Oct 14, 2019

Baccalaureate Degrees on Rise, Latest Figures Show

Credit:SDI Productions

Since its beginning in 2010, The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action has tracked progress made by our state-based Action Coalitions, nurses, and supporters, as we continue to implement the recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM; now the National Academy of Medicine) in its Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report. New figures are in, and the latest updates to the dashboard measures show slow but steady progress on many fronts. Highlights include:

  • When the Campaign began in 2010, just about 39 percent of U.S.-educated, first-time takers of the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) had a Bachelor in Science of Nursing (BSN)—a degree that the IOM report urged more nurses to seek, so that the nursing profession could better handle the country’s growing health needs. In 2018, the percentage of those with a BSN increased to about 48 percent.  It is likely that by 2020, the majority of U.S.-educated, first-time NCLEX-takers will be BSN graduates.
  • The number of RN-to-BSN graduates annually has more than tripled, from 19,606 in 2009 to 66,369 in 2018.

Nursing workforce expert Joanne Spetz, PhD, reports that the IOM recommendation that 80 percent  of RNs have a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2020 is unlikely to be met. However, as Spetz wrote last year in Nursing Outlook, if the number of RN-to-BSN graduates increased to 100,000 per year, and the percentage of new graduates with baccalaureate degrees increased to 70 percent  the 80 percent  goal could be met by 2025.

  • The IOM recommendation that nurses assume more leadership roles is reflected in one dashboard measure that has declined: nursing representation on hospital boards.  According to the American Hospital Association, the percentage of hospital boards with RN members declined from 6 pecent in 2011 to 5 percent  in 2014 and further declined to 4 percent  in 2018.

Former Connecticut Action Coalition leader Lisa Sundean, PhD, RN; Nora Warshawsky, PhD, RN, CNE, previously of the Kentucky Action Coalition; and colleagues build the case for including nursing leaders on health care organization boards in the July/August 2019 issue of Nursing Economic$.

The Campaign is collaborating with the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, the Nurses on Boards Coalition, and others on its Champion Nursing Council to increase the number of nurses serving on hospital boards.  According to the Governance Institute, a membership organization serving non-for-profit health systems boards of directors, “successful board members understand the organization’s services and the needs of the community…The best nurse leaders possess these competencies and use them daily” (Benson & Hassmiller, 2016, p.1).