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3 Obstacles to Higher Education Levels in Nursing

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 23, 2011

Evidence shows that patient outcomes improve when nurses have baccalaureate degrees. The Future of Nursing, the influential IOM and Robert Wood Johnson study, has called for 80% of RNs to have a baccalaureate degree by 2020.

Patients are sicker and healthcare is more complex than ever and we need a highly educated nursing workforce to cope. At the grassroots level, however, there is little impetus to change.

Only 56.4% of nurse leaders believe that entry into practice should be at the baccalaureate level, according to a recent survey by Nursing Management. The national survey questioned more than 2,800 nursing leaders across the U.S. and Canada.

Another survey last week on www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.comasked the same question and only 43% responded that four-year degrees should be required for entry into practice. This survey also asked whether nurses should be required to obtain a BSN within a few years of entry into practice. Forty-one percent said yes and only 15% said associate degrees were sufficient.

Why aren't nurse leaders keen to have staff prepared at a higher educational level that will result in better patient outcomes?

1. Supply and demand.

The nursing shortage is real. In a few years we'll be struggling to find enough nurses to fill vacancies. Nurse leaders worry that if BSN becomes a requirement for entry into practice it will be impossible to find enough nurses.

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23 comments on "3 Obstacles to Higher Education Levels in Nursing"


Beth Freed, CCRN, MSN, FNP-BC (12/30/2012 at 7:09 PM)
In an ideal world, every nurse would strive to gain the highest education possible. Money, time, responsibilities, lack of support, raising families, caring for elderly/sick parents, etc can be blamed for not achieving these goals. It is easy on the outside looking in to downplay 'the whys', and unrealistic to think the only good nurses are BSN trained. I have former coworkers (ICCU) that range from having Associate to BSN education of whom I would trust my life because of their experience, critical thinking skills, caring, and compassion. In that setting, if you are not passionate about what you do, you do not survive. The focus needs to be on CONTINUED education in order to train already talented nurses to remain on top of their profession.

Christy (10/12/2011 at 3:30 PM)
I am currently working on my ASN in California. My sister-in-law has a BSN (also in California). She works with nurses who have graduated from the school I am attending and as far as she can tell, the major difference in education is management type classed required for a BSN. The program here is so impacted that most nursing students (myself included) must take additional classes while waiting to gain admittance to the nursing classes. I am currently taking psychopathology. A class not required, but relevant to my chosen profession. Next semester I will be taking organic chem and nutrition. Again, classes not required, but may aid me later in my studies. I can accept that "better out comes" happen with a BSN. Now find out why and incorporate that into an ASN program. Also, figure out a way to get more nursing students through school. I don't want to do the classes faster, I just don't want to have to wait 2 years to start. There is no perfect solution. If as a country we are worried about a nursing shortage, then we need to do what we can to get more qualified people the education they desire to become nurses.

KATHY MARSHALL (10/6/2011 at 9:23 AM)
Yes, nurses need to be educated at least to a BSN level. But I am not. Why? First, let me say I have over 20 yrs. experience and I have many "certifications" as well as "extra" college credits that don't apply to a BSN program. I have checked into numerous RN to BSN programs and have found the minimum # of credit hours I need to fufill the requirements for a BSN is 42. I work full time so part-time attendance is my only option. If I took 2 classes a semester (6 credits) it would take me 7 semesters (2 1/2 yrs with summer classes) and cost me about $17,000. During those 2 1/2 yrs there would be no time for vacations, etc. I am 54 years old. Although I'd love to get my BSN and work on a Master's, the requirements don't make sense to me, considering my past education and experience.