Hiring standards in the medical field often change as the field grows and learns more about itself and the health care professionals it employs. One particular change over the past few decades is the hiring preferences of new nurses at hospitals.
In the past, the base standard requirement for nurses was a registered nurse license, which you can get after graduating from an associate degree-level program. While many hospitals will still hire registered nurses with an associate degree, it’s become more common for them to prefer to hire nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
So why the change?
The 80% BSN by 2020 Initiative
A lot of the push for nurses with a BSN, particularly in hospitals, comes from the 80% BSN by 2020 initiative. A decade ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” This report addressed changing standards in nursing education and health care demand.
As the medical field continued to increase productivity and use advanced technology, better-qualified nurses were needed. The report, while highlighting these major market forces, also called for 80% of registered nurses to hold BSN degrees by 2020. This advanced education would ensure that the rapidly changing needs of health care would be addressed.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) took up the initiative as a guideline for Magnet status, a prestigious status granted to hospitals by the ANCC to indicate they’ve met certain quality guidelines. Naturally, that was huge in affecting which nurses hospitals prefer to hire.
With this in mind, many colleges and advisors have begun to strongly encourage new nurses to consider earning a BSN. To be clear, non-BSN holders are still getting hired, but in order to meet the ever-changing needs of our modern, complex health care system, some hospitals and nursing facilities are requiring entry-level candidates to have earned a BSN degree.
BSN-Educated Nurses Provide Better Care
A BSN isn’t just for show and to look nice on your resume. Decades of research have shown that when hospitals hire more BSN-educated nurses, their overall patient care quality greatly improves. They have decreased patient mortality rates, improved patient outcomes, and greater employee longevity.
In the October 2012 issue of Medical Care, researchers found that patient care was better in Magnet hospitals compared to other hospitals. Magnet hospitals had 14% lower odds of inpatient death within 30 days and 12% lower odds of failure-to-rescue compared with patients at other hospitals. These numbers are attributed not only to the high standards required of nurses at Magnet hospitals but also because of the higher proportion of BSN-educated nurses on staff.
In a similar example, researchers found that an increase in nurses with BSN degrees can lead to a decrease in post-surgery mortality rates. Nurse researcher Ann Kutney-Lee and colleagues found that a 10-point increase in the percentage of BSN-holding nurses was associated with a decrease of 2.12 deaths for every 1,000 patients.
These kinds of statistics make it clear that nurses with BSN degrees provide extensive and improved patient care and can have a major impact on mortality rates in hospitals.
Choosing a BSN Program
With all that information considered, getting a BSN can be an important leap in your nursing career. If you’re looking to get your BSN to be more competitive in finding your dream nursing job, below is a shortlist of qualities to consider when looking for the right program.
1. Look for state approval and accreditation
Not every school is created equally. Some have specific state approvals and accreditations from agencies that analyze key metrics at the program. Two major accreditation bodies to follow are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both analyze nursing schools for academic quality, staff experience, and other important criteria for effective nursing education.
2. Research and visit schools
Visit a few schools to find the campus, program, and faculty that’s the best fit. Another important metric to consider in your search is NCLEX pass rates from the school’s registered nursing program. These pass rates will indicate how well the school prepares students to pass licensing exams, which can be a good indicator of how well they prepare all their students in similar programs.
3. Consider tuition costs
As with any type of schooling, cost matters. As you weigh your options, determine what type of loan and tuition rates fit your budget. By making sound financial decisions early, you can set yourself up to become successful.
4. Evaluate career placement programs
The final, and arguably most important, aspect of choosing the right nursing school is checking if they offer career placement programs. Your degree is no good if you can’t quickly find a job after you graduate. Many schools have accelerated placement programs that can get you into the hospital or nursing facility you want to be in.
Career Choices for Nurses with a BSN
As you weigh the costs and benefits of earning a BSN degree, it’s important to keep your overall career trajectory in mind. Nursing is a broad field, and a BSN degree can open a lot of doors.
Many envision nursing as a career packed with 12+ hour days and an intense work environment. While this may be true in some instances, many nurses find themselves working 9-to-5 jobs in clinics, four-hour shifts on call at recovery centers, or in a myriad of other settings.
Alternative BSN Careers Options
Your BSN degree can qualify you for non-bedside nursing jobs as well, like school nursing and public health nursing. You could also work for the government, corporate, legal, and insurance institutions as a consultant.
While some clinical experience may be necessary for advanced leadership positions, it is still possible to get a nursing job that doesn’t involve working day-to-day in a hospital. Keep an open mind and an open eye for potential jobs, both within the obvious places and outside of them in other less-obvious industries.
If you’re looking to try out different nursing jobs or industries without committing long term, check out Clipboard Health, where you can sign up to work shifts you want on the schedule you want and get the experience you need to plan your career’s future.