Nursing is a rapidly evolving field. As the population ages and medical science uncovers new treatments and technologies at an increasing rate, nurses are at the forefront of delivering the latest advancements in care to their patients. Although nurses can enter the profession with a two- or three-year associate degree, the Bachelor of Science in nursing, or BSN, is fast becoming the standard of expectations. Nurses with this four-year degree are equipped with more advanced knowledge and skills.
An increasing number of employers are seeking registered nurses with bachelor's degrees, either as a requirement or a preference, reports Nurse.com. Some will hire nurses only if they agree to enroll in courses leading to the BSN and complete it within a specified time period. States such as New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have initiated legislation that would require new RNs to earn their BSN within 10 years. To help them achieve this goal, many hospitals are offering tuition reimbursement and time off for classes.
Improved Patient Outcomes
In a landmark study conducted by Linda Aiken in 2003, and confirmed again in 2008, Aiken found that every 10 percent increase in the proportion of BSN nurses on a hospital's staff resulted in a 4 to 5 percent decrease in the number of patient deaths. A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported in the October, 2012 issue of the journal, "Medical Care," found that patients in magnet hospitals -- which have a high percentage of BSN nurses -- had a 14 percent lower risk of death within 30 days of admission compared with patients in non-magnet hospitals.
Nurses who earn BSNs receive education beyond the scope of basic patient care. They learn the cultural, political, economic and social factors that affect patients, and the principles of case management, nursing leadership and promoting health. According to a 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine, nurses today need advanced education to meet the more complex needs of an aging population and to keep up with the changes in technology and medicine.
Nurses who have earned bachelor's degrees have the satisfaction of knowing they are equipped with a breadth of knowledge that will help them care for a wide spectrum of patients. They have invested the time and study to gain more in-depth insight into their profession and are well positioned to progress to positions of leadership. Having completed this educational milestone, they can continue their education to earn master's or doctoral degrees, thus enabling them to teach, become nurse practitioners or hold positions of the highest authority.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for registered nurses in 2010 was $64,690. However, this is an average of nursing salaries at all levels, from those with associate to doctoral degrees, and those starting out as well as those with many years of experience. When starting out in their careers, nurses with bachelor's degrees may earn the same or just slightly higher salaries than those with associate degrees. As they progress, however, nurses with BSN degrees can move into leadership and administrative positions, earning salaries at the higher end of the pay scale.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.