In 1902, Susan B. Anthony suggested that a “day will come when nurses will be university prepared.” As evidenced by this quote, the debate over the educational preparation of RNs has raged on for over a century. Despite Anthony’s prediction, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — only about 50 percent of the nation’s 2.8 million nurses hold a 4-year BSN-degree or above. Currently, the most common way to become a nurse is through an ADN Program at a community college, otherwise known as an associate’s degree in nursing. Only 15 percent of nurses with an ADN return to school to obtain their BSN.
In the next seven years, as the healthcare environment continues to evolve due to reform and population growth, healthcare organizations and their nurses need to take action in order meet the growing demands of the future American healthcare system. In the Institute of Medicine’s report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” it’s recommended that 80 percent of the nursing workforce be prepared at the baccalaureate level or above by the year 2020 to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, patient-centered care in a reformed healthcare system.
What the Research Shows:
Although the United States does not require a 4-year BSN degree to practice nursing, other countries have embraced university preparation for nurses, and global standards are rapidly changing. According to the Institute of Medicine’s report, countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, and Spain all require their nurses to complete a 4-year BSN program. The fear that mandated BSN education will exacerbate the nursing shortage by hindering people from entering the profession has halted the advanced educational standards in the United States. However, countries such as Canada saw the number of nurses entering the profession actually increase when the education standard was raised to the baccalaureate level.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the relationship between higher levels of nursing education and improved patient outcomes. Recently, after completion of a 21-year study by the Journal of Nursing Administration it was found that patients cared for by BSN-prepared nurses experienced significant reductions in length of inpatient stay, decreases in hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, and reductions in cardiac mortality. The value of higher levels of education in nurses has also been demonstrated outside of clinical practices. In a survey of nursing graduates, it was found that BSN-prepared nurses report less difficulty in managing complex patients and incorporate critical thinking in their daily practice.
How Talent & Learning Management Technology can Help:
Despite the statistics, a 4-year BSN degree may not always equate to the most qualified nurse. “I’ve heard people argue that the reason they want their nurses prepared with a 4-year degree is because they have better critical thinking skills, but critical thinking skills do not always come out of a 4-year degree,” said Brenda Reinert, Director of HR at Tomah Memorial Hospital. In order to evaluate your current or prospective nurses critical thinking skills, consider using behavioral assessment software. Organizations can use behavioral assessment software to compare scores of an individual nurse against the norms by licensure: LPNs, RNs, BSNs, and MSNs. A behavioral assessment will also provide an individual development plan that suggests on-the-job activities and training resources.
Even though ADN-educated nurses who wish to obtain their BSN need to get this qualification through an educational institution, there is still a way that healthcare organizations can help. Healthcare organizations that want to help their nurses obtain their BSN should consider implementing a learning management system (LMS) and offering courses that are eligible for continuing education credits. By making eLearning courseware that is eligible for continuing education credits available to your staff, your organization is one step closer in helping your staff become more qualified.
Consider offering your nurses clinical-based courses such as Biomedical Foundation courses from AHIMA. These courses provide an in depth education of Medical Terminology, Anatomy, Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology. Each of these courses provides nurses with a similar breadth and depth of education as they would have gotten in a semester-long college course. Classes such as these typically take learners up to 60 hours to complete, but upon completion, they will receive anywhere between 45 and 60 continuing education credits. Nurses can also receive continuing education credits by taking professional development courses that focus on essential leadership and management skills. For example, the HealthcareSource eLearning library offers a package from SkillSoft that includes 100 one-hour narrated courses that are eligible for academic credit from The University of Phoenix and The American Council of Education.
At UnityPoint Health in Iowa, over 50 percent of their nurses have a BSN, but according to their VP of HR, Joyce McDanel, that is about to change. UnityPoint Health is taking the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine and strives to have at least the 80 percent or their nurses BSN-prepared by 2020. Aside from offering continuing education courses on campus through their LMS, UnityPoint Health is taking progressive strides to support their nurses in obtaining their BSN. UnityPoint Health has partnered with the nursing school at a local college in order to assist their nurses in completing their BSN degree. “We have a lot of associate degree nurses that we would like to help receive their BSN, so we have developed an ADN to BSN program here on campus. We also have an enhanced tuition assistance program where we approve an additional $3,000.00 for employees that are enrolled in the program,” said McDanel. Tomah Memorial Hospital is also feeling the effects of the recommendation by the Institute of Medicine. “Almost all of our ADNs are in a BSN completion program. We have an education assistance program in place, where our ADNs can apply for the program to receive monetary compensation for their required courses,” said Reinert.
Research suggests that BSN-educated nurses are loyal to employers who provide tuition assistance and professional development opportunities, as evidenced by twice the length of service, higher job satisfaction, and reports of less job stress. With the looming effects of healthcare reform and a goal of better care, and lower costs — the role of the RN will only become more and more important.
For more insight into how talent and learning management impacts nursing excellence, download our white paper: Journey to Magnet Excellence®: How Talent Management Influences Nursing Distinction!