Is a BSN Required for Current RNs?

Registered nurses have a critical responsibility in the care of their patients. Of the entire care team — doctors, therapists, pharmacologists and nurses — RNs spend the most time with patients. They are patient advocates, as well as counselors. Nurses provide invaluable emotional support during difficult times.

Yet, RNs are the only care team members who have not typically been required to hold a bachelor's degree for entry-level nursing roles. Some positions, though, do require RNs to have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree — school nurses, military nurses and nurses who work at Magnet hospitals, for example.

With the passing of New York's "BSN in 10" law, the state is paving the way for a future of nursing equipped to meet the rapidly evolving healthcare atmosphere.

What Does New York's Law Mean for Other States?

The New York law represents a shift in how employers view standards of care. While it's not a requirement yet for RNs to hold a BSN degree in states outside New York, employers are moving toward hiring only BSN-prepared nurses.

"Many healthcare facilities have begun requiring RNs to have a BSN for entry-level nursing positions. These facilities believe that associate degree nurses (ADN) are well trained to manage day-to-day tasks, but healthcare today requires more than what is taught in ADN programs," says Abby Schneider, MSN, RN, in her article discussing the driving forces behind the "80% BSN by 2020" initiative. It's now known that goal was not met, but the intent is still prevalent.

Employers are now strongly preferring BSN-prepared nurses in the positions of hospital nurses (specifically in the areas of pediatrics, surgery, ICU and obstetrics/gynecology), leadership nurses, clinical research nurses, public health nurses, nurse educators, nursing directors and case management nurses. For hospitals to receive Magnet status, they must hire RNs with BSN degrees.

Magnet Hospitals: A Desirable Home for RNs

The Magnet Recognition Program was initially formed in 1990 as the "Magnet Hospital Recognition Program for Excellence in Nursing Services," based on criteria identified in a 1983 study conducted by the American Academy of Nursing's Task Force on Nursing Practice in Hospitals. The program is described as a "roadmap for nursing excellence" and has resulted in decreased mortality rates, shorter hospital stays and an overall improved patient experience.

Additional outcomes for Magnet hospitals include less burnout, higher job satisfaction and diminished turnover compared to the industry average.

Given the desirable work environment of Magnet facilities, it's understandable why RNs would be drawn to finding employment with them. Gaining Magnet status is not a simple process, however. It takes time and dedication, which limits opportunities for hire. One requirement that gives BSN-prepared nurses an advantage is that "100 percent of nurse managers must have a BSN or MSN to continue in the nurse manager position if the hospital has or is seeking Magnet status," according to ANCC.

Danielle Cerbo, a graduate of the online RN to BS in Nursing program at the University of Rhode Island (URI), encountered this requirement firsthand when hired by Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey.

"My hospital is a Magnet hospital, so I signed a contract when I was hired saying I would get my bachelor's degree within five years," she said. "I had planned to get a bachelor's degree all along. I chose to go back to URI because I had already earned a lot of credits. The program accepted a lot of them so I was able to get it done quicker. I believe the RN to BS program prepared me well."

Since graduating, Cerbo has worked as an RN on sister units of neurology and pulmonary med-surg at Morristown Medical Center.

Where the Field of Nursing Is Headed

Regardless of whether you're striving to land a coveted spot at a Magnet hospital, or you're simply looking to advance your career and increase your hiring potential, pursuing a BSN is becoming less of a nice-to-have and more of a demand. Cerbo encourages fellow nurses considering an online RN to BSN program to ease into it.

"I would say start slow, work your way into it and get used to being a new nurse or wherever you are in your life. Don't assume it's going to be easy because it wasn't. I absolutely got good value out of the program. It worked out really well for me."

Learn more about the University of Rhode Island online RN to BS in Nursing program.

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