The Impact of BSN Education on Nursing Practice

Nurse smiling holding patient chart

In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine, backed by years of research and expert opinions, called for a dramatic increase in the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)-educated nurses are more prepared to keep pace with complex healthcare needs and fast-paced changes in technology, experts said.

Today, the vision of increasing the proportion of BSN-educated nurses from the current 50 percent to 80 percent by 2020 is slowly coming to fruition nationwide. Registered nurses (RNs) with associate degrees in nursing (ADNs) are enrolling in BSN bridge programs in record numbers. These programs, including Duquesne University’s online RN-BSN curriculum, allow RNs to advance their careers while meeting new national guidelines for nurse education. BSN-educated nurses are in high demand, have the ability to make more money than their ADN-degree counterparts, and play a crucial role in the delivery of advanced healthcare.

“Although a BSN education is not a panacea for all that is expected of nurses in the future, it does, relative to other educational pathways, introduce students to a wider range of competencies in such arenas as health policy and health care financing, community and public health, leadership, quality improvement, and systems thinking,” the National Academy of Medicine said in its 2010 report. “A more educated nursing workforce would be better equipped to meet the demands of an evolving healthcare system, and this need could be met by increasing the percentage of nurses with a BSN.”

Why Does a BSN Make a Difference?

The push for more BSN-educated RNs comes as medical professionals are looking into the future of healthcare, the impact of the aging population, the mass exodus of retiring nurses and the continually changing landscape of technology. After careful review, experts determined ADN education does not adequately cover extended topics that include “clinical, scientific, decision making, and humanistic skills, including preparation in community health, patient education, and nursing management and leadership,” the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) said.  While there will still be a place for ADN-educated nurses in healthcare settings, studies have shown BSN-educated nurses make a positive impact on the healthcare community, as follows:

  • Healthcare facilities with BSN-trained nurses have significantly lower readmission rates and shortened lengths of stay, a 2014 study found. The study found that the cost savings from lower readmission rates and shorter stays offset the expenses that result from increasing the number of BSN-educated nurses and their salaries in hospital settings.
  • Hospitals with a 10 percent increase in the proportion of BSN-prepared nurses have a lowered rate of patient mortality by 10.9 percent.
  • Hospitals with higher percentages of BSN-educated nurses have lower instances of death from congestive heart failure, death after treatable complications, postoperative deep vein thrombosis, and bedsores. Nurses with their BSN are better prepared to educate their patients on how to care for themselves in order to prevent these chronic illnesses.

BSN Education Requirements

For decades, RNs have entered the workforce after completing two-year ADN studies or nursing diploma programs and passing the national licensing exam, called the NCLEX-RN. Leaders now say these standards are too low because ADN-trained RNs do not have advanced skills that can be immediately applied to bedside care.

“The NCLEX-RN is only one indicator of competency, and it does not measure performance over time or test for all of the knowledge and skills developed through a BSN program,” AACN leaders stated.

RNs who are considering an RN to BSN bridge program should expect a curriculum that expands on their existing knowledge and experiences for stronger critical-thinking and communication skills. For some nurses, this may include classes in humanities, social sciences, basic sciences, and sociology.

Through Duquesne University’s RN-BSN program, students have the added benefit of taking all of the coursework online at any time. Required coursework includes Population-Based Health and Community Health Nursing, Genetics in Nursing and Health, and Pathophysiology for Nursing Practice.

BSN Job Outlook

Healthcare leaders forecast by 2024 about one million RNs will be needed to fill new and vacant positions, expanding the RN workforce to about 3.7 million or by about 16 percent. Factors in the nursing shortage include the aging population, advances in healthcare that allow people to live longer, the growing rate of chronic conditions, the older generation of nurses retiring and changes in healthcare regulations.

The AACN found 54 percent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities surveyed are requiring new hires to have BSN degrees, which is an increase of 6.6 percent since 2015. At the same time 97.9 percent of employers prefer BSN program graduates, the AACN’s survey found.

“Clearly, healthcare settings nationwide are seeing a difference in nursing practice based on the level of education and are making hiring decisions to enhance the quality of care available to patients,” AACN leaders found.

BSN Salary Potential

The U.S. Department of Labor reported the median annual RN wage was $68,450 as of May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,120 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,990.  RNs who worked in government positions earn an average of $73,908 while those who worked in hospitals earned $70,590 and home health care services earned $64,140.

About Duquesne University’s Online RN-BSN Degree Program

A leader in nursing education, Duquesne University’s 100 percent online RN-BSN program allows RNs to complete their coursework in a flexible setting. The program’s academic advisors and faculty mentors are available to help students succeed. For more information, visit DU’s online RN-BSN program website.