May 20, 2015

New Set of Foundational Courses Is Designed to Standardize Requirements for Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees

May 20, 2015

Widespread Adoption Will Help Build a More Highly Educated Nursing Workforce, Experts Say

Princeton, N.J. – A diverse group of nurse leaders and educators supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today called on the nation’s nurse education programs to adopt a standardized set of non-nursing course requirements. The goal is to make it easier for nurses and nursing students to earn bachelor’s degrees in the science of nursing (BSN).

The new set of foundational courses is designed to create a more seamless path to the BSN, so more nurses can transition from associate’s degree in nursing programs at community colleges to BSN programs at four-year institutions. Noting that a more highly educated nursing workforce is needed to better promote health and provide care, the Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80 percent of the nation’s nurses have BSN or higher degrees by 2020. At present, approximately 55 percent of the nation’s registered nurse (RN) workforce holds BSN or higher degrees, according to a 2013 report from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The nurse educators, employers, and regulators who developed the new set of BSN foundational courses are part of RWJF’s Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action and its Academic Progression in Nursing initiative. Last year, they convened a two-day summit to analyze course requirements at promising academic progression programs and develop a proposal for an ideal set of requirements for BSN-to-RN programs. The proposed BSN foundational courses they developed consist of 60-64 non-nursing credits in the following areas:

  • Roughly 24 general education credits in areas such as communications, English, humanities and the fine arts, statistics, and logic;
  • Roughly 12 basic sciences credits in areas such as chemistry, biology, microbiology, and physics;
  • Roughly nine social sciences credits in areas such as growth & development, psychology, and sociology; and
  • Roughly 16 human sciences credits in areas such as anatomy & physiology; pathophysiology; nutrition; and pharmacology.

Moving from an associate’s degree in nursing to a BSN program shouldn’t be as hard as it often is,” said Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing. “BSN program administrators at community colleges and universities can make it much easier—and less expensive—for nurses to advance their education by adopting this shared set of general education course requirements.”

Under the current system, differences in nursing schools’ admissions criteria, including course requirements and transferable credits, create barriers for nursing students applying or transferring to BSN programs. This often leads to duplicative coursework and adds to the time, effort, and expense involved in earning BSN degrees.

“The new BSN foundational courses will enable nurse education programs to focus on a shared understanding of essential content in nurse education,” Hassmiller added. “We encourage all university and community college nursing programs to adopt them as soon as possible so nurses and nursing students can more easily get the education they need to promote health and provide highly skilled, patient- and family-centered care.”

Helping more nurses get BSN degrees will also increase the number of nurses who go on to get master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing, which will help reverse the nurse faculty shortage and support nursing research, Hassmiller said.

Read more about the need for foundational courses for nurses seeking BSN degrees.

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