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Is a BSN the next step for you?

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.

By | 2016-05-05T21:25:02-04:00 April 22nd, 2016|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|3 Comments
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway. Keith is co-host of, a popular nursing podcast, and also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. A widely published writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He brings a plethora of experience as a nursing thought leader, holistic career coach, writer and nurse entrepreneur.


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    Ememobong Anietie Akwa May 13, 2016 at 10:26 am - Reply

    I am a Nigerian nurse. I went to a school of nursing for three years and sat for the nursing council examination and passed at a sitting. I earnestly desire to have a BSN in the united states but I do not have the funds for it. please could you advise me on how to go about it?

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    Teresa Fisher June 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    My nursing vision is to keep going till I am a FNP. I ultimately want to own and operate my own chain of Nursing Homes and Adult Daycares.

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    Karen Chadwick November 8, 2016 at 6:49 am - Reply

    First of all, I am an older nurse that is close to the “so called retirement age” but will not be able to retire at that age due to the events in the great recession and its financial devastation. So I take personal offense to the line the author used as a point of argument for “younger” nurses to pursue their BSN’s referring to us older nurses as being near retirement and leaving the profession. FYI- newsflash- Many of us older nurses are not able to do that so the powers that be and the nursing authors should start to recognize that one small factor. How short their memory is of the nursing employment scene during the years of the recent recession. Many of us older nurses lost our jobs and were not able to gain comparable employment to the positions we lost. Our pay was severely cut and has remained so leaving the recoup of our financial losses in our retirements 401b’s and 401k’s forever gone. Then there were those of us who were forced to survive and support our selves on temporary positions, one temp position after another in the hopes of riding out the recession to support ourselves. with unemployment stints in between to keep money coming in to pay bills. Some of us lived by the skin of our teeth in deplorable conditions no heat in the winter, leaking roofs that grew mold inside our homes, and what ever it took to stretch our grocery dollar- soup kitchens, and food pantries. Then the illustrious nursing profession decided to throw in the “BSN only” into the employment requirements which left a good majority of us older nurses out in the unemployed cold because we did not have BSN’s. Not many of us who were in our mid 50’s having lost 20% of our retirement accounts we saved all our life time for wanted to take on student loan debt. But still the ANA forged on with this ludicrous demand of an increased workforce BSN ratio like a gambler who was going to win at the roulette table no matter what it cost their family. Our ages were discriminating factors in whether we would get a job because any fool looking at us knew we were not fresh faced naive 20 year old nurses with only a few years of experience. That was so they didn’t have to pay an experienced nurse their real worth. Those of us who were smart enough to catch on to this illegal practice, left our social security numbers off the employment application and were not picked apart in the face to face interview by a hypocritical recruiter who was as old as we were or a nurse manager who was as seedy and as underhanded as they come. Then there were those of us who took the plunge and took on student loan debt to obtain that ever so precious BSN at our older ages. We still cant get jobs but we now have a useless degree which we will be paying for out of our social security checks if and when we do retire either by choice, sheer frustration with the nursing job market or are forced to because the nursing labor force clearly doesn’t want us. The nursing labor management powers that be are not real smart- these newer nurses are bring more problems to the practice environments. The have such gaps in their knowledge because the same uninformed knowledge base keeps being circulated around with no infusion of the older knowledge of the expert nurses to correct it. They are calling our of work leaving gaps in the staffing schedules because their is more of a commitment to their pleasure principal than their work commitment and ethic. There is more bullying going on than ever was, and lest not forget the impaired practice numbers. But as long as the employer has its cheaper nurse and the CEO can continue to collect their multi million dollar salary- hey whose counting. The nursing practice of today is not about quality of care, its about quantity of care. and less is more with a faster turnover in the patient beds. So this is not test of how the BSN impacts increased quality. It has just created more problems.

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