doctor and male nurse speaking with older female patient

Rising to the Occasion

Ever-evolving to suit patient needs and changes in healthcare standards, the field of nursing is continuously growing. With over 3 million registered nurses in the United States, those in the nursing profession act as the face of healthcare for patients across the country. But the United States Institute of Medicine is now calling upon the nursing industry to increase education standards by upping the number of registered nurses with a BSN from 50 to 80 percent by the year 2020.

This call to action signals great change in the healthcare industry. Though a continuously moving and advancing field, nurses in particular are being called to the forefront of this change. Increases in technology and patient practices are expected within the next few years and those in the field must be ready. 

But why a BSN? Not only will those with bachelor's degree receive a higher annual income ($66,316 compared to an ADN holder at $60,890*) and more opportunities for academic advancement, but they will be in a position to take on leadership roles and actively influence the changes coming to healthcare as a whole. According to the Institute, BSN courses "provide an additional focus on leadership, translating research for nursing practice and population health; [BSN students] practice across all healthcare settings."

This cross-setting practice may be the key to healthcare advancement and initiatives as nurses will be more prepared to collaborate with their fellow healthcare workers. The Institute suggests that by the year 2020 "nurses must be prepared to meet diverse patients' needs; function as leaders; and advance science that benefits patients and the capacity of health professionals to deliver safe, quality patient care" more than they already do. With over 60 percent of working nurses placed in hospitals, the ability to converse across multiple fields in order to provide the best patient care possible is a necessity. 

Of course, experience will always serve as a great way to learn and grow within a job, but that job may no longer come to fruition without a more advanced degree. Though military branches and the VA only hire RNs with a BSN or higher, more hospitals and healthcare providers, specifically teaching and children’s hospitals, are hiring based on education level, accepting only those with a BSN degree.

And this higher standard for education has paid off. Nurse-Managed Health Centers continuously report that their patients make fewer trips to the hospital and pay up to 25 percent less on prescriptions. And as cross-setting and interprofessional education comes to the forefront, nurses are able to work more effectively and miscommunications across departments have been drastically cut or eliminated.

The Institute describes this call for higher education “imperative” as patient needs grow and quality healthcare demands rise and they have done a number of studies on the difference between ADN and BSN nurses, citing that “new BSN graduates reported significantly higher levels of preparation in evidence-based practice, research skills and assessment of gaps in areas such as teamwork, collaboration and practice.” This preparation serves not only patients, but nurses, as it allows them quicker advancement and more opportunities within their career. The Institute hopes to make the BSN a standard among all nurses to provide a more unified healthcare front when facing change and growth.

As the nursing profession rises to the call, it is important to keep in mind that not every BSN degree is the same. Though many hospitals will provide a stipend for employees to continue their education, cost can be a major factor in a nurse’s decision to return to school. Private, nonprofit schools such as Columbia College can seem intimidating, but the final price tag is generally comparable or lower than that of a large research school. A number of online and accelerated BSN programs are also emerging as the demand for education grows. Ultimately, attaining a BSN is worth the extra time and money as it results in overall better care for patients, better reputations for hospitals and more advanced career opportunities and increases in salary for the BSN holder.

*Average yearly salaries provided by the Institute of Medicine

Columbia College, Degrees, Salary

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