More Feathers in Their Caps

While national healthcare leaders call for increased training for nurses across the country, this corps of crucial, front-line caregivers at Cedars-Sinai already has jumped to the head of the class in taking advantage of opportunities to hone and advance their skills and knowledge.

Today, in addition to their RN degrees, more than 73 percent of the 2,800 nurses at Cedars-Sinai have earned bachelor degrees and 13 percent hold advanced nursing degrees at the master's or doctorate level. Furthermore, 56 percent of eligible Cedars-Sinai nurses have earned specialty certifications, such as critical care, rehabilitation, external fetal monitoring and neonatal intensive care nursing. (Pictured right: Janice Neal, RN speaks with a patient)

The number of nurses with advanced academic degrees and certifications has steadily climbed over the last eight years, in large part due to the medical center's efforts, made possible by Cedars-Sinai's Geri and Richard Brawerman Nursing Endowment.

"The care we provide patients is constantly advancing, and grows increasingly complex," said Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, vice president and chief nursing officer at Cedars-Sinai. "To prepare themselves for the greater responsibilities they must assume as our healthcare system changes, nurses will need higher levels of education and training."

The nurses' dedication to more education, academic degrees and advanced certifications ensures they can provide Cedars-Sinai patients with the highest quality care, including state-of-the-art treatments, procedures and technologies.

"The health care field continues to face shortages of registered nurses, even as nursing schools are being forced to turn away qualified applicants for lack of space," said Jane Swanson, PhD, RN, director of Cedars-Sinai's Geri and Richard Brawerman Nursing Institute. "We want to provide our nursing staff with as much support and as many opportunities as possible to further their education."

Cedars-Sinai's Brawerman Nursing Institute has provided free educational programs and financial help to more than 1,000 nurses since its 2002 founding.

This dedication to education is part of the reason Cedars-Sinai holds the longest-running Magnet designation for nursing excellence in California. The designation, granted by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, is awarded only to hospitals that meet the highest standards for quality nursing practice and patient care. Hospitals that achieve this prestigious designation have better nurse to patient ratios and higher patient satisfaction.

The Institute of Medicine, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently unveiled the Initiative on the Future of Nursing, on which Burnes Bolton served as vice chair. The initiative's findings, the result of a two-year project involving healthcare professionals nationwide, emphasized the importance of nurse education in healthcare reform. The report calls for the number of nurses with bachelor degrees to increase from 50 percent to 80 percent of registered nurses by 2020 and for the number of nurses with doctorates to double in that time.

Cedars-Sinai offers nurses many opportunities and support to advance their education. Through a partnership with the School of Nursing at Cal State Los Angeles, the Brawerman Nursing Institute pays the full tuition for nurses in the bachelor's and master's programs.

This generous aid gave Janice Neal, RN, a clinical nurse III in the labor and delivery unit, the chance to earn both her bachelor's and master's degrees.  

"It's the opportunity of a lifetime," Neal said. "There's a lot of support here for education. By continuing our education, patients benefit from the skills of a team of advanced practice nurses."

Cedars-Sinai also launched an online bachelor's degree nursing program in partnership with Western Governors University. The accelerated program allows nurses to complete coursework online, independently, and to meet weekly with instructors. The nurses then complete their clinical training at the medical center. The program is designed to be completed in fifteen months, with a new class starting every six months.

The flexibility of the online program has allowed Amy Morrison, R.N., clinical nurse III, to keep working full time while finishing her degree. She is nearly done with her Bachelor of Science and is on target to earn her master's degree by the end of 2012.

Morrison said she is grateful for the support and programs offered via the Brawerman Institute but she also credits her supervisors and colleagues in the labor and delivery unit as a critical element of her success.

"There's a lot of support for education here," Morrison said. "We encourage each other, and there's scheduling flexibility to assist nurses balancing work and school. Continuing our education keeps us on the forefront of what's happening in the nursing profession."

By the numbers

  • Almost three quarters of the 2,800 nurses at Cedars-Sinai hold bachelor's degrees
  • Nationally, half of nurses have earned bachelor's degrees
  • 9 percent of the nurses at Cedars-Sinai hold master's degrees
  • Nationally, 3.3 percent of nurses at magnet designated hospitals have earned master's degrees.
  • More than 1,000 nurses have benefited from educational programs or financial help from the Brawerman Nursing Institute since its 2002 founding
  • 56 percent of eligible Cedars-Sinai nurses have earned specialty certifications
  • Nationally, 29 percent of nurses at magnet hospitals have earned specialty certifications

Source: Cedars-Sinai, IOM, American Nurses Credentialing Center 2010 Magnet Conference

Ways Cedars-Sinai Helps Nurses Hone Their Skills, Credentials

  • Pays tuition in bachelor's, master's programs at Cal State LA School of Nursing
  • Partners with Western Governors University for online bachelor's with clinical training at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • Provides educational programs and financial help through the Brawerman Nursing Institute and through the Geri and Richard Brawerman Nursing Endowment
  • Offers supportive colleagues and working environment to those pursuing academic and professional credentials