A bill was signed into law in New York State requiring nurses with a two-year associate degree or a diploma to obtain a baccalaureate degree within 10 years of being licensed. The law was signed by New York State governor Andrew Cuomo December 19, 2017. The law will not apply to currently registered nurses or those who are presently on nursing courses. It will, however, apply to out-of-state nurses who are newly licensed in the State.
After many years of nation-wide lobbying by the nursing profession, New York State was the first to pass this law which was welcomed widely by nurse leaders who hope that other states will be encouraged in their footsteps. Over half a century ago, in 1964, the American Nurses Association House of Delegates (ANA HOD) resolved that education at baccalaureate level should be the minimum requirement for registered nurses. In 2010, a resolution supporting the BSN in 10 years was approved by around 85% of the ANA HOD which represents nurses from all over the United States. In 2010 the National Academy of Medicine also recommended that to meet the complex health challenges of the 21st Century, 80% of nurses should have at least a BSN by 2020 – although it now seems unlikely that this goal will be reached.
“We applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this critically important bill into law,” said Linda McClarigan, chief nursing officer at Adirondack Health. “The increased standards in nurse education will not only benefit our nurses but the patients and families for whom they care.”
Various research studies have shown that there are better patient outcomes in health facilities where there are more BSN prepared nurses. The most cited study is that of Linda H. Aiken in which she found that for every 10% increase in BSN nurses there was a 5% reduction in risk-adjusted patient deaths and concluded that “In hospitals with higher proportions of nurses educated at the baccalaureate level or higher, surgical patients experienced lower mortality and failure-to-rescue rates.”
Some express the fear that requiring a further two years of study, as well as the costs involved, might discourage many from entering the profession and worsen nurse shortages. However, according to Sandy Gothard, a nursing program director at a community nursing college, nurses with BSN’s tend to stay longer in their jobs, earn higher salaries, and experience more job satisfaction. A number of hospitals are also offering reimbursement for tuition fees as well as pay and/or time-off incentives for nurses who want to obtain their degrees.
A BSN qualifies nurses to practice in a variety of settings, which is significant considering the shift of health care out of institutions and into the community. “Having my BSN in nursing was one of the best educational advancements I received. It opened doors for me to teach a home dialysis program, increased my knowledge through professional groups and enhanced my learning in many aspects of the nursing profession. It is definitely worth it.” wrote Lorraine LaFreniere in an online discussion about the BSN.
Nurses with degrees have better prospects for obtaining jobs and a BSN is generally the minimum requirement for advancing to positions in management, research, education and consulting. Furthermore, a baccalaureate degree is also the door to studying at graduate level which is increasingly necessary for advancement to top leadership positions as well as a requirement for advanced practice nursing.