Q&A with Dr. Joan Warren, Board of Directors, National Nursing Staff Development Organization (NNSDO) speaks with Dr. Joan Warren, a member of the Board of Directors for the NNSDO and the Director of Research for Franklin Square Hospital Center. Her areas of expertise are in professional staff development and evidence-based nursing practice and research. Below Dr. Warren discusses the NNSDO and the importance of education in the nursing field.

Q: What is the purpose of the National Nursing Staff Development Organization?

According to the NNSDO website: "Our purpose is to foster the art and science of nursing staff development, promote the image and professional status of nursing staff development, encourage and support nursing research and the application of research findings in practice, and provide a platform for nurses engaged in staff development practice to discuss issues and make decisions related to the continuing evolution of the field."

Our members are professional development specialists throughout the nation.

Q: What kind of work environment should new/aspiring nurses look for when applying for their first nursing jobs?

I think they're really going to want to think about the recommendations set forth in the IOM Future of Nursing report. One of the eight major recommendations of the report is to implement nurse residency programs. As a new nurse starting out, [you will face] an education-practice gap. These residency programs help close this gap. They provide some of those quintessential pieces that a nurse may have learned in school, such as evidence-based practice and leadership and communication skills, but the residency program can take it to the next level. A new graduate should get involved and engaged and look for a hospital that provides support for his/her new role. I would [also] suggest that associate degree nurses coming out of school go back for their BSN immediately. When looking for a job, look for tuition reimbursement.

Q: How is evidence-based practice impacting nursing staff policies and patient care?

All that we do must be based on evidence. The three things that will drive health care in the future are quality, patient safety and service. The only way we are going to achieve quality and patient safety is by examining nursing's internal practices and learning what the best practices are. What is the evidence showing us, and how can we ensure that we have really good, positive patient outcomes?

Q: How is technology impacting nursing practice and development?

As of 2015, healthcare organizations will need to implement electronic medical records [fully], so that we can provide continuity of care across the nation. The explosion of EMRs and other forms of technology is altering care delivery. Nursing has to drive technology, though; technology cannot drive nursing. As nurses, our job is to deliver care. Technology is here to support us in our role as care providers. But, nursing must be at the forefront, defining how information will be captured to ensure that it is meaningful. They must also be actively engaged in technology selection and application in healthcare settings.

Q: Why is advanced or continuing nursing education so important for nurses right now?

The NNSDO supports nurses advancing and aspiring to attain their BSN or a higher degree. As a profession, we haven't done well at encouraging nurses to go back to school for advanced nursing degrees. Data from the most recent Nursing Survey (HRSA, 210) found that only 12 percent of ADNs obtained a BSN post licensure. You can't [learn everything you need to learn] in a two-year program. Many of the two-year programs are evolving into three-year programs due to prerequisites.

In addition, nursing research has found significant correlations between nursing education and morbidity and mortality of patients. The complexity of the healthcare system today is greater than it was even a few years ago. Our patients and the healthcare environment have dramatically changed and will continue to evolve with healthcare reform. Nurses need to keep pace by continuing their education either formally by obtaining advanced nursing degrees or informally through certification and continuing education. Nurses, today, need to be able to understand and apply evidence-based practice and need to become technologically savvy, acquiring new skill-sets to care for patients and families.

Q: How can nursing staff best practices help nurses avoid feeling burned out?

Be engaged. When you look at an organization, make sure it's striving for excellence. Magnet designation is a measure of excellence in nursing. As a nurse you have to have a voice - participate in committees. On a personal note, I've loved the ability to work in a variety of settings and roles throughout my career. There are so many pathways a new nurse can take.

Q: What do you see for the future of the nursing field?

I see a highly educated workforce with nurses taking a positive lead in health care at the national level. I see nurses having a seat at the table and setting new standards and care patterns in terms of evidence-based practice and research.