As the delivery of care becomes more complex, the educational expectations for nurses evolve, too. Although an associate degree or diploma program may be sufficient to gain entry to the field, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is increasingly necessary to pursue in-demand nursing jobs.
An online RN to BSN degree program allows working nurses to advance their education while balancing other professional and personal responsibilities. Plus, BSN-prepared nurses benefit from additional career opportunities that propel them past entry-level positions and into leadership, specialized roles and non-bedside care.
Why Is Now the Time for a BSN?
Since 2010, there has been a nationwide initiative to expand the number of BSN-prepared nurses. In a report published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), now called the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), a committee evaluated emerging healthcare trends and their anticipated impact on professional nursing. The report strongly encouraged a BSN as the minimum education level for nurses due to the following factors in the healthcare industry: an older, more diverse patient population, increased healthcare technology usage and involvement in policy and leadership decisions. The report established a goal to have 80% of the nursing workforce obtain a BSN by 2020.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) adds that employers have changed hiring practices. This move follows "a significant body of research [showing] that nurses with baccalaureate level preparation are linked to better patient outcomes, including lower mortality and failure-to-rescue rates." More than 40% of hospitals and other healthcare organizations now require new hires to have a BSN, says the AACN, and four out of five employers strongly prefer to hire graduates with the degree.
Pursuing education beyond a diploma or associate degree has been challenging for many nurses. However, the flexible format used by online RN to BSN programs means nurses can remain gainfully employed and earn their bachelor's degree at the same time. As a result, they can enhance the quality of care they provide and subsequently take advantage of better career opportunities and salaries.
What Job Options Await BSN-Prepared Nurses?
A BSN is often the minimum level of education for nursing careers that involve overseeing a team, high-level decision-making and care coordination. It is also routinely a springboard to further education, such as a Master of Science in Healthcare Management degree, as well as advanced practice roles and specialty certifications.
Some of the career pathways open to BSN-prepared nurses are:
- Nurse managers: They work in hospitals, long-term care centers and physician practices. They often enjoy a set schedule and reduced clinical duties along with greater autonomy. Their primary responsibilities include supervising other nurses, hiring staff and maintaining the latest nursing standards through continuous education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for health services managers will grow 32% by 2030 — much faster than average — with annual compensation generally exceeding $100K.
- Travel nurses: These professionals go to areas experiencing high patient volume or staff shortages. These nurses work with a staffing agency and have the option to choose "when and where" they work, says TravelNursing.org, with contracts lasting weeks or months. Demand for travel nurses is at an all-time high and will likely continue. Between the pandemic, Baby Boomer retirements and an older, chronically ill population consuming more healthcare services, lucrative travel contracts are available to qualified nurses.
- Case management nurses: These professionals work for insurance companies, public health organizations, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. They "coordinate available resources and deliver quality, affordable healthcare," says the website NurseJournal, and serve as a liaison between patients and their families, physicians and insurers. Demand and salaries for RN case managers will likely rise because of the immense aftercare coordination necessary for COVID patients, along with continued efforts to minimize healthcare spending.
If you're ready to refresh your career and transition to non-bedside care or more specialized positions, an online RN to BSN program offers a path forward. As nursing responsibilities evolve, so must nursing education. With a short-term commitment and a flexible program that works around your schedule, you can extend your nursing practice and reach your full career potential.
Learn more about the University of Rhode Island's online BS in Nursing program.
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