The nursing field has evolved in practice, but it hasn’t had many changes in principle. Care is at the core of the profession and always has been. However, there are consistent challenges to how nurses care for their patients to “up the ante.”
One important milestone was one report by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly-named Institute of Medicine’s (IOM), titled The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. This report, released in 2010, called for 80% of all registered nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree by 2020. The goal was to prepare nurses for the rapidly advancing field of medicine — one that demanded more than the skills and knowledge afforded by an associate degree.
While that deadline has passed, the motivation is greater than ever for RNs to earn BSN degrees.
Multiple Organizations Advocate for BSN-Prepared Nurses
The NAM is not the only organization championing BSN-prepared nurses. Both public and private entities support the degree. Take the following examples:
- Magnet-designated hospitals require nurse managers and leaders to have a minimum of a BSN.
- National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) aims for two-thirds of the nursing workforce to hold BSN degrees or higher.
- The U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force require a BSN to be employed as an active-duty RN.
- The Veteran’s Administration (VA), the largest employer of RNs, has set a standard necessitating a BSN for promotion beyond entry-level positions.
- The National Black Nurses Association, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and National Association of Hispanic Nurses are committed to ensuring their nurses hold BSN or higher degrees.
With so much emphasis placed on the degree, it’s understandable why earning a BSN seems like a logical next step for RNs to take. Yet, it’s not all about “meeting the requirements” of these types of organizations.
A BSN Is Just the Start
Many nurses are eager to advance their careers in both the short and long term, and earning a BSN is precisely the way to accomplish those goals. A BSN also sets nurses up to explore professions within the nursing field that extend beyond the parameters of bedside care.
The following represent just a few positions that both require and benefit from a BSN degree:
- Charge Nurse. This role is much more complicated than one might imagine. Just because a nurse is an excellent clinician does not mean they will succeed in this position. It takes a unique skill set to fulfill all the obligations expected of a charge nurse, including abilities in:
- critical thinking
- emotional intelligence
- social intelligence
- leadership skills
- curiosity and creativity
2) Geriatric Nurse. Thanks to advancements in managing chronic disease and broader access to healthcare, the aging population continues to grow. Therefore, more nurses who understand the unique needs of this cohort are needed.
An increasing number of RN to BSN programs are dedicating coursework to vulnerable populations like the elderly. A BSN education will expedite that career path if nurses wish to progress even further into an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner role.
3) Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). While this role requires a master of science in nursing (MSN), the BSN serves as a solid foundation for nurses working in one of the four main CNS categories: expert clinician, educator, researcher or consultant.
A CNS role also opens up opportunities for nurses to work in a number of specialty areas such as women’s health, pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, pain management, mental health and critical care.
4) Nurse Practitioner (NP). Similar to a CNS, this role is only available to nurses who have earned master’s or doctorate degrees. Still, a strong foundation is crucial, and the expertise BSN-prepared nurses gain throughout their education and clinical practice sets the stage for a more rapid acceleration into this role.
Becoming an NP is a smart move. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that millions of Americans seek out NPs for their healthcare needs. According to a statement by AANP, “The unique ability of NPs to blend clinical excellence and personalized care with an emphasis on prevention is a key reason why patients choose NPs. As it turns out, those are also reasons why more individuals are choosing a career as an NP.”
What Does Your Future Hold?
Heightening your nursing skills and knowledge is a strong career move. BSN degrees support overall patient outcomes and help nursing professionals advance their careers. Advancing your education will have a positive impact on healthcare — today and into the future.