As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, so too does the work of nurses, and healthcare employers are taking notice. Over the last few decades, there has been a growing movement toward requiring registered nurses to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree — and while that day is not here yet, it is clear where the industry is heading.
This makes starting your nursing career with a BSN degree a smart move, both in the short and long term. Today, we will explore this growing movement, along with the benefits of getting a BSN, so that you can make an informed decision about your future career in nursing.
The Growing Movement to Require a BSN Degree to Work in Nursing
Today more than ever, a BSN degree is required to work as a nurse in top hospitals and alternative healthcare communities. In 2017, New York became the first state to mandate that future nurses with an associate degree or nursing diploma must earn a BSN within 10 years of licensure in order to keep practicing — and other states are considering similar legislation.
To understand why the U.S. healthcare industry increasingly favors BSN-educated nurses, though, we have to look back to 2010, when the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. This landmark report was the culmination of several years spent assessing the nursing field and evaluating a wealth of research into what could be done to improve patient health outcomes, reduce mistakes, and elevate the profession overall, among other initiatives. Of the many goals laid out by the IOM, the most newsworthy was that 80% of registered nurses (RNs) hold a BSN by the year 2020.
While unlikely this goal will be met by 2020 — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported an overall increase from 49% BSN-educated nurses in 2008 to 57% in 2017 — great strides have been made, and many of the IOM’s goals have been met. However, perhaps most importantly, the 80% by 2020 initiative has opened a dialogue about the need for bachelor-level training in this increasingly complex field.
Why Earn a BSN Degree?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the push toward a largely BSN-educated nursing workforce, we will discuss some of the top benefits of getting a BSN — for you and for healthcare overall.
Better Patient Care Outcomes
Over the past two decades, a number of studies have looked at the relationship between patient mortality rates following surgery or inpatient care and the proportion of BSN-educated nurses on staff. The findings are clear: More nurses with BSN degrees or higher translates to better, safer care. This is often attributed to the additional training BSN-educated registered nurses receive compared to associate degree-level RNs.
For example, students of Mercer University’s second-degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program learn much more than just essential nursing skills. Through a combination of online nursing theory coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical experiences at healthcare facilities across the Atlanta metropolitan area, Mercer ABSN students learn to care for patients holistically — mind, body, and soul — placing special emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving.
More and Better Career Opportunities
As a job seeker, compared to RNs whose highest level of education is an associate’s degree, BSN holders have access to more and better career opportunities. Of course, that is not to say a new BSN grad will land a nursing job over an experienced RN with an associate-level degree — after all, the experience is still valuable. However, once you get your foot in the door, you will find there are more opportunities available because as previously discussed, some hospitals will only hire nurses with a BSN, while others require a BSN or higher for nurse leadership positions or to sit on committees, and so on.
One need only look at Magnet® hospitals for proof of this. In order to achieve Magnet Recognition® from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, 75% of a hospital’s nurse managers must hold a BSN degree or higher. As more hospitals set their sights on much-coveted Magnet designation and more future nurses pursue BSN degrees, it is almost a given that healthcare providers will give hiring preference to nurses with a BSN.
In most fields, a higher degree level translates to higher earning potential, and that is generally the case with nursing, as well. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes no distinction between registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing versus an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), there is some data out there to support the claim that BSN-prepared nurses earn more. According to PayScale — a company that analyzes employment data to help companies and prospective employees determine pay rates — BSN-educated registered nurses earn an average salary of $63,064 a year while ADN-educated RNs earn an average salary of $59,716.
And while the disparity between these two salaries may not seem that significant, they note that the earning potential is much higher for RNs with BSN degrees. For example, PayScale reports that a nurse with a BSN can earn an average salary of $85,907 as a nurse manager, whereas a nurse supervisor with an ADN earns an average of about $66,745. Clearly, the more experience and further you climb the career ladder, the more apparent it will become that BSN-educated RNs enjoy much greater earning potential.
Spurred by the IOM’s 80% by 2020 initiative, many hospitals have already adjusted their hiring policies by requiring applicants to hold a BSN degree in order to start a new job. Others have mandated specific timeframes within which RNs must earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In light of these growing trends, it is not difficult to foresee a time when a BSN is a requirement for RNs across the board — making starting your nursing career with a BSN a smart way to get ahead of the curve.
Beginning your career with a BSN also positions you for a future return to school to earn a Master of Science in Nursing — a common requirement for nurse leadership positions — as well as post-master’s advanced practice nursing certification.
Earn Your BSN in as Few as 12 Months
If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and meet the program requirements, you can use it to earn your nursing degree in as few as 12 months through Mercer University’s second-degree Accelerated BSN program in Atlanta, Georgia. Give us a call today, or fill out the form to have an enrollment counselor reach out to you, to find out if Mercer ABSN could be your quickest path to a career in nursing.