11 things to know about New York’s BSN-in-10 law

By | 2021-05-07T14:41:30-04:00 March 13th, 2018|4 Comments

When the BSN-in-10 legislation was signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 17, 2017, professional registered nursing practice took a giant step forward in my opinion.

As is the case with any change, however, it was followed by many questions and concerns — even worries, fears and protests — from nurses in New York and beyond.

It is not easy to get legislation passed and takes time, commitment, collaboration, cooperation and months — often years — of work. In the case of this legislation, nurses, lobbyists and bill sponsors worked long and hard to bring the legislation to Gov. Cuomo’s desk.

BSN in 10 encourages continued learning

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommends employers encourage continued learning and reward nurses for earning their BSNs. Nurse leaders recognize the importance of the BSN, according to the AACN.

In fact, many professional nursing organizations tout the need for baccalaureate education for nurses. Nurses are at the heart of the care team, leading and directing, running units and working with other professionals such as social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists and pharmacists — most of whom are required to have educational credentials that go beyond the bachelor’s degree.

And there is support out there for nurses who want to advance their education and practice. But nurses need to have their questions answered first.

Leaders can help explain the law, and highlight the resources available to nurses, whether they live in New York or another state. Pointing out the educational resources at their facilities and beyond can help a lot of nurses get to their goals.

I have followed the law’s progress closely, and in the wake of its passage, heard the kinds of questions nurses have on the controversial topic.

In response, I have answered 11 key questions that leaders should review with their staff.

1 — How long did it take for this legislation to be signed into law?  

The process — which has taken more than half a century — began back in 1964 when the American Nurses Association House of Delegates adopted a motion supporting baccalaureate education.

The ANA presented a position paper in 1965 calling for the BSN as the educational foundation for the RN, and confirmed their position on it in 2000. After garnering support NY Assembly bill #A1842-B was passed, followed by New York’s Senate bill #S6768 in 2017. This led to signing of the legislation in December.

2 — What are the specifics of the law, and where can I find the entire text?

If you would like to review the full bill with your staff and fellow nurses, bill #AO1842-B/SO 6768 can be found online.

3 — Does any other state have a law like the New York law?

No, not at the present time. Prior to the New York law, only North Dakota had a law regarding BSNs from 1987 to 2003, which required nurses to have a BSN to get licensed. The law was overturned in 2003 because of a shortage of RNs. Rhode Island (bill #HB7416) and New Jersey (bill# S803) are the only other states to put forth BSN in 10 bills, but after working on it almost as long as New York, they are still under study and have not been passed.

4 — Will other states be moving to enact a similar law?

Many states have been considering a similar bill and were waiting to see what happened in New York. Many now are likely to move toward proposing similar legislation.

5 — How can I find out what legislation may be pending in my state?

Nurses can look to their state boards of nursing for information on the status of any bills under way.

6 — Would a bachelor’s degree other than the BSN meet the requirement, or must it be a BSN?

As enacted, the New York BSN-in-10 law states the RN must obtain a BSN. Other bachelor’s degrees would not fulfill the requirement.

7 — Which groups of RNs are “grandfathered in” and not subject to the 10-year deadline?

Three groups are included in the “grandfather” clause exempting them from the time limit on practice without a BSN: currently licensed RNs in New York State, students enrolled in a nursing program in New York State; and those who have nursing school acceptances pending in New York State.

8 — What does the New York law have to do with the 2010 Institute of Medicine Report recommendation?

The recommendation made by the IOM in 2010 that 80% of RNs nationwide obtain a BSN by 2020, was a recommendation; it was not a law and should not be confused with the law in New York or with any other state law that may follow.

9 — Will there be any assistance or support provided by nursing programs or nursing and hospital leaders to help nurses meet the BSN-in-10 requirements?

Nurse leaders can advise their nurses about the various articulation programs, on-site classes and bridge courses that are available, perhaps in their own facilities, and talk with them about tuition reimbursement plans. Perhaps on-site child care is available for mothers who are students or special flexible work schedules can be worked out for nurses to attend classes? Also, keep them informed about partnerships that are springing up between BSN programs and associate degree and diploma programs.

10 — Will any accommodation be made for a nurse who at the end of the 10 years has not yet obtained his or her BSN?

The text of the law does address the possibility of granting extensions in extenuating circumstances to nurses who at the end of the 10 years were unable to get access to a BSN program; who were not accepted; or who were unable to attend classes or afford tuition.

11 — If I have a New York license and I also am licensed and practicing in another state, am I grandfathered in along with nurses currently practicing in New York?  

Yes, if you are licensed in New York, even if you are not currently practicing in the state, you will be grandfathered.

Have open, honest conversations

This new law for nurses, whether they live in New York or elsewhere or how long they’ve been licensed, will affect them in the future in one way or another. They need to understand what it means and why it was signed into law, so let them know your take on it, as well as what is being said about the law by nurses and associations.

Discuss with them why, even if they are not mandated to get a BSN, they still may want to consider working toward a BSN. Over time, the degree will increase opportunities and affect salary, professional growth and advancement. The positives of having a BSN far outweigh any negatives that may concern nurses.

Point out that there are both online and brick-and-mortar options that make getting a BSN easier than ever, and as our healthcare system grows more complex, so may our hiring practices. Nurses with BSNs may not only be preferred but also required by healthcare systems, and some facilities may view the BSN as minimum preparation and look for degrees beyond the BSN for certain roles.

To assist nurses, a commission has been established as part of the New York law to look at barriers for entry into BSN programs, including availability, finances and other issues. The findings of this commission are due to the New York governor in December 2018.

The best tool to address the law’s naysayers or those who feel the law is a step in the wrong direction is honest, open communication. You may not have all the answers, but — as a leader — it’s your duty to try to find them.

Nurses, are there other questions about this law that you would like your nurse leaders to address? Add them in the comments section below.


Courses related to ‘moving forward with educational goals’

WEB366: Go Get Your BSN: You Can Make It Happen!
 (1 contact hr)

Everything is changing: technology, healthcare, legislation, policies, … nursing. Advance your career forward by pursuing your next degree! Are you debating about whether you could get your BSN? With the 2020 goal of 80% of nurses holding a bachelor’s degree, where do we stand? How have we done? What does research say about the educational levels of nurses in regard to patient outcomes? What information do you need to consider helping you pursue your BSN and to become a part of the 80%? Become informed and motivated with this webinar!

WEB309: RN to BSN: Aligning Your Personality Characteristics with Your Career Goals
(1 contact hr)

With the recommendation that 80% of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020, many RN’s may be considering advancing their education. Have you considered what areas within nursing you might like to explore? Might certain personality characteristics help you enjoy some nursing specialties more than others? Is your dream to work in management, administration, education or research? Is your desire to avoid specific job duties such as management? Try to align your strengths and personality characteristics with a nursing role you might enjoy! Perhaps there is an area of nursing you haven’t considered as a possibility for you. As you decide to further your education, an analysis of research and individual personality characteristics may help you align your goals within nursing areas you might enjoy the most.

CE171-60: Earning Degrees By Distance Education
(1 contact hr)

Advancing in the nursing profession, and in some cases even maintaining a current position, may require a return to academic education. Returning to school can be daunting for adult learners. Balancing work, family, and traditional classes feels like an impossible burden. These factors make distance education a viable, a desirable, and often the only alternative. This module will provide nurses with information about obtaining academic credentials through distance education.

About the Author:

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN
Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Eileen was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York (now Northwell Health System) where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of their System hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in nursing administration and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. A former board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing, Eileen currently is a member of the Adelphi University, College of Nursing and Public Health Advisory Board.


  1. Avatar
    MICAELA PARKER March 22, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Eileen, Your article is very insightful. Would our hospital be able to share your article on our newsletter? Thank you for the consideration.

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    Cynthia Pelser November 1, 2018 at 1:38 am - Reply

    I believe that BSN in 10 law is unconstitutional. There is no freedom to choose but to leave the state. This law does not take in the idea that the lack of schools, the lack of finances and family issues, lack ailing family members and such. This law does not give the individual the freedom of choice. And there are probably nurses who don’t want a BSN, are to old to go back to school. They will just quit nursing because of this law in New York.

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    Roberto December 9, 2019 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    The law is stupid when they make nursing programs harder for ppl to get into? There are too little nursing and more nursing schools closing. Cuomo is out of touch when it comes to patient care. This will eventually lead me to go get BSN and i bet it will get harder for me to give patient care when cotporate fat cats bate cutting funds to slash entities that help deliver quality patient care.

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    Roberto December 9, 2019 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    How does this improve quality of patient care when hospitals are closing down, fat corporate cats are using less staff to give their best possible care yet inspectors walk around blindly, come on now politocoans are really out of touch.

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