9:50am

Wed January 11, 2012
Health

Nurses will need four-year degree under new bill

Under a new piece of legislation in New York’s Assembly, all new nurses in New York would need to earn a four-year Bachelor of Science of Nursing (BSN) degree - within 10 years of passage of the bill.

Under the initiative, dubbed “BSN in 10,” a two-year associate’s degree leading to Registered Nurse (RN) licensure would be sufficient for up to a decade.

Despite an ongoing nursing shortage, the measure has mostly garnered support from the medical community. The text of the measure was penned by the New York Organization of Nurse Executives (NYONE), and the New York Nurses Association has endorsed and will lobby for the bill’s passage in the upcoming legislative session.

While the “BSN in 10” movement is a few years old nationally, only recently did most of the nursing community come on board, says Judith Lewis, dean of the nursing program at D’Youville College in Buffalo.

Some two-year associates degree programs feared their curriculum could be rendered irrelevant if new requirements pushed students onto BSN tracks, according to Lewis.

“It will be like a pipeline between the associate degree programs into the baccalaureate programs. So I think all programs will flourish,” says Lewis.

“People are sicker today”

Only one-third current nurses attain a BSN degree or higher, according to University at Buffalo’s nursing dean Susan Grinsalde. Many nurses elect to forgo returning to school because salaries don’t tend to be much higher for those in the profession with four-year degrees.

Without this financial incentive, New York State needs to step in and require this extra education, says Grinslade.

“Patients are sicker today. They’re much more complex, they’re much more technical. It requires a different type of thinking, critical thinking and clinical reasoning to provide the best and safest in quality care,” Grinslade says.

Modern medical care necessitates nurses who can keep up with advances, says Grinslade, who’s quick to point out there’s nothing inherently flawed about with a two-year degree. After all, every nurse, regardless of education level, take the same exam for licensure.

“Better patient outcomes”

The decade-long timeline envisioned for nurses to achieve a BSN will allow those in the profession ample opportunity to return to the classroom with ease, Grinslade says.

“For example ... a single mom who doesn’t have a lot of money and doesn’t have a lot of resources, may be able to spread her education out a little bit more,” she says.

Recent research has confirmed what’s long been suspected, Grinslade says: a better educated the nursing corps results in overall better health care services, including a drop in mortality rates.

“[Studies] clearly support that if you have a more educated workforce, you’re going to have better patient outcomes. Patients are not going to have as many complications; their length of stay in the hospital is going to be shorter,” Grinslade says. “They’re going to be able to take of themselves better. All the those things are going to have an impact on the economics of health care.”

If the bill passes the legislature, and is signed into law by the governor, it will likely exempt current nurses and those currently in training.

New York would be the first state in the nation to require a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, though other states are on its heels