patient outcomes but also on the cost-efficiency of healthcare facilities.

Knowledge Translation

Evidence-based practice is one of the fundamental aspects of providing high-quality healthcare. Nurses need to continually review the latest research findings to ensure they have relevant information to help patients. In this regard, increased attention is being paid to the need to ensure knowledge translation in nursing activities. This process integrates knowledge and research findings directly into clinical practice (Hada et al., 2019). Knowledge translation is referred to activities that “foster the dissemination, adoption, and appropriation of the most up to date knowledge possible to allow for its use in professional practice and in health management” (as cited in Dal Mas et al., 2020, p. 1841). Additionally, the term can describe the process of applying knowledge gained in a certain area to practice in another one (Lockwood & Hopp, 2016). Thus, knowledge translation ensures that relevant knowledge is distributed among healthcare professionals for timely use in patient care. With regard to the need for lifelong learning and continuing education, this process is a critical aspect.

BSN and higher programs teach nurses evidence-based practice, which implies conducting research and using its results in their activities. Knowledge translation provides them with the opportunity to improve their skills and have relevant information continually. This ability is critical to patient care, as demonstrated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the virus has spread rapidly and has had unexpected consequences that required healthcare workers to constantly update their knowledge (McLeod, 2020). El-Jardali et al. (2020) define various knowledge translation platforms as “go-to hubs for trustworthy evidence that can inform policies and practice during public health crises” (p. 6). This assumption emphasizes the need for constant study of new information since the conditions for diagnosis and treatment are constantly changing. However, only nurses with BSN and higher training have evidence-based practice skills.

In this regard, it is also important to note the role of nursing mentors in the knowledge translation process. Mentoring programs in healthcare organizations have a positive impact on nurses’ performance and clinical practice guidelines (Abdullah et al., 2018). BSN nurses also acquire communication, decision-making, and leadership skills during the programs, which gives them the opportunity to engage in mentoring and therefore increase the level of quality of care in medical institutions (Irland, 2019). Knowledge translation, in this case, is the main outcome of this activity. Hickin et al. (2017) note that this process enables nurses to understand delirium better and apply screening more efficiently. This finding indicates the need for knowledge translation for better clinical practice. This process is directly related to lifelong learning, which determines its importance for the professional growth of nurses.

Better Career Opportunities

It is also important for the nurses to show the employer that he or she can perform the assigned professional tasks efficiently. One way to convince the healthcare organization of one’s competence is to provide credentials (Irland, 2019). The level of education and various certificates allow the employer to determine how beneficial cooperation with a nurse will be. Thus, a higher level of skills and knowledge, confirmed by official papers, will be an advantage in building a career. Gradually, the requirements for candidates will also grow, which makes lifelong learning essential for nurses to remain in demand in the professional field. Parolisi (2020) identifies that for the majority of BSN graduates, job requirements were the determining factors in the decision to complete the program of higher education. In particular, nurses realize that in the modern healthcare setting, it is impossible to get a promotion or a better career opportunity without a Bachelor’s degree. Additionally, professional growth for the more fulfilling complex roles is associated with the need to acquire a BSN degree.

Opposing View

The view that can be presented against the need for lifelong learning for nursing professional development may be that there are many barriers to continuing education. In particular, modern higher education is expensive, which prevents many nurses from finding sufficient resources. Moreover, not every professional has enough time, as in addition to professional activities, many have a family. Therefore, unequal educational and earning opportunities create social barriers to diversity in a healthcare setting.

Reasons for Opposing View

Many nurses have noted a number of concerns regarding the acquisition of BSN degrees, primarily related to a lack of money and time. First of all, “the cost of an entry-level BSN alone at more than twice to 10 times the cost of the ADN program” (Sabio & Petges, 2020, p. 50). Sabio (2019) underlines that such barriers are presented to a greater extent for low-income professionals, which identifies the possible existence of unequal opportunities. Faller and Gogek (2018) note that the high level of debt burden on students of both undergraduate and graduate programs is one of the reasons for refusing further nursing education. Another important reason is the increased demand for registered nurses nowadays, although there is also debate about the level of education required to obtain a license (Clarke, 2017). A significant amount of time required to study at BSN programs also increases financial risks, as it increases the chance of not completing the education.


The government and healthcare organizations are interested in raising the level of nursing professionalism and offer various grants and incentives. Although not all states are taking a particular action, barriers are widely discussed among professionals. Many schools offer online or part-time training opportunities for nurses, which addresses the issue of time pressure. More importantly, there are many grants that are available to rural students as well (Merrell et al., 2020). While these options are highly competitive, there are more and more options every year due to a widespread shortage of nurses (Marć et al., 2018). With the greater demand for nursing education, skill enhancement opportunities will become more affordable. Additionally, many medical institutions offer financial support to employees to continue their education and improve their professional knowledge.


Lifelong learning and continuing education provide nurses with a number of benefits and make them necessary to remain productive and relevant. Among the most significant of them are the promotion of a BSN degree by healthcare organizations, improved patient outcomes, abilities for knowledge translation, as well as better career opportunities. Despite the existence of significant financial barriers, as well as the frequent lack of time for training, modern programs offer a variety of support.


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