NY Bill Would Require Registered Nurses to Have 4-Year Degrees


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Nursing News, Nursing School, Nursing Specialties

New York State lawmakers are considering a bill that would require registered nurses to earn bachelor’s degrees within 10 years in order to continue to work as a nurse in the state.

It’s called the “BSN in 10” and is being backed by nursing associations and major healthcare associations, with the goal creating a better-trained nursing workforce to care for an aging population. The aging of the baby boomers also means that many experienced and knowledgeable nurses will be retiring, creating a double whammy for healthcare providers.

Right now no other states have a law like this on the books. It looks like New York’s law has a pretty good chance of passing, though.

New York’s legislation died in committee last session, but it has bipartisan support in both chambers this year and could be debated as early as January.

Demand for more skilled nurses is increasing as the population gets older and has more chronic diseases, and as the new federal health care law promises to help 32 million more Americans gain insurance within a few years.

Federal health officials have recommended upgrading nurse education to BSNs for more than a decade, and the idea got a boost in a 2010 report, “The Future of Nursing,” by the National Academy of Sciences nonprofit Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. As of 2008, about a third of RNs had bachelor’s degrees or higher, according to federal statistics. The institute recommended increasing that to 80 percent by 2020.

Advocates say that in addition to improving patient care, a key reason for requiring more education is to put more nurses in position to move on to jobs in administration and in-demand specialties like oncology, and to teach at nursing schools, where the average faculty age is 53.

“More and more hospitals are looking to hire BSNs, but the catch is that not that many schools offer the RN-to-BSN program or have the faculty to teach it,” said Sharon Shockness, an adjunct teacher at Mercy College in Westchester County.

The New York bill’s main sponsors, Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Morelle of Rochester and Republican Sen. James Alesi of Monroe County, said the bill is needed to further professionalize nursing. Both serve on their respective higher education committees and represent districts that include University of Rochester Medical Center and St. John Fisher College, which have BSN programs.

In addition to helping provide future teachers, the lawmakers say the added education and critical thinking skills are needed as patient care has become more sophisticated and studies show staff with higher levels of education serve patients better.

In a memo supporting the bill, the New York State Nurses Association cites a 2003 University of Pennsylvania study that found every 10 percent increase in staffing by nurses with bachelor’s degrees results in a 5 percent decrease in surgical deaths.

The article goes on to describe some of the opposition to requiring BSN degrees for registered nurses, but winds up with this quote from Dr. Peggy Tallier; “Even without the legislation in place, hospitals and other medical facilities are making hiring decisions that favor those with BSN degrees over those without them.”