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Goal of a Nursing Workforce with 80% BSNs Unlikely by 2020

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   October 17, 2017

Recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine may not be met this decade, but progress has been made toward achieving higher levels of nursing education.

In its 2010 report on the future of nursing, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) recommends 80% of registered nurses hold a baccalaureate degree by 2020.

That's only three years away. So how clear was the organization's vision of the profession? Well, not exactly 20/20.

"There are more nurses earning baccalaureate degrees, but by 2020 we are unlikely to achieve the 80% goal," says Chenjuan Ma, PhD, associate professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Her assessment is based on data from a newly released study published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship.

To assess the educational trends of frontline, hospital-based RNs, Ma and her fellow researchers examined nursing-unit level data from the Registered Nurse Education Indicators, part of the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators.

The analysis showed an increase in BSN-prepared frontline nurses in U.S. hospitals—57% in 2013 compared to 44% in 2004.

Though the 80% goal may not be met within the next three years, Ma says having that concrete objective has been positive.

"From my perspective, I think it's more important to look at how much effort we have put in to increase the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees or how much progress we have made to increase the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees," she says.

BSNs On the Rise

The increase in BSN-preparedness began before 2010, the study found growth accelerated after the Future of Nursing recommendations were made.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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