If you're an RN with an associate degree, it's likely you've read an article or two about why you should earn your BSN. Okay, it’s probably more like too many articles to count, on top of recommendations from your employer, mentor, friends and maybe even a nosey stranger. RNs understand why a BSN is important, but deciding when it’s the right time to go back to school is another decision in its own right.
While there are many elements to consider before enrolling in a program, the most basic answer is that you should earn your BSN as soon as it is feasible for you to do so. From industry demands to career opportunities, here are three reasons why you should consider earning your degree.
1. The BSN is becoming an industry standard.
The healthcare industry has been sounding the call for more nurses to earn their bachelor's degree for some time. Perhaps most prominently, the Institute of Medicine launched an initiative to increase the proportion of nurses with BSNs to 80 percent by 2020. Additionally, according to a study from the American Association of Nursing (AACN), nearly 79 percent of nurse employers strongly prefer nurses with a BSN.
In other words, what was once nice to have is now becoming an industry standard. Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities are asking their current employees to enroll in an RN to BSN program and/or hiring nurses on the condition that they earn their BSN within a certain number of years on the job.
2. We're on the brink of a nursing shortage.
Like many healthcare professions, nursing is growing tremendously. In fact, the RN workforce is expected to grow from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS data also projects that approximately 649,100 professionals will be needed to replace nurses who are retiring or leaving the field—this brings the total number of job openings for nurses to 1.09 million by 2024.
The reason for this growth is largely due to the aging baby boomer population. A 2014 U.S.Census Bureau report found that by 2050, the number of U.S. residents age 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million. This trend is resulting in a greater need for care as the baby boomer generation now requires more treatment, medications and general healthcare services.
But according to current degree enrollment numbers, there is a shortage of BSN-equipped nurses to meet the increased medical needs. While the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported a 3.6 percent increase in entry-level BSN students in 2016, it is not enough to meet the projected demand for nursing staff. The anticipated shortage has further influenced employers to encourage prospective and current employees to earn their bachelor's degree.
3. Changing patient demographics call for more advanced roles.
The demand for healthcare spurred by the aging baby boomer population affects more than just RNs. It also means there will be a greater need for nurses who specialize in geriatric care and nurse managers to navigate patient care within their healthcare organizations. Many senior and assisted living centers also double as acute long-term care facilities, as hospitals look to shorten multi-day stays and life expectancies are longer, in turn creating a demand for roles that require, you guessed it, a BSN and/or other advanced degrees.
It's important to note that these changes within the industry also create opportunities for nurses who would like to transition to more specialized roles. While many nurses may feel pressure to earn their BSN, doing so also opens many opportunities for career growth.
Additionally, even if you want to stay in an RN role, you can still benefit from expanding your education. As healthcare continues to evolve, and treatment strategies shift toward preventative care (instead of just prescriptive care), nurses must keep up with industry standards. Most importantly, furthering your training can allow you to provide the best possible care for patients, which is the heart of the nursing profession.
Want to learn more about earning a BSN? Read about Madison School of Healthcare's RN to BSN program.