About one decade ago, in 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report called The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. In this, they highlighted the ever-evolving face of healthcare – technology, research, treatments, patient needs – and the increasing need for nurses to keep up. Specifically, they called for a transformation in nursing education.
By 2020, at least 80 percent of Registered Nurses (RNs) should hold a bachelor’s degree.
What triggered the “BSN by 2020” initiative?
The answer is quite simple: Change. Changing patient demographics. Changing socioeconomic factors. Changing standards in healthcare. Advancing medical equipment. Developing conditions. Treatment discoveries.
You see, the nation’s healthcare needs have shifted dramatically in the last 20 years. We now have an older population of Americans in need of medical care, while the baby boomer population continues to age. Meanwhile, chronic conditions have become more prevalent, with ailments like diabetes, arthritis hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness accounting for most patient cases today.
As a result, nurses must be well-equipped to treat chronic conditions and prevent them. The Institute of Medicine explains that modern nurses need to be able to master new technologies while coordinating care. They must also have strong competencies in:
- Health policy
- Critical decision-making
- System improvement
- Research and analysis
- Evidence-based practice
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Competency in specific subjects, like public health and geriatrics
The best path to obtaining these skills, and competencies, is through an educational program. Specifically, the IOM recommends the BSN (Bachelor’s in Nursing) pathway for both seasoned and aspiring Registered Nurses. As noted in The Future of Nursing report:
“Although a BSN education is not a panacea for all that is expected of nurses in the future, it does, relative to other educational pathways, introduce students to a wider range of competencies in such arenas as health policy and health care financing, community and public health, leadership, quality improvement, and systems thinking.”
Now that 2020 is here, you may be wondering, is a BSN the requirement?
Another simple answer: No. While a BSN is recommended by the IOM, and may be required by certain employers, it is not a universal requirement in the nursing field. Today, the standard prerequisite for RNs continues to be an associate degree in Nursing (ADN), followed by successful completion of the NCLEX-RN examination. And this, generally speaking, is the expectation.
The “BSN in 2020” recommendation did not call for entry-level nurses to obtain a BSN right away. As Robert Rosseter of the AACN explains, the focus was really on academic progression – “moving nurses on to higher levels of education” and “ensuring quality and seamless progression to the baccalaureate degree.” This can be done through bridge programs, like the RN-to-BSN, or through accelerated degree pathways like the ABSN.
BSN Degree Options
So, if you are just starting out in your nursing career, you may consider an associate or bachelor’s degree program. Traditional, direct-entry BSN programs take about four years to complete. Associate degree programs take about two years’ time. Both options will make you eligible to become a licensed RN.
If you are already licensed in the field, or have chosen the associate degree route, you always have the option to earn your BSN degree later on. This can be done through an RN-to-BSN program. These programs are designed to be flexible for working nurses, and can be completed part-time less than two years. Goodwin’s RN-to-BSN program, for example, is offered entirely online and in a part-time format.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing major, but are hoping to change career paths, you can also earn your Bachelor’s in Nursing through an ABSN program. This is an accelerated nursing program that offers intensive nursing coursework – both classroom and clinical – and enables you to earn a BSN in just 16 months.
Why is a BSN so valuable?
According to the Institute of Medicine, now the Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “A more educated nursing workforce would be better equipped to meet the demands of an evolving health care system, and this need could be met by increasing the percentage of nurses with a BSN.”
Of course, there are reasons you might consider pursuing a BSN degree – especially if you are already licensed as a Registered Nurse and looking to advance in the field. These include:
- More job prospects. According to a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 78% of healthcare employers prefer to hire nurses with a BSN degree. So, if you are applying for a job and up against other candidates, this level of education can help you stand out. You can also qualify for more careers where a BSN is the minimum requirement, such as nursing positions in the military.
- Higher salary potential. By investing more in your education, you can expect to reap a greater return. BSN graduates often qualify for advanced positions in the nursing field, including leadership roles, which come with a high earning potential. For example, the average annual wage for nurse and healthcare managers in 2018 was over $113,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Better quality of care. Research from the Journal of Nursing Administrationshows nurses with a BSN degree have better treatment outcomes than those without, including reduced inpatient stays, less complications, and higher survival rates. Nurses with a BSN degree also report less difficulty managing complex patient cases and incorporating critical thinking into their day-to-day.
- The ability to pursue a Master’s degree. Nursing is a career that involves lifelong learning, and earning a bachelor’s degree gives you the option to advance even further. In the IOM’s Future of Nursing report, they suggest that “an increase in the proportion of nurses with a BSN also would create a workforce poised to achieve higher levels of education at the master’s and doctoral levels,” which is often required for nurses to serve as primary care providers, nurse researchers, and nurse administrators— positions currently in great demand across the nursing profession.
So, did we do it?
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine called for an 80% BSN workforce by the year 2020.
At the time of this report, only about 50 percent of the nursing workforce had a BSN degree. While the numbers are still under review, progress has been made. By 2014, enrollment in four-year BSN programs had already increased by 17 percent. Enrollment in bridge programs (for already licensed RNs), such as the RN-to-BSN, increased by 69 percent during that timeframe.
If you are interested in advancing your career in nursing, a BSN degree could be the best next step for you. Contact Goodwin University to learn about our nursing programs – offered at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree level. Call 800-889-3282 today.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.