Fixing the Nursing Shortage in America: Why Are RN to BSN Programs Critical?

The shortage of quality nurses is a problem that affects nations around the world and the United States is not exempt. Despite a rising employment rate predicted by the Department of Labor Statistics, many factors make filling these nursing jobs especially challenging, and they all lead to the same result: There are not enough nurses.

As a result of increased health care access from the Affordable Care Act and the aging baby boomer population, millions of new patients enter the health care system each year. Combine this with the retirement of nurses who are now in their 60s, and experts estimate that there will be a half million nursing jobs available and another half million nurses will need to be replaced between now and 2022. With this increase in demand, RN to BSN programs will be critical in preparing qualified nurses to support our health care system.

Who will fill the gaps?

The increased demand for nurses is accompanied by a paradigm shift in the health care field. The focus of the field is now on preventive and patient-based primary care instead of hospital-based inpatient care. This shift is causing more hospitals and health care organizations to require a higher level of education from their RNs — the field needs more BSN-prepared nurses.

However, nursing school enrollments are not growing fast enough to meet the demand being placed on the health care system. In a 2013 report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the number of nurses entering baccalaureate programs was up by 2.6 percent but this won’t be nearly enough to meet demand. Nursing schools turned away more than 79,000 qualified BSN and graduate applicants in 2012 citing budget constraints, limited clinical sites, and too few faculty to handle the extra students. Two-thirds of nursing programs surveyed said that faculty shortages were a main reason students were turned away. In addition to these struggles, most nurses who choose a job in nursing education can expect to make less money as well — taking a possible $20,000 to $30,000 pay cut.

Groups like the AACN are working with educators, policymakers, and legislators to find ways to address the need, offer additional funding, and move nurses through quality programs as efficiently as possible.

What does this mean for RN and BSN-prepared nurses?

With the aging nurses of today set to retire, this will leave many leadership roles available and employers will be filling these positions with qualified, younger nurses who can pick up where their predecessors left off. More and more health care facilities are requiring at least a BSN for employment and each nurse’s unique leadership abilities will be closely evaluated as employers consider the best candidates for advancement. Nurses who complete an RN to BSN program hold in-depth knowledge of the profession, solid critical thinking skills, and are often promoted or given higher pay than those without a bachelor’s degree.

With the online formats available today, nurses can achieve a higher level of education without sacrificing work hours or family life. Access to better education means more qualified nurses can enter the work force and help provide the care patients deserve and nurses want to give. Programs like the Nursing@Simmons RN to BSN program prepare nurses to take the next step in their careers and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.