In 2010, The Institute of Medicine made a recommendation that rocked the nursing world; they urged that 80% of nurses have bachelor’s degrees by 2020 to meet the demands of 21st-century healthcare. That remains a tall order, but a significant sea change occurred when that report hit the proverbial newsstands.
The call has been made
There have been several instances in which the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice has recommended to Congress that a significant percentage of nurses be urged to earn a bachelor’s degree, including this 2010 report. In the same year, the landmark IOM report stated that approximately 50% of all nurses held bachelor’s degrees, a number considerably lower than many would have hoped, but still reflective of the recommendations made by the NACNEP and other organizations.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing also supports an increase in the number of nurses with a BSN or higher.
The nursing zeitgeist
As a nurse career coach with my ear to the rails, I listen and assess nurses’ reality. Much of my information is anecdotal, but reflects the trends appearing to be taking shape.
When I speak with frontline nurses, I hear that some positions that would have been previously open to ADNs are now open solely to BSNs. The IOM clearly made its point and many facilities continue to hear the call. With many hospitals seeking Magnet status, the push for a higher percentage of nurses with bachelor’s degrees is a reality.
The population is aging rapidly, older nurses will continue to retire, and the Affordable Care Act has created the need for more preventive care and a robust healthcare workforce. Meanwhile, the pressure is on for nurses to pursue a BSN, despite barriers that may stand in their way.
Is a BSN right for you?
The decision to pursue a bachelor’s degree may be influenced by finances, scheduling, family circumstances, and availability of appropriate programs. Many hard-working ADN-prepared nurses may already be working full time, raising families, or caring for aging parents, so the logistical challenge of attending school might seem overwhelming.
Despite financial and lifestyle barriers to returning to school, some nurses wishing to advance their careers may find themselves with little choice but to pursue a BSN, either online or at a physical location. While some nurses with a baccalaureate degree may not earn appreciably more than those with an ADN, a broader range of opportunities exists.
If you have an associate’s degree and are encountering more closed doors than open doors, pursuing further nursing education may be necessary. However, if you have found your niche and feel that your employer will not be requiring a BSN for your employment to continue, you may be able to put it off, perhaps for quite some time.
Only you know what your nursing career goals truly are. Only you can decide if a BSN is worthy of pursuit in your specific circumstances. Having said that, keep your finger on the pulse of the profession, monitor the changes that are afoot and make decisions based on the 21st century healthcare environment, your own needs and the future of your career.