The Institute of Medicine spoke, and the healthcare field jumped. Not long after the organization recommended that 80% of the nation’s RNs hold a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2020, hospitals began adjusting their HR policies to reflect the guidance. Many adopted a hiring preference for BSN-prepared nurses. Some required their currently employed RNs to return to school and earn a BSN.
The field of nursing education has changed, too, as a result of the sweeping suggestion. New RN-to-BSN programs have sprung up nationwide — to the point that RN-to-BSN programs now outnumber traditional 4-year BSN programs or accelerated BSN programs. A 2014 American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) report put the number of RN-to-BSN programs at around 700.
Peggy Hewitt, MSN, RN, a clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, highlights some examples of education innovations that aim to support BSN-seeking RNs in a recent issue of Nurse Educator. She also issues a few suggestions of how nurse educators everywhere can make the transition as smooth as possible for this unique group of students.
More than half of RN-to-BSN programs are partially or completely online, according to Hewitt. The increased convenience is helpful to students, as are other progressive initiatives she highlights in the article.
The Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) Project in North Carolina provides dual enrollment and a shared curriculum pathway to students at certain community colleges and partner universities. Here’s how RIBN works: Students stay at the community college for the first three years (while taking one university course each semester) and earn an associate degree in nursing. Next, they take the National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN) and pick up their RN. They then move on to the university campus to complete their fourth year, working part-time as an RN if they like, and earn a BSN in the process.
Another initiative highlighted in the article is the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education. The consortium is a partnership between a handful of community colleges and Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) that features as shared, competency-based curriculum. The partnership allows associate degree nurses graduating from a participating community college to earn a BSN at an OHSU campus with just an additional year of full-time coursework.
Similarly, in Washington state, Olympic College and the University of Washington Tacoma developed a joint RN-to-BSN program to make the transition easier for geographically isolated students.
Such partnerships offer multiple benefits, according Hewitt.
“Bringing completion programs to the students adds to the variety of options available, increases accessibility, allows education to continue in a familiar environment, and possibly decreases cost,” she writes.
Supporting BSN-seeking RNs isn’t dependent on organizational partnerships however. Nursing programs as well as nursing instructors themselves can encourage students in a number of meaningful ways.
Here are a few of Hewitt’s suggestions for ADN instructors:
Embolden students to continue their formal education after earning their ADN.
Invite representatives from RN-to-BSN programs to speak about their programs to ADN students.
Assign students a project that requires them to research admission requirements and other information about RN-to-BSN programs.
Here’s what BSN instructors can do:
Recognize the clinical expertise RN students bring to the classroom and absolutely refrain from negative comments about non-BSN nurses.
Realize that students may be dealing with coworkers who challenge their decision to earn a BSN and hold class discussions on how students can handle negative comments in a positive and professional way.
Understand the real struggle students may have juggling school with family obligations, work, finances and time.
How RN-to-BSN programs can make life easier for students:
In light of time and work struggles (see above), offer programs online or hold courses on the same day each week to allow students to keep a regular work schedule.
Hold an orientation schedule before the program starts to give students a realistic expectation of the work involved.
Although they may seem small, such steps can make a big impact on RN-to-BSN students and, on a larger level, the profession’s 80%-BSNs-by-2020 goal.
“Students of RN-to-BSN programs value the support and encouragement from faculty members,” Hewitt writes. “Celebrating the knowledge and experiences the students bring to the classroom creates a positive learning environment.”
Thanks! I want to get a bachelor of science nursing so it was really informative and helpful for me!