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Should Nurse Leaders Be Optimistic About 'BSN in 10'?

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   July 26, 2018

One VP of nursing gives her take on the impact New York's law will have on the nursing profession.

Earlier this year, New York became the first state to pass legislation requiring nurses to obtain a baccalaureate degree or higher within 10 years of licensure.

There has been a push to pass what's commonly known as the "BSN in 10," for years, and with it much discussion about the law's strengths and weaknesses.

While the new requirement does not affect nurses already in practice, many have wondered about its future impact on the supply of nurses, schools of nursing, and hospitals and healthcare organizations.

Maureen Scanlan, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, vice president of nursing and patient care services at Montefiore Health System in Bronx, New York, recently shared her thoughts on the law with HealthLeaders Media, and she is optimistic about its potential outcomes.

The following are highlights of Scanlan's recent interview with HLM. The transcript has been lightly edited.

On the law's potential to improve patient outcomes:

"We've been watching this unfold for years, and at Montefiore, we've been supporters of continued education for our nurses long before this law was enacted. [Our] value on a higher level of education for our staff nurses has been [in place] for years. So, we're very pleased, and we're in favor of this legislation."

"There's extensive research [that ties a] BSN-prepared nursing workforce to better patient outcomes and there's no better reason than that to support this legislation. Providing quality care is our priority. This bill passing fits naturally into our strategic plan to develop our workforce with that higher level of education, to ultimately improve the quality that we provide."

On leadership support for nurse education:

"At Montefiore, we have full leadership support for our staff nurses to pursue their BSNs or higher levels of education. As an example, we have a robust tuition reimbursement program. It's 100% for our staff nurses who are looking to advance their careers. Our nurse managers work directly with the staff to adjust their schedules to ensure that both work and school schedules are met appropriately. The one thing I've experienced at Montefiore is the nurses who join our nursing team without their BSN already have that pursuit of a higher education as their professional and personal goal, and we're proud to support them through their journey."

On who bears responsibility for ensuring BSN-preparedness:

"I think the responsibility is shared. There's the professional responsibility and accountability on the individual nurse to pursue and achieve this, while at the same time, professional organizations and healthcare systems [need to] support the individual."

On whether the BSN requirement could create a nursing shortage:

"I don't see it affecting the nursing shortage. There are experts that are following trends of nurse retirement rates. While there is a large number of nurses who are members of the baby boom generation who will be retiring, there's also [data] tracking the growth rate of the RN workforce and it's expected to increase within the next 10 years."

"Shortages are geographical and vary nationally. There may be some concerns in certain regions depending on their own statistics, but for us in the Bronx, I don't see the bill having any negative impact."

On nursing school capacity:

"[As part of this law], there has been the creation of a temporary commission to evaluate and report what the barriers are regarding entry into the nursing profession. They're going to make recommendations on increasing availability and accessibility of nursing programs. They've been given 12 months, so we should know more at the end of the year. I'm eager to hear the findings from that committee because I think it will help frame what the plan is to address some of the obstacles that are identified."

"I think we'll certainly alleviate some of the concern since technology has expanded access to education programs. The growth of online learning programs has increased drastically, and I believe they will continue in years to come. In that sense, it can make this process simpler."

On how the law could affect hospitals and health systems financially:

"There's an obvious financial commitment and it will vary across organizations and across the country. At Montefiore, we've made a financial commitment, [which] predates the law by many years, because of the value we place on higher education. Again, that goes back to research linking better clinical outcomes and higher job satisfaction. It really is a win-win for the professional nurse and for the organization."

On advice for fellow nurse leaders about "BSN in 10":

"I think this is already a national topic. The famous Future of Nursing report from the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine) advocated for higher education [for nurses]. That was a national goal for the profession of nursing. I think my colleagues outside of New York and across the country have come together in a collaborative way and have already identified the benefits of this [law]. I know that concerns exist regarding the [nursing] shortage and the financial commitment, but from a nurse leader's perspective the value of this [law] outweighs the challenges that it will bring."

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


  • New York is the first state to pass legislation requiring nurses to obtain a BSN degree or higher within 10 years of licensure.
  • Nurses, professional organizations, and healthcare systems share responsibility in meeting the BSN in 10 requirement.
  • Nurse managers must be flexible in creating schedules that support nurses in pursuing further education.

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