According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are more than 350,000 students in the US currently pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree. With the nursing shortage expected to rise, the job market for nurses is robust and expected to grow at 15% annually for the next 10 years, a fact that will only serve to drive more to consider pursuing a nursing degree. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called on all nurses to increase the percentage of workers holding a BSN from 50% to 80% by 2020.
As the world of healthcare evolves, nurses are increasingly taking on additional responsibilities and playing a more active role in all facets of healthcare delivery. While students pursuing a bachelor’s degree still focus on the necessary standard nurses’ training and clinical skills, they also are exposed to courses that expand their critical thinking and communication skills, better preparing them to succeed in tomorrow’s healthcare landscape.
The IOM’s emphasis on a BSN has provided the impetus for many working nursing professionals to return to school to uplevel their education. This is evidenced by the demographics of students in nursing programs. One study published in AORN found that the average age of an individual pursuing a BSN was between 38 and 39, and it is not uncommon for people to return to school in their 50s.
Responding to the ION’s emphasis on the BSN and the fact that many of the students pursuing their bachelor’s degrees are from a more mature demographic, many universities have increased their online course offerings with nursing programs specifically oriented toward upleveling an RN to a BSN degree.
These online programs coordinate nurses’ clinical studies with nearby communities and offer nurses the opportunity to increase their earnings, realize greater levels of job security and compete with younger nurses entering the workforce with postsecondary education and higher degrees.
Online learning is also more accessible to working professionals returning to school to uplevel to a BSN. In addition to working, many of these individuals are raising families, and they need the anywhere/anytime flexibility online learning offers.
Online programs offer the same curricula as campus programs while providing the flexibility that allows nurses to continue to work and complete learning activities/projects at times that work best for them. Progressive learning models such as competency-based learning also allow mature students who have work experience to demonstrate mastery of skills and subject matter, thus allowing them to accelerate learning and attain their BSN degree more quickly and more cost-effectively, which is, of course, helpful to the individual, but also serves to accelerate and increase the supply of BSNs in the market, something that is absolutely required to resolve healthcare’s nursing shortage problem.
Here are some of the top motivators for nurses to return to school to pursue a BSN:
- A BSN makes it easier to secure a promotion or move into a leadership role.
- A BSN makes it easier to obtain another nursing role in general.
- A BSN is a stepping stone toward a master’s degree (nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist).
- A BSN expands nursing knowledge.
- A BSN commands more professional respect.
- A BSN provides a sense of individual accomplishment.
- A BSN might lead to a position with more convenient hours.