Changing Standards are Making Associate’s Degrees in Nursing Nearly Obsolete

As students are graduating from their nursing programs, many are finding that previously accepted standards for hiring have changed, making it nearly impossible for anyone with an associate’s degree in nursing alone to get a job in a hospital or clinic fresh out of school.

Many hospitals are now seeking graduates who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, rather than just an associate’s degree, even if they have life experience. Hospitals are seeking “magnet” status, a designation granted by the American Nurses Credentialing Center that indicates excellent medical service over more than three-dozen areas of evaluation. To successfully achieve that designation, hospitals are requiring that new nurses have the education to administer high quality medical care.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80% of the nursing force have a BSN by 2020. According to a report released by Nursing Economics, the number of BSN nursing programs available in the US rose by 41% between 2002 and 2012, which is good news. Still, during that same ten-year period, the number of registered nurses rose by 80%, the vast majority of which hold an ASD. Compounding the problem is the fact that many older ASD-educated nurses that could retire are instead choosing to keep their jobs. This older group of ASD-educated nurses is made up of about one million individuals.

The additional classes that make the difference between a BSN and an associate’s degree in Nursing include areas of study such as nursing leadership development. These leadership courses are considered a requirement for nurse leaders in “magnet” hospitals.

Some hospitals are hiring nurses who only hold associates degrees with the stipulation that a Bachelor of Science degree is earned within a few years of employment. However, that is fading away as new standards make having a BSN indispensible.