The proportion of nurses with a bachelor's degree in a nursing unit increased by 1.3% annually before 2010. From 2010 on, there was an increase of 1.9% each year.
The percentage of units having at least 80% of nurses with a bachelor's degree increased from 3% in 2009 to 7% in 2013.
Based on current trends, the researchers expect 64% of hospital-based nurses will have a bachelor's degree by 2020, and the 80% goal will likely be reached in 2029.
"To help accelerate this transformation, further advocacy, commitment, and investment are needed from all healthcare stakeholders in order to advance nursing education and, in turn, improve quality of care and patient outcomes," Ma says.
Nurse leaders, in particular, should find ways to champion and support BSN-preparation.
"It's important for nurse leaders to create an environment that really values and respects higher nursing education," she says.
One way to do this to provide opportunities for nurses to perform to their full capacity and practice at the top of their license.
"It motivates nurses to pursue a higher nursing degree," Ma says. "If nurses do not have the chance to perform to their full capacity, they feel like, 'If I have a higher education, I cannot use it.'"
Investment Will Pay Off
Additionally, Ma suggests that hospitals invest in hiring nurses with bachelor's degrees. For those facing challenges with the supply of BSN-prepared RNs, Ma says there are non-traditional means to help organizations boost BSN numbers.
Online education is one option as are innovative BSN-education models include collaboration between community colleges and university nursing schools.
She also suggests that organizations provide flexible scheduling options and tuition reimbursement for RNs who wish to further their education.
Finally, nurse leaders need to educate their counterparts in hospital administration on how BSN-prepared nurses can improve quality outcomes and patient care.
"If nurses have better competency in terms of providing care,' Ma says, "I do believe that in the long term it will also help reduce the cost of healthcare."
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.