Various factors motivate RNs to pursue BSN degrees

By | 2022-02-23T14:26:52-05:00 November 28th, 2012|0 Comments

A variety of motivators influence RNs’ decision to pursue a BSN or higher degree, according to a study.

Motivators cited in the study include an interest in career and professional advancement, gaining new knowledge, improving social welfare skills and being a positive model for one’s children. RNs identified a desire for personal and job satisfaction and professional achievement as important intrinsic motivators.

Nurses with graduate degrees are more likely to report being extremely satisfied with their jobs compared with nurses who hold associate’s degrees, who more frequently report moderate to extreme dissatisfaction with their jobs, the researchers noted.

The research team also asked nurses about barriers to returning to school and getting an additional nursing degree. The two most prevalent responses were “cost” and “family/children,” followed by “lack of time.” Of those reporting cost and time as significant barriers, many cited difficulty in scheduling classes around their work schedules as a significant challenge.

RNs reported that support from employers and educational institutions increase their likelihood of returning to school. RNs who said they are undecided about continuing their nursing education identified organizational incentives and rewards as important motivators. Those include tuition reimbursement, compatible work and class hours, paid sabbaticals, forgivable loans for service, pay for attending class and Web-based and worksite classes.

The study, part of the RN Work Project (, was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The RN Work Project directors and lead investigators of the latest study are Christine T. Kovner, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor at the College of Nursing, New York University; and Carol Brewer, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing, University of Buffalo.

The researchers noted a key recommendation in the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” calls for 80% of nurses to hold a BSN or higher degree by 2020.

“As our healthcare system changes, the need for more nurses with bachelor’s degrees or higher is increasing,” Kovner said in a news release. “The patient population is aging and more patients are presenting with more and more complicated conditions. Healthcare is relying ever more heavily on information technology. More people are able to access care.

“Not only do we need more BSN-prepared nurses to provide care in this increasingly complex system, we need more nursing faculty at our institutions of higher education to educate the next generation of nurses. Knowing what motivates nurses to seek BSN and higher degrees is crucial.”

Survey respondents with an associate’s degree were more likely to pursue a BSN if they were black, lived in a rural area, had non-nursing work experience, had an optimistic outlook and higher work motivation, worked in the ICU or step-down unit and worked the day shift.

Survey respondents with a BSN were more likely to pursue a MSN or higher degree if they were black, had non-nursing work experience, held more than one job, lived in a non-rural area, worked the day shift and voluntary overtime, had lower intent to stay with their current employer and had higher work motivation.

“Given that the cost of education is a major barrier for many nurses, increasing scholarships and other financial incentives for returning to school should be the highest priority for funders,” Kovner said. “Scheduling bachelor’s-level and graduate classes at times and in places that make them more convenient for RNs is also very important.”

The RN Work Project is a 10-year study of newly licensed RNs that began in 2006. It is described as the only multi-state, longitudinal study of new nurses’ turnover rates, intentions and attitudes, including intent, satisfaction, organizational commitment and preferences about work. The study draws on data from nurses in 34 states, covering 51 metropolitan areas and nine rural areas.

The study appears in the November issue of the Journal of Professional Nursing. The study abstract is available at


The information on organizational incentives that may motivate RNs to pursue BSN degrees came from a news release that did not credit the original source. The source was a study that appeared in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing: “Motivating Registered Nurses to Return for an Advanced Degree,” by Joan Warren, RN-BC, PhD, NEA-BC, director, professional practice and research, MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, Baltimore; and Mary Etta Mills, RN, ScD, NEA-BC, FAAN, professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing, Baltimore.


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