The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree has never been more vital to attain. A recent, influential initiative seeks to promote high-quality, patient-centered care that is built upon a nursing population with degrees beyond the associate level.
The Initiative on the Future of Nursing, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine, intends to dramatically increase the percentage of BSN-prepared of nurses by 2020.Because education benefits both nurses and patients, there is a growing desire in the healthcare field to encourage nurses to earn their BSN.
Online Programs Make the BSN Accessible & Flexible
A common misconception about obtaining a BSN degree is that it will require extremely busy nurses to take time off from work and in turn, stop receiving a paycheck. However, the expansion of state universities offering online degrees allows new accessibility. Online education delivers the same caliber of education as in a classroom, but allows students the flexibility to complete coursework at times most convenient to their schedules.
Many universities now offer “fast-track” online nursing degrees. The University of Texas at Arlington's RN to BSN program, for instance, may be completed in only 13 months. Additionally, through the Pathways Program, UT Arlington has formed an alliance with over a dozen community colleges allowing students in associate degree nursing programs to maximize course selection that transfers into UT Arlington's highly regarded RN to BSN program. Hospitals, recognizing the value of ongoing and increased education for their nursing staff, have also partnered with the College to allow easier access to the program.
Lowering the Cost with Scholarships and Tuition Reimbursements
Online degrees can often be significantly less expensive and financial aid can be applied to these degrees. In addition to possible tuition reimbursements from your employer, there are an abundance of grants and scholarships available, many specifically for minority populations.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) offers the Nursing Scholarship Program to fund the education of nurses in exchange for a two-year service at a healthcare facility with a critical shortage of nurses. Scholarships include payment of tuition, books and other fees, and a living stipend. Scholarships are awarded based on financial need, academic performance, an essay expressing your commitment to a career in nursing, and recommendation letters. The deadline to submit your application is June 1 for the academic year starting in September. Application forms can be acquired through the HRSA web site.
Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society for Nursing, maintains an active listing of general, scholarships as well as those for minorities and disadvantaged students.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also funds many new loan programs for nurses. For more information on grants and scholarships, visit www.collegescholarships.org.
Last but not least, hospitals and clinics are increasingly accommodating to those who want to improve their credentials. So, check with your employer to see if they offer tuition reimbursement.
New BSN Recommendations Influencing Hiring
As noted above, nursing organizations across the nation have called for a more educated nurse population, because continued research shows that the extra education results in higher competency in practice, communication and leadership. As the Future of Nursing initiative grows in popularity, many healthcare systems and hospitals are already showing hiring preferences to BSN-prepared nurses.
The federal government, state governments, insurance companies and healthcare professionals are in the ongoing process of reforming the structure of medical care with the goal of making high-quality care available and affordable across the broad population. As baby boomers across the U.S. age, our health care needs are changing and the need for nurses who understand chronically ill patients grows. Broadening nursing education, in addition to promoting greater self-confidence and personal reward for nurses, has been shown to result in increase levels of health benefits for patients.
Leveraging an engaged and informed workforce is the best way to improve medical care, and the means towards that education has never been more accessible.
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