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Why the push for RN to BSN?

While many professions have just one way to obtain the education needed to prepare for a license, nursing has three: the bachelor's degree, the associate degree and the hospital based diploma program. When the first Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree was offered in the early 1900s, it elevated the standard for educating nurses. However, during World War II the country experienced a sharp decrease in the number of registered nurses. To combat the shortfall, nursing schools developed the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a two-year program for training nurses. Students flocked to associate degree programs, and college enrollment increased through the early 1990s, at which time the Bachelor of Science in Nursing became popular again.

Difference in programs

Bachelor's degree programs include the clinical foundation taught in associate degree and diploma programs with additional courses in nursing research, public and community health, nursing management and humanities. These programs also delve into the social, economic and cultural issues that may affect patients and their healthcare delivery.

As healthcare evolves and becomes increasingly complex, the scope of practice for registered nurses becomes more multifaceted. In order to provide high-quality patient care, a nurse needs to be able to quickly adapt to changes in the workplace. In addition, they need to be able to effectively evaluate and communicate data.

According to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree offers nurses a more extensive and robust curriculum that provides a basis of knowledge so that they can tackle patients' increasingly complex healthcare needs.

Better patient outcomes

Over the past 20 years, research has increasingly shown that registered nurses with bachelor's degrees bring distinctive skills to the workplace that have a direct impact on the quality of patient care. These studies have shown that BSN nurses demonstrate enhanced judgment, communication and problem solving skills. In addition, they have been shown to demonstrate a higher proficiency in making nursing diagnoses and evaluating nursing interventions.

Studies have also reported that nurses with BSN degrees make fewer medication errors and have fewer procedural violations. This leads to patients developing fewer decubitus ulcers, post-operative deep venous thromboses and pulmonary emboli. Most importantly, research indicates that hospitals that have higher numbers of baccalaureate-degreed nurses have reduced mortality rates and reduced lengths of stay for patients.

The call for more education

Acknowledging this growing body of research, in 2010 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the report The Future of Nursing, which called to increase the number of baccalaureate-degree nurses in the workplace to 80 percent by 2020. That same year, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and the National League for Nursing (NLN) released a joint statement appealing to all registered nurses to increase their education levels in order to improve the quality of patient care and ensure safety and effectiveness.

Healthcare organizations recognize need for bachelor’s degree

These organizations, along with hospital networks, the military, the federal government, and private practice settings, recognize the importance of BSN-prepared nurses in all facets of the country's health system. The U.S. military requires all of its nurses to have baccalaureate degrees, while the Veteran's Administration will only promote a nurse beyond entry-level once a BSN is obtained. Hospitals wanting to earn the American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) coveted Magnet recognition must ensure all nurse managers and leaders have a bachelor's-level degree or higher. In addition, hospitals must have a formal plan to ensure that 80 percent of their nursing staffs will have a BSN by 2020. This designation is important to hospitals because it signals that a facility is committed to high-quality patient care and excellence in nursing care.

Online RN to BSN helps nurses transition

A 2013 report from The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) found that 55 percent of registered nurses have a bachelor's degree at minimum. According to the AACN, there are almost 700 RN to BSN programs that can broaden the education of registered nurses and prepare them for expanded practice roles. Many community colleges have agreements with four-year universities to ease the transition to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. For student convenience, many universities now offer online RN to BSN programs, allowing working nurses the flexibility of finishing coursework without having to put their careers on hold.

Nursing has come a long way over the last century. The increased complexity of patient care calls for a more educated and robust workforce. In order to provide higher quality, safer patient care, leading to better patient outcomes, experts agree that registered nurses need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.


Bender, J. (n.d.) Associate's Degrees in Nursing: The Road Ahead. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from

Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce. (2015, March 19). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from

Magnet Recognition Program® FAQs. (2014, January 17). Retrieved January 7, 2016, from

The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice. (2015, May 19). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from

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