The field of nursing offers a number of crucial and rewarding career paths across the healthcare industry. Professionals can take part in serving patients through emergency care, administration and other specializations. This career profile series will explore some of the potential job opportunities available to those looking to help make an impact as a nursing professional.
In May 2010, the Tri-Council for Nursing called for all registered nurses to, “advance their education in the interest of enhancing quality and safety across health care settings.” In a statement titled ‘Education Advancement of Registered Nurses’ they stated, “without a more educated nursing workforce, the nation's health will be further at risk.” In order to help facilitate this movement, the charge must be led by those in positions of authority at our nation’s medical facilities - nurse managers. These professionals can not only serve to communicate the importance of higher education in the nursing field but also lead by example.
The Tri-Council’s statement lines up with recent studies which show that BSN prepared nurses are a key contributor to improved patient outcomes, lower medical costs and organizations achieving high quality care standards - all key aims of healthcare reform. While associate degrees in nursing help to prepare nursing students for everyday situations, baccalaureate programs can enhance their skills in both clinical competency and care delivery. Furthermore, such programs, like the RN to BSN degree offered by Arizona State University Online, work to train nurse leaders to better manage both the care of patients and the staff that provide that care in a variety of professional environments.
In order to encourage real movement in this direction, a national goal has been set in support of the recommendation outlined in a 2010 Institute of Medicine Report on the “Future of Nursing” to ensure that 80 percent of nurses have a BSN or higher by 2020.
The Need for Nurse Leadership
In 2008, the Commission on Magnet made the decision to set educational requirements for all nurse managers. As of January 2013, any nurse manager applying for a position at a Magnet facility must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing. This is about much more than just about earning a distinction though. Nurse managers need a BSN degree now more than ever for a variety of reasons outside of just meeting the Institute of Medicine's goal.
- Complex Environments: Bachelor’s level programs include courses on evidence based practice, healthy policy and finance, professional communication and collaboration, systems leadership, disease prevention and population management. All of these skills are essential for nurse leaders to handle challenging and increasingly diverse health care environments, along with the changes that nurse managers will face as a result of different types of health care reform.
- Evidence Based Practice: Several studies indicate a higher proportion of BSN nurses results in lower patient mortality rates. In a study, “Economic Evaluation of the 80% Baccalaureate Nurse Workforce Recommendation: A Patient-Level Analysis,” researchers found a 10% increase in the proportion of BSNs on hospital units was associated with lowering the odds of mortality by 10.9%.
Nurse leaders need to drive the delivery of patient care using evidence-based practices while also gaining familiarity with the tools necessary to implement them. This assists them with leading a better educated staff in their efforts to improve patient outcomes in the long term.
Education and Skills
Making the transition from an associate’s degrees to a BSN degree has historically been challenging. Nurse managers were hard pressed to find programs that allowed them the flexibility they needed to keep working while attending classes. One of the many advantages from the rise of quality online learning is flexibility, which has allowed for more and more professional nurse leaders to continue working while they pursue their BSN. The Arizona State University Online Nursing: RN to BSN degree program is available 100% online and is designed for the adult learner who is balancing work and family life alongside their studies.
Some nurses have felt they would not have much to gain education-wise from a BSN program. “I am not sure that I will learn anything,” one nurse said, after her chief nursing officer gave her a five- year window to get her BSN. “I have been a nurse for 20 years and a manager for the past eight years.”
While practical experience is vital, once they begin their education many students realize they may have had more to learn than they originally thought. There are a number of skills students can learn from earning their BSN online that may enhance the knowledge that they already have. Some have recognized that their ongoing studies can directly apply to helping shape their current organization as well as have an influence their nursing colleagues. Examples include:
- Professional Communication: A key skill for nursing managers, this skill is not only taught in courses specifically designed to do so, but is a byproduct of the way the education is delivered, especially in online programs where professor and peer collaboration is handled virtually.
- Project Management: Nurse leaders need the ability not only to manage personnel but to juggle a number of projects at one time. Nurses learn these skills from balancing online classes and projects with work schedules and family obligations.
- Technology: As health care technology advances, so does the nurse managers need to not only be familiar with it but also to adapt to changes in data management, health monitoring, connected devices and more. Online students, especially, utilize various types of technology on a regular basis and can become accustomed to and competent with a variety of hardware and software applications.
For the RN to BSN student, not only is a BSN degree likely to open up opportunities in their current career, but it may enable them to enter new fields like case management, RN supervision and even acting as a director of nursing.
Salaries in these areas vary as do the duties a nurse has to perform. A registered nurse with a BSN averages just over $61,000 a year, while a director of nursing makes an average of just over $82,000 a year. A few other average salaries for a BSN graduate include
- Nurse Case Manager: $69,178
- Nursing Manager: $81,317
- Clinical Nurse Manager: $79,053
Of course, there is a greater reward than just an increase in pay that comes with a BSN - the personal satisfaction that comes from being a part of better patient outcomes, lower patient mortality rates and a workforce ready to face the challenges of tomorrow’s healthcare today.