It has happened! New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a requirement that nurses have to earn a BSN within 10 years of their initial licensure. This new law has implications for RNs both in New York as well as across the country.

Why the emphasis on New York? Currently, there are 297,331 RNs with a license in New York. That totals 8% of all RNs in the U.S. So, it seems that this one state will set a precedent for others attempting to pass similar laws elsewhere.

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The push for BSN-prepared RNs is not new and has been in around for some time now. The American Nurses Association House of Delegates adopted a motion in 1964 which supported a baccalaureate education as a base educational foundation for the registered nurse, and this was reconfirmed in 2000.

The Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Report calls for 80% of RNs to hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020, noting the need for higher education in RNs to take care of the higher complexity patients in our healthcare system.

North Dakota also required a BSN until 2003, when the ruling was overturned. As a small state with the only requirement for a bachelor’s degree, the nursing shortage had a negative effect on that requirement. However, now that New York has passed this into law, and with the support and work of the American Nurses Association, all the state action coalitions, AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this is not going away. This was the tipping point.

Without getting into the research of why a BSN should be the minimum requirement, the legislation in New York noted several reasons. Supporting literature noted that because of increasing complexity of the American healthcare system, and rapidly expanding technology, the educational grounding of the RN must be expanded in order to cushion and facilitate this expansion in the field.

It also notes that the nurse of the future, if he/she is to be competent, must be prepared to partner with multiple disciplines as collaborator and manager of complex patients. It is proposed that the RN is usually the least educated discipline in terms of a multidisciplinary team. PTs, OTs, ST, Pharm Ds and social workers all are required to have bachelor’s, masters or doctoral degrees.

Despite being the ‘least academically’ prepared, the RN often has one of the most important and demanding roles on the healthcare team.

So, what does this bill actually say? The bill, AO1842-B/SO 6768 states has two main parts.

The first part creates a temporary nursing program evaluation commission to make recommendations on barriers to entry into nursing, availability, and access to baccalaureate programs and other related issues. This report and its findings are due to the governor within 12 months.

The second part, which is effective immediately, states that “in order to continue to maintain registration as a registered professional nurse in New York state, RN’s have to have attained a baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing within 10  years of original licensure.”

This specific section 3 takes effect 18 months after the act became law (Dec. 19, 2017). Current RNs, as well as those currently enrolled or pending acceptance into a program preparing registered nurses effective date of this act (which is Dec. 19, 2017) are ‘grandfathered’ in. This means the provisions of the law shall not apply to them.

 No doubt nurses will have many unanswered questions and many individuals feel that the law doesn’t or won’t apply to them. Obviously, the board of Registered Professional Nurses in New York will be updating the implications and providing further clarity on this.

What does this law mean for you?

 Licensure in New York: If you hold a license in New York, even if you are not working there, you are grandfathered in. However, for those who enter the profession as an RN later, if you want to be a traveler, or hold a license in New York, you will fall under this requirement. This requirement is that you obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing (the law states nursing) within 10 years of your initial licensure. For example, you are accepted into an ADN program for this next fall in Texas. You take your initial exam in Texas to become an RN. For certain reasons, you decide to move to New York. Based on the current list of those exempt from BSN in 10, you are not grandfathered in. This means that your clock to get a BSN or higher started with your initial license.

 Legislation in your state: Many states have considered this legislation and were watching New York with to see what they would implement. With this bill’s passage into law in New York, many more states are likely to move toward proposing legislation over the next few years. New Jersey also has pending legislation.

 Educational choices: There are many current options for qualifications in nursing, with different state partnerships between diploma, associate and bachelor’s programs. In preparation for this to be carried out, there will be more options not only in New York but also across the country. There are many RN-to-BSN programs online as well, so these programs will most likely expand too.

Grandfathered: If you are grandfathered in because you are an RN, you still may want to consider going to get your BSN. As more hospitals look to hire BSN-qualified RNs, and as legislation requires BSN or higher, you may want to consider going back to the books. Building your education will always open more doors.

This bill did not happen overnight. It took more than 14 years to come to fruition. Most likely more states will add this requirement within the next two years.

It is tough work passing legislation. Many colleagues, ANA-New York lobbyist and bill sponsors worked especially hard over the last year to see the successful passage of this bill.

“The passage of this bill into law reflects years of working toward a true collaboration of direct-care nurses, associate and baccalaureate faculty, nurse managers and administrators, healthcare facilities and professional associations and consumer advocates,” said Karen Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, past executive director of ANA-New York. “In the end, it is a win for all RNs and our patients!”

Courses related to ‘earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing’

WEB309: RN to BSN: Aligning Your Personality Characteristics with Your Career Goals (1 contact hr)
With the recommendation that 80% of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020, many RN’s may be considering advancing their education. Have you considered what areas of nursing you might like to explore? Might certain personality characteristics help you enjoy some nursing specialties more than others? Is your dream to work in management, administration, education or research? Is your desire to avoid specific job duties such as management? Try to align your strengths and personality characteristics with a nursing role you might enjoy! Perhaps there is an area of nursing you haven’t considered as a possibility for you. As you decide to further your education, an analysis of research and individual personality characteristics may help you align your goals within nursing areas you might enjoy the most.

WEB299: Progressing to School Successfully: Is Now the Time for a BSN? (1 contact hr)
Technology changes. Healthcare changes. And nursing is changing. Advance forward in your career by progressing to school successfully! With the 2020 goal of 80% of nurses holding a bachelor’s degree, what is the current distribution of degrees within nursing? What information do you need to consider to help you pursue your BSN and to become a part of the 80%? Become informed and motivated by this webinar.

CE171-60: Earning Degrees In Distance Education (1 contact hr)
Advancing in the nursing profession, and in some cases even maintaining a current position, may require a return to academic education. Returning to school can be daunting for adult learners. Balancing work, family, and traditional classes feel like an impossible burden. These factors make distance education a viable, a desirable, and often the only alternative. This module will provide nurses with information about obtaining academic credentials through distance education.
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