Department: Editor's Memo
Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle announced that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the “BSN in 10” bill into law on December 19, 2017, making New York State a leader in recognizing the significance of baccalaureate preparation for RNs.1 The bill, S6768/A1842B, started as an act to amend the education law in relation to the educational preparation for professional nursing.
The purpose of the law is to increase the level of education for professional RNs, requiring that newly licensed nurses already have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) at the time of entry into practice or achieve a BSN within 10 years after initial licensure. As written, the directive will still maintain the multiple entry points into the profession: diploma, associate's, and BSN.
Providing the best care
In a press release, Assemblyman Morelle stated, “It has been widely demonstrated that additional learning translates to better patient outcomes and improved care. With these new standards in place, we are ensuring that New Yorkers continue to receive the highest possible treatment and care.”1 Senator Flanagan added, “The law also addresses the state's nursing shortage and will make recommendations on increasing the availability and accessibility of nursing programs—to the benefit of all New Yorkers.”1
Both legislators frame their comments within the context of helping the state's citizens. This success has been almost 15 years in the making and was achieved through the hard work and persistence of nurses and their professional organizations in New York along with the unwavering efforts of supportive legislators. Each year the bill failed to become law brought renewed strength and determination to try again the following year.
The new BSN in 10 law has three parts: the baccalaureate degree as entry to professional RN practice; the establishment of a special commission to report its evaluation of barriers to entry into nursing (within 12 months) with recommendations to increase accessibility and availability; and a “grandfather” clause to protect nurses with an associate's degree who are currently licensed as well as students who were enrolled or waitlisted in an associate's degree program at the time of the law's enactment. As with any new law, regulations to implement the law must be written.
Entry into practice
Many of us are all too familiar with the 1964 resolution passed by the House of Delegates of the American Nurses Association, proposing consideration of the baccalaureate as entry into practice. For more than 50 years, the issue has been debated and is still not resolved. One recommendation in the Institute of Medicine's Future of Nursing report in 2010 was that 80% of all RNs hold bachelor's degrees by 2020. According to data from the Campaign for Action, which advocates for and monitors progress in achieving the goals of the report, 53% of employed RNs had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2015. That same year, the goal of doubling the number of employed nurses with a doctoral degree by 2020 was achieved.2
Equipping our nurses
Nurses represent the largest number of healthcare workers by proportion and spend the most time in direct contact with patients. Nurses are important members of healthcare teams and yet often have the least (formal) education on the team. Although New York is not the first state to mandate a BSN for nursing practice, it is leading the new charge to increase the educational level of RNs, which will equip them with additional critical skills to be more effective in today's complex healthcare systems.3
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN