Confident young female medical student walks in the hallway on her way to class.

2015 RN Survey Highlights Nurses Continuing Education

Delivering health care has become more complex and nurses are recognizing the need for additional education to better care for their patients. Among other findings, the new AMN Healthcare 2015 Survey of Registered Nurses: Viewpoints on Retirement, Education and Emerging Roles indicated nurses have a strong interest in furthering their education to expand career opportunities and are exploring new fields in nursing.

Higher Levels of Education

The Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report indicated a need for nurses to obtain additional education and set a goal of 80 percent of nurses holding a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2020. Forty-nine percent of the nurses responding to the AMN survey held a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The survey found strong interest among nurses to obtain more education. More than three-quarters of younger nurses, 77 percent of those younger than age 40, indicated they plan to pursue a higher degree during the next three years: 32 percent a bachelor’s degree, 37 percent a master’s degree, and 8 percent a doctoral degree. Among these younger nurses, 36 percent are currently enrolled in a program or are considering pursuing a degree to become a nurse practitioner or pursue another advanced practice role.

Of all the 8,828 nurses responding to the AMN survey in the spring of this year, 49 percent said within the next three years they plan to pursue a higher degree: 22 percent a bachelor’s degree, 21 percent a master’s degree, and 6 percent a doctoral degree. And 19 percent of the entire cohort indicated they are currently enrolled or considering pursuing an advanced-practice degree.

Nurses in certain specialties indicated a greater interest in pursuing a higher level of education than other specialties. For instance, 59 percent of nurses working in telemetry/PCU and 58 percent of medical–surgical nurses indicated planning to return to school within the next three years. At the low end, 38 percent of nurses working in the operating room or PACU indicated an interest in pursuing a higher level of education in that period.

The survey found 72 percent of nurses know about new and emerging roles for nurses, and 62 percent reported an interest in entering a training program for the new roles if one was available. Younger nurses expressed the greatest interest in such opportunities at 69 percent.

A greater percentage of nurses working in management, 83 percent, and oncology, 82 percent, were aware of the emerging roles. NICU/neonatal nurses reported the lowest percentage of awareness of the opportunities at 59 percent.

An increasing number of schools and colleges of nursing are offering online courses for RN-to-BSN and advanced degrees, making it easier for travel nurses to continue their education. Salary surveys have shown nurses with additional education, typically, earn more.


The IOM report also recommended professional certification. Twenty-seven percent of respondents to the AMN RN survey reported holding certification, and 41 percent indicated an interest in pursuing certification during the next one to three years.

Among younger nurses, 18 percent held certification and 62 percent were considering certification. Oncology nurses had the largest percentage of nurses currently certified, 55 percent, and telemetry/PCU and home health/hospice nurses had the lowest percentage, both at 16 percent.

Certification renewal typically requires continuing education courses, such as those offered at


Download the complete survey on AMN Healthcare’s website.

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