Dean Stephen Cavanagh celebrates the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing Class of 2022 and recognizes the impact they will have on outcomes, inclusion and the future of UC Davis Health.

Nursing students class of 2022 celebrate after pining ceremonyThe Master’s Entry Program in Nursing Class of 2022 celebrates following their pinning ceremony Dec. 8.

Registered nurses are the frontline of patient care and the backbone of our health care system. They deliver person-centered care and assist family caregivers in the transition from clinical settings to home. They offer the best hope for more equitable health care by bringing more diversity to the workforce.

I was reminded of these qualities and why nursing is the most trusted profession — for the 20th straight year — last night at the pinning ceremony for our Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) Class of 2022. We celebrated 44 aspiring RNs as they completed their graduate education and prepare to sit for the NCLEX, the national licensing exam for RNs, to ultimately join the more than four million RNs working in the U.S.

They will bring with them the values, beliefs and skills of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. The school was founded to create agents of change in an ever-evolving health care system. The past two-plus years illustrate that constant change and paint a challenging future:

  • A predicted increase of up to 12% in inpatient hospitalizations in 2025 – due to those with long-COVID and those who delayed treatment during COVID.
  • An aging population with more chronic conditions that will greatly expand visits to ambulatory and outpatient settings.

For more than a decade, the fear of a nursing shortage has loomed. A 2021 report estimated that California will be short 45,500 RNs by 2030. A more recent study painted a brighter future. It acknowledges that yes, many older RNs have left or will leave the profession in the coming years, but also recognizes a shortage of RNs now exists but we hope this will diminish as RN education enrollments return to and surpass pre-pandemic levels.

The demand for critical-thinking, problem-solving RNs is evident now more than ever. The RN workforce is expected to grow by 6% over the next decade. The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse workforce – including nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives – is expected to grow much faster by 40%.

At the School of Nursing, we’re proud to contribute to the future of nursing and to becoming an indispensable partner at UC Davis Health. More than 70 of our master’s-prepared graduates now work in our health system. That higher-level of education has been clearly linked to better patient outcomes. In addition, our advanced practice nurse practitioners (and physician assistants) expand patient access and equip future students with the skills they need to go beyond traditional practice.

At last night’s ceremony, our MEPN graduates pledged the following:

  • To practice with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and unique attributes of every person.
  • To promote, advocate for and protect the rights, health and safety of all patients.
  • To protect my own health and safety, preserve the wholeness of my character and integrity, maintain professional competence and continue my personal and professional growth.
  • To maintain the integrity and values of the profession and integrate the principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.

I know that they hold to those truths and much more. I know they will help improve patient outcomes and help change lives. “You Make a Difference” was the theme of this year’s National Nurses Week. Its goal was to encourage nurses, individuals, employers, other health care professionals and community leaders to recognize the vast contributions and positive impact of America’s nurses. I know our graduates will make a difference for years to come.

Please join me in congratulating the MEPN Class of 2022 and, most likely, to welcoming many of them into our UC Davis Health community of health care professionals.