More than three million nursing professionals will play a vital role in transforming the U.S. health care system to attain the objectives set forth in the 2010 Affordable Care Act – legislation that represents the broadest health care overhaul since the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As more hospitals seek to earn the coveted Magnet recognition where nursing delivers excellent patient outcomes, many hospitals have already begun requiring that nurses either return to school for their bachelor’s degree or have a BSN before applying.
This new trend reinforces the concept that advanced nursing degrees result in better patient care for improved patient outcomes. Many practicing nurses turn to American Sentinel University to acquire an advanced nursing degree, such an RN to Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN), designed for registered nurses (newly licensed and veteran health professionals) to enhance career mobility, professional development and practical skills that they can apply immediately to their jobs.
“New legislation and the complexity of patient care demands additional education beyond the basics of pre-licensure,” says Catherine Garner, PhD, RN, Provost and Dean, Health Sciences and Nursing at American Sentinel University. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), more than 50 percent of registered nurses did not have education credentials higher than a diploma or Associate degree in the year 2000 and this is changing as hospitals have begun requiring that nurses have a minimum of a BSN. Dr. Garner notes that advances in genomics and complex treatment regimens and the growing number of patients with multiple co-morbidities requires additional knowledge in genetics, infection prevention and control, pharmacology and pathophysiology. “Nurses need to know how to access evidence-based guidelines in real time and how to mine data from electronic medical records to improve patient outcomes.”
Kim Sharkey, BSN, RN, MBA, NE-A, BC, Vice President of Medicine and Chief Nursing Officer at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta believes that health care is a team dynamic that requires active participation from different professional specialists. Sharkey says that a Bachelor’s degree (BS) prepares a nurse with a broader base that supports critical thinking, leadership, health promotion and management of patient care across the continuum. Currently, nursing is the only health care profession that does not require the BS as the first professional degree. “A nurse is valued for his or her ability to coordinate care among the team,” says Sharkey. “When working with other disciplines, what does it say to the group when the nurse is the least educated among them?”
Sharkey points out that her hospital has been a Magnet hospital for 15 consecutive years and, in order to maintain its status, 100 percent of the hospital’s nurse managers must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in nursing by January 1, 2013. As Sharkey looks to the future, she says that focusing on succession planning is key.
“If I want to have future nurse leaders in a Magnet environment, I focus on the staff nurse at bedside,” she says. Sharkey adds that she began this quest several years ago through limiting the hire of new graduate nurses to those who were graduating with a BSN.
“The lack of a Bachelor’s degree will certainly limit career advancement in our organization and a BSN is necessary for advancement into the highest level of our clinical ladders program and required for movement into a manager’s position.”
Sharkey decided if she was going to request that her nurses obtain BSN’s and then Master’s degrees, then she should serve as a role model and work her way toward her next educational level: a Doctor of Nursing Practice in executive leadership. “I looked at a variety of options: online, traditional classroom and combination programs and I decided on American Sentinel University because its online DNP was the best match for my needs,” says Sharkey. She started her career with a diploma in nursing, then achieved a BSN and then got her Master’s in business administration. “American Sentinel University allowed me to take some bridge courses, then enter into its DNP for executive leadership program,” she says.
As hospitals, nurses and many diverse parties continue to work together leading change to advance health, Dr. Garner believes that developing an educated nursing workforce is necessary for the profession and is the right thing to do for our patients: “Education will play an even more important role in improving patient safety and will ultimately lead to an even higher-quality, cost-effective patient care.”
To learn more about American Sentinel University’s RN to BSN program, go to
To learn more about American Sentinel University’s accelerated RN to MSN program, go to http://www.americansentinel.edu/health care/RNBSN_Overview.php.