The importance of education in any field cannot be denied. Education has truly been essential in imparting knowledge, gaining competencies and developing skills. Nursing, in particular calls for practitioners that are well equipped to handle the rising health demands of the population. A BSN degree confers critical skills and in-depth understanding that allows nurses to meet healthcare demands. Many organizations, both public and private, are calling for better-educated nurses due to associated benefits in terms of:
- Patient outcomes – in a study by Aiken et al. (2008), findings showed a strong correlation between patient outcomes and the education level of nurses. Aiken’s study found out that every 10% in the number of BSN-level nurses was associated with a 4% decrease in mortality risks. A similar study by Tourangeau (2007) reiterated the same findings that nurses with a BSN degree have a positive impact on the mortality rates of pate
- Skills of nurses – gaining a baccalaureate degree in Nursing is associated with stronger competencies and professional level skills. In fact, Phillips et al. (2002) conducted a study observing individuals with associate nursing degrees and working towards a BSN degree for a period of 3 years. In their observation, after completing the BSN degree, graduates demonstrated better communication and leadership skills as well as demonstrated stronger competencies.
Different organizations, such as Magnet hospitals, state legislations and nursing organization are now supporting the need for BSN degree education. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends 80% of the nursing workforce to be educated at a baccalaureate level by the year 2020 (IOM, 2010). Furthermore, nurses who wish to advance their career to become managers or specialists are now required to be BSN-degree holders at the minimum.
Despite the crashing economies globally, nursing has stood its ground as the demand for nurses has not abated. Despite the number of job cuts, nursing continues to grow and flourish, with no sign of the nursing shortage ending soon. Due to the high demand for nurses, many certification levels are present in this field. However, studies show that a baccalaureate degree in Nursing is essential and affords several benefits. A BSN degree is associated with greater competencies, positive clinical outcomes and provides broader career options for nurses. Some states have already initiated an innovative approach to encourage nurses to pursue a BSN degree. Implementation of these strategies will require cooperation and collaboration between legislative bodies, nursing schools and organizations and employers alike.
The past few decades saw the increasing demand for nurses worldwide. Despite the struggling economy of many nations, nursing continued to flourish as a career. In fact, the growth of nursing is projected to grow at a rate of 23% between the years of 2006 and 2016, which is much faster compared to the average growth rate of other occupations. The field of nursing has grown by leaps and bounds so much that 581,500 new jobs will result from the need to replace nurses who are leaving the field (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Additionally, the majority of the population is continuing to age, thus leaving gaps within the field of nursing. The population has been increasing at a fast pace, that it has even surpassed the population of the nursing workforce. By year 2000, about 36% of nurses were 60 years of age while 23% were between 50 and 59 years. When combined, this 59% will soon be retiring, and the nursing industry is still lacking in workforce to replace these people.
Despite the numbers needed in the field of nursing, the number of applicants in nursing programs have decreased. The reason for this decrease is said to be the result of the widespread perception that entering nursing education is difficult. Furthermore, there is also a growing shortage of nursing educators/faculty. In fact, 20% of applicants were denied entry into baccalaureate degree programs while 32.7% were turned away by associate nursing degree programs (American Nurses Association, 2010).
There are a variety of reasons why nurses should earn a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Nursing is a diverse and varied field, offering a multitude of job opportunities throughout the field of healthcare. There are also different levels that nurses can achieve ranging from a certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, a nurse with a bachelor’s degree and a nurse with master level studies. Individuals pursuing a nursing career should strive to attain a bachelor’s degree at a minimum for many reasons, which will be discussed below:
Nurses who are working towards a bachelor’s degree often take courses that aid then in understanding the field of nursing in an in-depth manner, such as understanding the legal implications within the field and the business side of the profession. In fact, the position of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there is a need for nurses that can function more independently. This is due to the shift in healthcare from hospital-centered care to a preventive care within the community. Nurses need to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge base in order to enhance clinical decision making skills, managing caseloads, managing and directing support personnel, ensure quality care, and appropriate education patients (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2000).
Skills of nurses with associate degrees cannot be discounted, and in fact, are necessary in the care of a patient. However, a baccalaureate degree nurse has more developed skills in the realm of leadership, critical thinking and decision making and professionalism, which are critical in achieving patient satisfaction and meeting outcomes (Massachusetts Association of College of Nursing, 2005)
Many private and public entities support the need for a baccalaureate degree in nursing. The program BSN-in-10 is one such program proposed in the states of New York and New Jersey, requiring registered nurses to obtain the bachelor’s degree within 10 years of graduation from a nursing program. Similarly, nurses who wish to obtain a position with the US Army, US Navy or US Air Force, need a baccalaureate degree to enter and practice within these organizations.
Nurses with a baccalaureate degree often have a broader range of options and possibilities within the field of nursing. Nurses who have obtained a bachelor’s degree are often highly desired in many institutions, particularly hospitals who have acquired a Magnet status, known for the quality of their services. Nurses with a bachelor’s degree also have more opportunities for career advancement or advancement to a specialist role within the healthcare industry.
Nurses with a baccalaureate degree often have a significant advantage over nurses with less training, particularly in terms of performance and achieving outcomes and solutions. According to (Tourangeau et al., 2007), nurses with BSN degrees have fewer errors in medication, lower mortality rates and more patients reporting being satisfied.
The fluctuating economy has led to many individuals struggling to cope and make hard decisions regarding the rising costs of education. Contrary to other professions and industries that have suffered lay-offs and job cuts, the nursing profession continued to be consistent in its demand for more nurses. In fact, in 2009, 681000 jobs were abolished all over the country. In the same year, 27000 new jobs were added for nurses from various organizations within the healthcare field such as hospitals, ambulatory centers and long term care facilities (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2010). By the year 2010, the unemployment rate nationally was at 10%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate within the nursing field was only at 5.6% in the same year. Thus, nurses have the security of their jobs and have the potential to increase their salaries. Some organizations even reimburse nurses for the cost of their education or sponsor nurses to pursue advanced training and courses.
Gaining an advanced degree
Nurses who want to obtain a master’s degree in nursing or any other advanced qualification such as becoming a nurse practitioner need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in the first place, as it is a prerequisite. Certain work settings require these advanced degrees such as those in the academe and those who are in managerial positions.
Strategies for Implementation of a BSN Degree
Nurses are truly high in demand, regardless of the certification level. However, the benefits of a BSN degree cannot be denied. Today, legislative forces are coming into focus to ensure that the benefits of a BSN degree are brought at the forefront. The states of New York, New Jersey and North Dakota have provided innovative approaches to pursue baccalaureate education. It is not the goals of these states to discredit associate nursing programs, rather it aims to focus on the higher preparations demanded by a baccalaureate degree. Accordingly, several strategies need to be implemented in order to successfully implement the bachelor’s degree within 10 years from graduating. The American Nurses Association (2009) puts forth three strategies, namely:
- Supporting legislative proposals that encourage obtaining a bachelor’s degree within 10 years from obtaining a license as a registered nurse,
Nursing organizations remain critical to enhancing the knowledge and awareness of the public sector towards nursing. Individuals wishing to pursue a bachelor’s degree can be provided with educational scholarships. Organizations can contribute by ensuring a stream-lined process during the stage of transition, through the provision of study aids and helpful tips.
- Encouraging collaboration and cooperation between nursing schools
Cooperation between nursing schools must be present in order to successfully implement this change. The ability to transfer or distribute course credits is essential to achieving the goal of obtaining a baccalaureate degree. Simplified structure is also a must such as the provision of accommodation for those who may be required to relocate.
- Advocating for adequate financial support for advanced education.
Individuals may have financial difficulties that hinder their ability to obtain a baccalaureate degree. The provision of financial assistance must be available in both state and federal level, through loans or scholarships. Hospitals can also provide the financial support required by nurses to obtain a baccalaureate degree, particularly in this day and age when hospitals are seeking to achieve magnet status. Tuition can be exchanged for commitment to work at the said institution, thus increasing retention. Additionally, incentives may be also given such as bonuses or supplemental hourly pay, based on the education level.
Aiken, L.H., Clarke, S.P., Sloane, D.M., Lake, E.T. & Cheney, T. (2008, May). Effects of hospital care environment on patient mortality and nurse outcomes. Journal of Nursing Administration, 38(5), 223-229.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2000). ACN Position Statement: The Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing as Minimal Preparation for Professional Practice. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/publications/position/bacc-degree-prep
American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2010). Talking Points: Impact of the Economy on the Nursing Shortage. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/pdf/TalkingPoints.pdf
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2010). AACN applauds the new Carnegie foundation report calling for a more highly educated nursing workforce. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/NewsReleases/2010/carnegie.html
American Nurses Association. (2009). Gallup poll votes nurses most trusted profession. Silver Spring, MD.
American Nurses Association (2010). Nursing Education. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/mainmenucategories/ANAPoliticalPower/State/StateLegislativeAgenda
Massachusetts Association of College of Nursing. (2005). The voice for baccalaureate and higher education in nursing throughout the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved from http://www.massnursing.org/MACN_July05.pdf
Phillips, C.Y. et al. (2002). Professional development: Assuring growth of RN-to-BSN students. Journal of Nursing Education, 41(6), 282-283.
Tourangeau, A. et al. (2007). Impact of Hospital Nursing Care on 30-day Mortality for Acute Medical Patients. Journal of Advanced Nursing.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Registered Nurses