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Why Associate Degree Nurses Should Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

It’s possible to enter the nursing workforce with a two-year associate degree (ADN) and Registered Nurse (RN) license. Those who take these pathways can enjoy fulfilling careers and steady paychecks in a job category with typically stable demand. It may be tempting to coast on the strength of your ADN and RN license, but nurses looking to expand their careers will want to consider a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Nurses often name these reasons to earn a BSN: strengthened nursing knowledge, the addition of skills for positions of greater responsibility, a foundation for a master’s and other graduate degrees, and increased earning potential.

There’s an additional piece to earning a BSN that nurses will want to consider: the motivations of the healthcare facilities that recruit them.

Why Do Hospitals Prefer BSN Nurses?

Healthcare facilities, especially Magnet hospitals, prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses. In The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice fact sheet updated in April 2019, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) dubbed BSN nurses as “prized for their skills in critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion, and for their ability to practice across a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings.”

The AACN fact sheet further states that “Magnet hospitals are model patient care facilities that typically employ a higher proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses, 59% BSN compared to 34% BSN at other hospitals.” Based on this data, it’s safe to conclude that nurses with a BSN have a higher chance of finding jobs at Magnet facilities.

What Is the Link Between BSN Preparation and Patient Mortality Rates?

A key finding from a 2021 Nursing Outlook article links BSN preparation to improved patient outcomes. The article states that “risk-adjusted mortality in hospitals with 80% BSNs as recommended by the National Academy of Medicine is almost 25% lower than hospitals with 30% BSNs.” The study examined data from 510 hospitals and more than 1.7 million adult general surgical patients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and California. The study confirms previous research correlating lower mortality rates in facilities with BSN-prepared nurses.

The American Hospital Association’s Academic Progression in Nursing initiative gathered a list of findings on its Evidence for a BSN Workforce page, suggesting correlations between BS-prepared RNs and improved patient outcomes. Here are two that highlight reduced patient mortality rates:

  • A Health Affairs article reported two fewer deaths per 1,000 patients for every 10% increase in the hospital’s BSN nurse count.
  • A Medical Care article noted a 14% drop in odds of inpatient death within 30 days for patients who received care in Magnet hospitals, which tend to have a “higher proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses.”

Looking beyond U.S. borders, the Nursing Outlook article sheds even more light on positive correlations between BSN preparation and patient outcomes. “Despite international differences in baccalaureate nursing education,” the article explains, “research in multiple countries consistently finds that patients experience better outcomes at organizations with higher BSN compositions.”

BSN or RN to BSN – Does It Matter?

The Nursing Outlook article offers proof that hospitals see the same improved outcomes from BSN-prepared nurses no matter the route taken to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The article states that “the outcome benefits of BSN qualifications are not contingent upon the educational pathway by which the BSN was earned.” This finding is significant for hospitals: It offers proof that hiring BSN nurses is likely to improve patient outcomes no matter which route nurses take to earn their bachelor’s degree (pre-licensure BSN or RN to BSN).

The finding is significant for nurses, too. They can expect hospitals to view their RN to BSN as on par with a pre-licensure BSN for patient outcomes. ADN nurses who might be on the fence about completing their bachelor’s through an RN to BSN program should take note.

Nurses seeking better job opportunities can separate themselves from the pack. Earning a BSN is a step in that direction, but how would an ADN nurse complete a BSN? Online programs are a practical option.

Why Go Online for Your RN to BSN?

With online RN to BSN programs, nurses can complete the degree on their schedules. Asynchronous programs that do not require them to “attend” class online at set times provide the flexibility they need.

The University of Illinois Chicago offers an online RN to BSN program that is asynchronous and CCNE-accredited. Each of the 10 core courses lasts eight weeks — working nurses can take a course or two at a time to reach the BSN finish line. The program emphasizes leadership in patient care and prepares graduates for a range of opportunities, including positions in nursing management, expanded roles within their nursing specialty and public health nursing.

Armed with a BSN, nurses can occupy roles in healthcare facilities that improve patient outcomes by providing optimal care.

Learn more about the University of Illinois Chicago’s online RN to BSN program.

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