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We are halfway through the second phase of the Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) project in Washington State. This initiative aims to achieve the Institute of Medicine’s goal of an 80 percent BSN-prepared workforce that is more diverse and inclusive by 2020. In April, Sofia Aragon, JD, BSN, RN, Washington Center for Nursing’s new executive director, took over as co-lead of the Washington Nursing Action Coalition and serves as the APIN project’s principal investigator.

Currently, 66 percent of nurses in Washington hold a BSN or higher, according to a 2013 National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) Sample Survey estimate. In order to meet the ambitious goal of increasing that number to 80 percent by 2020, we need to give nurses in all regions of the state better access to and support for advancing their education to BSN and graduate studies.

By the end of our first two years of funding (2012-2014), all Washington State public and private colleges and universities offering RN-to-BSN degrees had signed a Direct Transfer Agreement/Major Ready Pathway (DTA/MRP) agreement, which will streamline the statewide curricular pathway from the ADN to the BSN. Over the past year, APIN leaders collaborating with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges have offered in-person workshops, interactive videoconferences and individual consultation to associate degree nursing programs interested in offering this new degree. At least 21 community and technical colleges have indicated interest and have begun working with their individual institutions to create plans for developing the Associate in Nursing DTA/MRP. As of this summer, seven have been approved by the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission with plans to implement in the 2015-16 school year, and others are on target for 2016-2017.

In order to further expand access and capacity of RN-BSN programs, we are focusing on identifying promising practices for replicating quality programs through a survey of seven approved in-state programs and faculty. The findings of our study will be available in 2016, describing program structures, capacity, teaching innovations and academic resources that support student success. They will also speak to strategies for faculty development support needed to enable optimal teaching with this important diverse, non-traditional population of post-licensure nursing students.

In the first APIN-WA grant phase, we implemented and evaluated a small pilot Diversity Mentoring Program in Western Washington. Further developing and expanding this program and other supportive resources is key in the recruitment, retention and graduation of current and future students from underrepresented groups essential to diversify the workforce. We also hope to collaborate with existing efforts of minority nursing organizations statewide.

Of course, we aren’t working in isolation to meet our goals. To further support diversity and inclusion efforts in nursing education, we are partnering with the Council on Nursing Education in Washington State (CNEWS), the organization of deans and directors of nursing programs, to provide resources for faculty, including workshops with nationally renowned experts in this field. We are also reaching out to health organizations and minority nursing organizations statewide to identify common goals and opportunities for collaboration.

Working hand-in-hand with employers to respond to regional needs and find strategies and policies that promote academic progression in nursing is integral. We strengthened the practice component within the APIN project leadership by establishing a statewide Practice Partner Group, which includes a strong rural voice. Two of our employer leaders, Linda Latta, PhD, RN, NEA-BC (Seattle Children’s Hospital) and Jeanie Eyler, MN, RN (Pullman General Hospital), joined the core APIN leadership team and co-chair the Partner Group. Key projects championed by this group include strategies to communicate the value of advancing nursing education in patient safety, improve patient outcomes and sharing best practices for employer support of academic progression for their staff. This is particularly important in more remote communities, and we are creating focused resources addressing unique challenges for rural and critical access hospitals.

As with other states striving to develop a nursing workforce that is responsive to community needs, much work remains to increase the diversity of the nursing workforce and contribute to efforts to eliminate health disparities.

Despite this challenge, we are pleased that ongoing feedback from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation APIN program staff and external evaluators indicates that our state is meeting and exceeding expectations when it comes to academic progression in nursing. Our DTA/MRP agreement is a model that is being shared nationally as a best practice to promote academic progression. As we continue our work, the stories of nurses who have advanced their education in Washington State will provide powerful examples that will influence others to continue or return to school in service of better patient care.

Suzanne Sikma, PhD, RN is the Project Manager for APIN-WA.


​What is Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN)?

APIN funds nine states doing innovative work to advance seamless academic progress to baccalaureate degrees and beyond. These nine states, including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington state, are leading the country by implementing new education pathways to meet the demand for baccalaureate prepared nurses, as recommended by an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health (http://wsna.to/AONEAPIN).

— AONE (Association of Nurse Executives)