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When people are sick, injured or need emergency care, they rely on nurses to provide safe, quality care. Patients can become overwhelmed with medical terminology and procedures, and they may find navigating the healthcare system confusing and frustrating. Nurses who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program have the skills to treat stressed patients and guide them through the challenges in healthcare.

Why Is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Important?

Many hospitals have long been following the recommendation published in the 2010 report Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which was renamed the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). The IOM recommended that the proportion of BSN-prepared nurses in the workforce be increased to 80% by 2020. NAM updated their study incorporating changes in healthcare and community needs, as detailed in The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. So where do we stand now and why does the BSN matter?

In partnership with NAM, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) along with the AARP Foundation and AARP formed the initiative The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. The campaign seeks to transform health and health care through nursing and building a healthier America.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) also supports the call for a greater number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses by recognizing the BSN as the “minimal preparation for professional nursing practice.” AACN backs the BSN as the preferred entry-level degree for these reasons:

  • The role of nurses has expanded beyond hospitals to all types of healthcare settings such as outpatient facilities, neighborhood centers, nursing homes and private residences, and continued access is a challenge nurses can uniquely meet.
  • The healthcare system is more complex. Nurses not only provide bedside care, but they must also make independent clinical decisions, assist with case management and collaborate with other healthcare professionals, as well as meet the nuanced needs of an aging population that is living longer.
  • Nurses counsel patients about healthcare resources and educate them about treatment plans and ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

According to AACN, 56% of RNs hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which reported that the number of first-time National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) test takers from BSN programs continues to grow while the number of associate-level graduates sitting for the exam is declining. Moreover, enrollment in BSN programs is increasing. In 2021, there was a 5.6% increase in nurses entering BSN programs, which indicates a steady growth in baccalaureate-prepared graduates when compared to the slowing rate at the associate level.

Why Are Better Patient Outcomes Linked to BSN-Prepared Nurses?

study headed by Dr. Linda Aiken, Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, found that patients have a better chance at survival in hospitals with a greater number of BSN-prepared nurses. Her findings point to a 7% decrease in patient mortality when 10% of the nursing staff is BSN-prepared. Further studies have affirmed Aiken’s conclusion.

There is evidence of a correlation between BSN-prepared nurses providing care and fewer patient deaths, shorter hospital stays and lower healthcare costs.

In the February 2013 study Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes, Mary A. Blegen and her colleagues concluded that hospitals with a higher percentage of BSN-prepared nurses experienced a reduction in congestive heart failure mortality, pressure ulcers, failure to rescue, and postoperative deep vein thrombosis, as well as benefiting from faster discharges for patients. The skills learned in BSN programs prepares nurses, who are already at the forefront of healthcare and have the best access to patients, saves lives.

How Can You Become a BSN-Prepared Nurse?

Nurses can attend accelerated programs at a four-year college or university with an accredited nursing program to obtain their BSN degree. Some institutions like Mississippi College (MC) offer affordable RN-to-BSN bridge programs for working nurses. The MC RN to BSN program is 100% online and offers multiple start dates each year, which makes it a convenient option for working nurses.

The evidence connecting positive patient outcomes with BSN-prepared nurses is substantial, and researchers are still studying the relationship between nurse education and optimal patient care. Students interested in nursing should consider that a baccalaureate degree is widely regarded as the requisite preparation for new nurses. By completing a BSN program, nurses can ensure that they meet the requirements of most healthcare employers and show that they are prepared to provide patient care that meets the new standards in nursing.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s online RN to BSN program.

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