Higher Nursing Education – The “dirty little secret of new nurses”

Recently there has been a lot of talk about “new” nurses leaving the beside or not even working at the bedside and going directly into higher education.  This issue creates much conversation both in favour of higher education and disapproval.

I could go into all the stats about the age and experience of nurses entering into CRNA, NP, DNP or MSN programs, but I won’t. This blog post is to just get you thinking about why higher education for nurses has become a “dirty little secret”. Are the large numbers of nurses leaving the bedside for higher education going to have a significant impact on the area of nursing you work in?

I mean no disrespect to either side of the discussion. I am a 40-year-old (ouch)mother who has only been a nurse for 5 years and I am presently completing my Masters in Nursing Education degree. So am I a “new” nurse? Do I have enough nursing experience? Does my age and life experience change how one might feel about me choosing to gain higher education? Does it matter what education is being obtained? Is the fact that I am obtaining a Masters Degree in Nursing Education make you feel different than if I went to CRNA school or decided to become a Nurse Practioner? Hummm

So let’s take a look at some of the most recent comments I have received on the topic.

“I am afraid to tell my coworkers I am going to CRNA school, I know they think I am too young and not ready.”

“I want to complete my NP program before I get married and start a family.”

“My coworkers are talking behind my back, saying I am too young and inexperienced to go to NP school”.

“My manager refused to write me a letter of reference for CRNA school, saying I was not a strong enough nurse, due to the fact I have only been a nurse for 2 years”.

“Nobody wants to be a bedside nurse anymore; they just want to make the BIG BUCKS”.

“Why doesn’t everyone just go to CRNA school, who needs nurses at the bedside anyway?”

“Get some real experience before pursuing an advanced degree. Actual clinical experience is so valuable to your nursing practice. You can’t be an “advanced practice nurse” when you haven’t been a nurse yet”!

“How can a nurse educator teach something they have never done?”

So… What is it? What truly is the issue with nurses going back to school? Are some nurses jealous, do they have regrets themselves, do they find it absurd that inexperienced nurses can move on to advanced practice roles or are they protective of the bedside nurse value?  I think experience, maturity/age/life experience and nursing knowledge are the main factors as to why we think some nurses should move on to higher education and why many judge the “new” nurse for moving on to higher education. Oh and there will always be people who will do it for the money or the title, just like with many other professions.

Critical care areas are feeling the biggest hit due to the surge of schools offering CRNA and NP programs. CRNA programs require critical care experience, most NP programs suggest it. Nurses are applying for critical care jobs, specialty area positions and positions at prestigious hospitals to gain experience knowledge, make vital professional relationships and pad the resume for their future endeavours. Is that a good or bad thing? We all need to obtain experience and knowledge. We do it all the time as nurses, we take classes, obtain certifications, attend conferences and add them to our resume. Isn’t it the same thing?

I am a lead preceptor; our orientation is 4 months of intense bedside training in the PICU. For all of the amazing preceptors that spend their time orienting these new staff, they feel used when they find out the orientee will be leaving after a year and just needed ICU experience to get into school. It’s hard for preceptors to continually educate orientees month after month just to find out there was a “hidden agenda”.

I have more recently found that nurses going back to school, are hiding that fact from their peers as not to receive negative attention, poor patient assignments and fend off judgemental harassment from coworkers. Bettering ourselves and advancing the nursing profession is a great thing, nursing is a profession of continued learning, so why are we attacking those who want more? Why has nursing education be come a “dirty little secret”?

In the future I want to look into whether the nursing profession can sustain the large amount of nurses coming out of nursing school are there opportunities for all of the NP’s and CRNA’s that are completing their programs and where to profession of nursing is headed? We can look at that specifically at another time.

Thank you Laura for bringing this topic to me, I know it is grander than this blog post, but I will in the future build off your topic and break down the multiple facets of this issue.

Going to grab my mug…its coffee time.



2 thoughts on “Higher Nursing Education – The “dirty little secret of new nurses”

  1. In my experience as a manager, new RNs cost you double – salary + orientation expense. It takes a year, at the earliest, to have a fully functional staff member. I never hired nurses whose primary goal was using my unit’s credentials as their primary motivation in improving theirs. It’s a practical business decision. Those who did their time and produced a ROI received my full support in taking their career to the next level!


  2. I think that many managers do not hire if they hear that’s the overall plan of that nurse. Traveling has allowed me to see how different places actually welcome and encourage the higher education. Especially if they know that person will stay there within there facility with the new role. I completely understand why it’s terrible for the budget etc. but it’s sad that people have to hide there dreams and excitement for fear of being chastised. I know one place that I won’t name that fully understands the ICU is a stepping stone for many nurses. They actually staff to accommodate this as well as bringing in travelers to help facilitate with any gaps. Great topic Jen and one I’ve been frustrated with a lot because it’s disheartening to not be supported by your fellow staff and coworkers for following your life’s ambitions.


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