Empire State becomes first in the nation to require that nurses obtain a bachelor's degree.
New York State starts the new year with a newly passed nursing law. Governor Andrew Cuomo last month signed into law a bill that requires new nurses to earn a bachelor's degree within 10 years of initial licensure.
The legislation takes effect immediately though the requirement that nurses obtain a baccalaureate degree or higher within 10 years of licensure begins in 30 months.
The new education requirement does not affect nurses already in practice.
There has been a push toward this legislation, commonly known as "BSN in 10," for years, but its passage makes New York the first state to pass this type of law.
BSN-preparation affects patient outcomes
Research, particularly that by Linda H. Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, has shown that having more nurses with bachelor's degrees improves patient outcomes. For example, her research has found that for each 10% increase in nurses with BSN degrees, there was a 5% decline in risk-adjusted patient mortality.
Additionally, when it released the 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) recommended 80% nurses should have at least a BSN by 2020 (though new research has found that while progress is being made, this goal will not likely be reached within the next two years).
"NYU has been a strong supporter of "BS in 10" legislation, given its implications for improving patient care. Research shows that patients benefit from baccalaureate-prepared nurses—in fact, several large studies show that it saves lives. Earning bachelor's degrees also creates opportunities for career mobility and leadership among all nurses," she says.
Kimberly Sharpe, RN, MSN, president of the Council for Associate Degree Nursing in New York State, Inc., says the law will help facilitate education progression among nurses.
"The Council supports the BS in 10 law. We believe it recognizes and values the contributions of associate degree graduates. We as educators have always encouraged our graduates to continue their education to the BSN degree and beyond," she says in a news release. "This law further expands the strengths of our graduates to meet the increasingly complex healthcare needs of the citizens of New York State. The Council is confident that associate degree nursing programs in New York State will continue to provide high-quality curricula that successfully prepare a diverse pool of graduates for both entry to professional RN practice and seamless academic progression."
Nurse executives supportive of law
Those in education are not the only ones supportive of the new law. Nurse executives also issued favorable statements about the move to BSN in 10.
"As nurse leaders, we support advancing registered nurse education to improve the health of our communities throughout the state. Residents will be better cared for in their homes, expensive hospitalizations can be avoided, and—as validated by research—health outcomes will improve," say Ann Harrington, MPA, BSN, BA, RN, NEA-BC, executive director of the New York Organization of Nursing Executives and Leaders, and Joanne Ritter-Teitel, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, president of the organization in a press release. "Registered Nurses will have the same academic credentials whether they practice in homes, hospitals, nursing homes or other settings where care is provided. And baccalaureate preparation will ensure that RNs are able to move into nursing faculty, nurse practitioner and administrative positions to continue to advance the profession."
In addition, the bill establishes a temporary commission to evaluate and report on barriers to entry into the nursing profession and make recommendations on increasing availability and accessibility of nursing programs.
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.