Nursing is one of the only health professions with multiple pathways for entry-level practice. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program includes all the same content taught at the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) level and diploma program. However, it dives deeper into assessment, research and evidence-based practice, community health and nursing leadership.
As a result, an RN to BSN degree program prepares students for a broader scope of nursing practice with a better understanding of the cultural, ethnic, economic and social issues that affect patients and healthcare delivery.
The Future of Nursing
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) believes the minimum preparation requirement for registered nurses (RNs) should be a BSN. The National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine or IOM) issued the Future of Nursing report in 2010 and proposed the 80% BSN by 2020 initiative: a move to increase the percentage of U.S. working nurses with a BSN to 80% in 10 years, by the end of 2020.
Driving factors behind this initiative included:
- The increasing complexity of healthcare
- A growing amount of research for better patient outcomes with BSN-prepared nurses
- The rising need for communication and leadership skills.
In support, New York passed BSN in 10, a law requiring RNs to obtain a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure. While 2020 may not be the year that 80% of working nurses in the United States hold a BSN, the percentage continues to rise with many organizations working to define the future of nursing, even into 2030.
Organizations may need a certain percentage of BSN-prepared nurses for certification or credentialing. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program is a nod to an organization's nursing excellence and considered the "gold medal" in nursing. Magnet hospitals aim to align with the 80% guidelines. Awarded to less than 10% of hospitals, this coveted recognition not only helps attract and retain nurses, but it also signals the hospital's commitment to care quality, patient safety and patient satisfaction. As such, Magnet recognition often serves as a marketing tool for recruiting nurses and attracting patients.
Better Patient Outcomes
Organizations that employ nurses with higher levels of education have better patient outcomes, studies show. BSNs tend to be more prepared in most nursing areas related to safety, data analysis and project implementation compared to those with associate degrees.
An increasing number of employers prefer or require nurses to hold a BSN in order to apply for open positions. For example, many pediatric centers like Children's Health may require a BSN for initial employment. Several military branches (U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force) all require a baccalaureate degree to practice as an active duty RN, and the Veterans Administration (VA) requires it for promotion.
Employers often prefer certified nurses. A survey by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board found that "90% of nurse managers prefer hiring certified nurses over non-certified nurses if all other factors are equal."
Some certifications require a bachelor's degree for testing. For example, certifications in oncology as a generalist oncology nurse (OCN), or specific specialty certifications in areas such as breast cancer (CBCN) or blood or marrow transplant (BMTCN), all require a BSN.
The prevalence of nurses with specialty certifications also appears to impact a facility's patient outcomes. One recent study found the correlation between higher numbers of specialized nurses and lower rates of total patient falls, pressure injuries, selected hospital-acquired infections, failure to rescue and death.
More Career Paths
A BSN provides nurses with opportunities for career advancements such as leadership roles or non-hospital jobs. Non-traditional roles, such as clinical nursing educators, nurse informaticists, case managers or quality assurance or risk managers, typically require a minimum of a BSN degree. Additionally, most specialties (like in areas such as pediatrics, oncology or mental health) will either highly prefer or require a BSN. Of course, a bachelor's in nursing is also your first step toward a master's degree.
Higher Earning Potential
On average, nurses with a BSN can earn about $5,000 more per year than nurses with just an associate degree. Employers are also more likely to promote BSNs to leadership roles with higher salaries like charge nurse or manager. In addition, many higher-paying positions, such as legal nurse consultant or pharmaceutical nurse, require a minimum of a BSN.
Although a BSN is not currently required to practice nursing, it is the future of nursing in healthcare. It prepares you for expanding roles and new directions. For example, virtual nurses can provide concierge-like services, working remotely to serve as the patient/caregiver point of contact for all interactions, including clinical, reimbursement, education, care coordination and adherence.
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing makes you more competitive in the marketplace. Not only is a BSN good for your career, but it is good for patients and employers alike.
Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.