New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill requiring future nurses graduating from associate degree or diploma nursing programs to obtain a baccalaureate in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure.
The law states that in order to maintain licensure as a registered professional nurse in New York State (NYS), registered nurses (RNs) must have attained a baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure.
The law went into effect immediately on December 19, 2017; however, the requirement to obtain a baccalaureate in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure will take effect 18 months after the act became law. (See NYS Senate Bill S6768 for further information).
RNs licensed on or before the effective date of this act (December 19, 2017) are exempt from the new requirement.
All students who were enrolled or pending acceptance into an associate or diploma program preparing registered nurses on the effective date of this act (December 19, 2017) are exempt from the new requirement.
Over 52 years ago, the American Nurses Association published its first position paper on educational requirements for entry into practice, advocating that the baccalaureate degree be the minimum degree for entry into registered nurse practice.
Over the years, numerous regulatory and accrediting bodies have recommended this change to nursing education minimum requirements as a means to address increasingly complex patient care resulting from shorter lengths of stay, higher acuity and more sophisticated interventions. This proposal is the result of a growing body of research evidence that additional education results in better patient outcomes.
The impetus for this change in minimum educational requirements for registered professional nurses is due in part to the recognition of the increasing complexity of the American health care system. Rapidly expanding technology and procedures place greater demands on nursing competencies.
Several recent research studies demonstrate the added value of additional education in relation to improved patient outcomes. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that workplaces with baccalaureate-prepared nurses have lower patient mortality rates, lower failure-to-rescue rates and higher proficiency in diagnoses and evaluating nursing interventions.
Another study demonstrated that each 10 percent increase in the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workplace results in a 5 percent decrease in surgical patient deaths.
No. The law recognizes the need for and value of the multiple educational paths and entry points into the profession.
For those holding an RN license in NYS at the time the law was passed, the mandatory requirement to advance their education does not apply (please refer to bill in its entirety); however, nurses who fall into this category may want to consider advancing their educational preparation by pursuing a baccalaureate in nursing for a number of reasons:
Having a baccalaureate degree expands employment opportunities. Depending on the workplace and/or state where one is licensed, many nursing specialties require a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. For example, nurse educators, nurse managers, informatics nurses, nurse advocates, oncology nurses and perioperative nurses are generally required to have or obtain a baccalaureate degree. Additionally, many health care facilities require nurses in administrative or leadership roles to possess a baccalaureate degree. This leads to both an opportunity for professional growth and increased earning potential over the span of their career.
A baccalaureate degree in nursing builds upon previous knowledge and existing skill sets of the associate- or diploma-prepared nurse. Baccalaureate education enhances quality and safety in the health care environment and facilitates care designed to address social determinants of health and care that is evidence-based.
With an increase in complex patient care needs, keeping pace with the constant changes in health care within the ever-changing patient care settings requires continued professional development. A baccalaureate program instills the importance of lifelong learning and need to keep current with the latest evidence-based practice.
Additionally, a baccalaureate degree is required for those who want to pursue advanced practice as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or nurse scientist. And, while many may be indecisive about whether they will continue on with their advanced education, many find that making learning a habit by continuing on the path with formal education challenges and enhances their knowledge and skills. This fosters a richer understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic aspects of nursing that impact patients and influence the health care system.
With a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is a significant positive relationship between the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce and the quality of patient care and patient outcomes, baccalaureate completion programs build upon previous knowledge to enhance quality and safety in today’s challenging health care environment, an environment which is moving from predominantly inpatient settings to community-based settings. It is imperative that nurses be on the forefront of managing the care of their patients, no matter the setting.
As with many professional careers, nursing has become a popular and desirable field of study. With increasing competition for existing employment opportunities, baccalaureate-prepared nurses have an edge in the job market. The number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses is climbing both in NYS and nationally -- nurses in the baby-boom generation are starting to retire and these roles are being filled by nurses with baccalaureate degrees.
According to the RN Work Project, baccalaureate-prepared nurses report being highly satisfied with their jobs, compared with nurses who hold an associate degree. Associate-prepared nurses more frequently report moderate to extreme dissatisfaction with their jobs.
In another study, nurses with a baccalaureate degree reported significantly higher job satisfaction related to opportunities for autonomy and job and organizational security, with less job stress and physical demands.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program is a rigorous accreditation process hospitals seek to show they are centers of excellence for nursing care. Hospitals that seek to earn Magnet status from the American Nurses Association are required to demonstrate as part of the application process that 75 percent of their nurse leaders are qualified at baccalaureate level or higher. The current trend is for more area hospitals to obtain Magnet designation.
There are many routes to advance your education. The University at Buffalo School of Nursing offers an online RN to BS program that can be completed in 12-24 months. Building upon knowledge and experience of registered nurses who have already successfully completed an associate or diploma nursing program and passed the NCLEX-RN. Our RN to BS Program is delivered in a student-centered, distance learning/asynchronous format that allows practicing nurses to attend school while maintaining employment.
For more information on NYS licensure requirements please refer to the NYS Education Department Office of the Professions.
UB School of Nursing welcomes comments from readers. Please submit your comments in the box below.