Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that only slightly more than half of all Registered Nurses (RNs) have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Yet, major professional organizations, including the National Academy of Medicine, are pushing for that number to reach 80% within the next four years.
Why Organizations Want RNs with a BSN
While 80% of RNs with a BSN is an ambitious goal, many organizations want to make it a reality. Why? They hope to increase the standard of care for their patients, and a growing body of research demonstrates improved clinical outcomes for nurses with higher education. These outcomes range from lower mortality rates to more accurate diagnoses.
Some hospitals may be further driven by a desire for the coveted Magnet Hospital designation, which requires that hospitals have a plan to ensure 80% of their RNs hold a BSN by 2020. The awarding committee also evaluates the current education of the nursing staff and expects all nurse managers to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
How a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Could Help You
While associate’s and diploma nursing programs focus primarily on the basics of clinical care, BSN programs offer a broader curriculum useful in diverse settings and cases. BSN programs can teach you communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills as well as prepare you to deliver more advanced patient care.
Employers recognize and value that difference, with the numbers clearly showing the value of a BSN to RNs on the job hunt. In 2016, the AACN found that nearly 98% of surveyed organizations strongly preferred hiring nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing, while over 54% only hired RNs with a BSN. The US Army, Navy and Air Force, for example, require every active duty practicing RN to hold a BSN.
Having a bachelor's degree in nursing is also commonly a must-have for moving beyond basic clinical positions into administration, research, teaching, or other specialized nursing fields. This holds true in the Veteran's Administration (VA)—the single largest US employer for RNs—where nurses cannot be promoted out of entry-level positions without a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Earning a BSN can also lead to a jump in your salary. In 2017, Payscale.com reported that RNs with a BSN earned a median salary of $69,000, nearly $8,000 more than those without the degree. Beyond that, a bachelor’s degree in nursing can be a stepping stone to a master’s degree in nursing, which is required for advanced practice RNs.
Solutions for Working Nurses: RN to BSN Programs and Online Nursing Degrees
Without your RN status, earning a bachelor's degree in nursing would take, on average, four years. Luckily, RN to BSN programs can save RNs like you time and money. If you meet RN to BSN requirements, you could earn your BSN in under two years.
What's more, select schools allow you to earn nursing degrees online—giving you greater flexibility and control over your schedule. Your employer may even offer tuition reimbursement support for RN to BSN programs. Either way, investing in your education now could lead to more job and promotion opportunities and a higher salary in the future.
Author's Note: This article was originally published September 2016 and has been updated to reflect current research statistics and insights.