Nurses, Are You Being Asked to Earn Your BSN?

A report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) — now known as the National Academy of Medicine — recommended that 80 percent of nurses in the workforce earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) by 2020. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) supports this proposal because studies show that higher education for nurses results in optimal patient care.

The BSN in 10 Initiative

The challenges facing healthcare today are different than those providers faced in the 20th century. In the past, medicine concentrated on patients with acute illnesses and injuries, while contemporary healthcare faces an aging population with chronic diseases.

In 2010, the IOM published an Initiative titled Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which called for nurses to become BSN-prepared by 2020. This initiative is known as the BSN in 10. Many nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) are finding that they must earn a BSN to retain their jobs or qualify for a new position. While nurses still have four years left to earn a BSN, many employers already require new nurses to hold a baccalaureate degree.

BSN and Quality Care

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) published an article in its newsletter Charting Nursing’s Future in September of 2013 that indicates why the BSN in 10 is important. The article, The Care for Academic Progression, points out that patients, employers and nurses all benefit when nurses have a higher education.

Research shows a correlation between successful patient outcomes and BSN-prepared nurses. BSN-prepared nurses deliver lower mortality rates, fewer medical errors, a reduction in failures to rescue and shorter hospital stays for patients.

Education for the BSN-prepared Nurse

BSN nurses receive a well-rounded education focused on evidenced-based research and clinical experience. The AACN Board of Directors formed the RN-BSN Task Force in May 2012 to ensure that all BSN programs incorporate hands-on training sessions at hospitals, clinics or other medical facilities.

The AACN agrees with the BSN in 10 and stands behind a more educated and qualified workforce. According to the AACN, the following are the three fundamentals a RN to BSN program must cover to prepare nurses for the complex healthcare system:

1. Professional Development — leadership, communication, critical thinking and other competencies that enable nurses to collaborate with their colleagues.
2. Skill-Building — intermediate and advanced technical proficiencies that allow nurses to broaden their practice and treat a wider range of patients.
3. Cultural Awareness — core understanding of the racial, religious and socioeconomic factors that affect the delivery of medical care for millions of Americans.

BSN Degree Programs

One way for students to earn a BSN is to complete a college or university’s baccalaureate-nursing program and sit for the RN licensing test. For the working nurse, RN to BSN programs are available both on campus and online.

RNs with an associate degree may still have to earn a BSN if their employer decides they need additional education. Online RN to BSN programs accommodate working nurses’ schedules and are a good alternative for those who have personal and well as professional obligations. RNs can usually finish online programs in under two years.

The trend toward more highly educated nurses continues as the BSN rapidly becomes the minimal requirement for employment. Hospitals and other medical care facilities are following the IOM BSN in 10 guidelines, and nurses who do not hold a BSN by 2020 risk termination. New nursing graduates without a BSN may have limited job opportunities, which is why it is imperative that nurses consider an RN to BSN program.

Learn more about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.


Institute of Medicine. The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. (2010, October 5). National Academies of Sciences: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health

Retrieved from BSN Degree vs RN Differences. (n.d.). Nurse Journal: BSN Degree vs RN Differences

Retrieved from Degree Completion Programs for Registered Nurses: RN to Master’s Degree and RN to Baccalaureate Programs. (2015, March 16). American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Degree Completion Programs for Registered Nurses: RN to Master’s Degree and RN to Baccalaureate Programs

Retrieved from RN-to-BSN FAQs. (n.d.). RN to BSN: RN-to-BSN FAQs

Retrieved from The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education. (2011, January 26). National Academies of Science: The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education

Retrieved from The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice. (2015, May 19). American Association of Colleges of Nursing: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

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