Illinois’ health care facilities listen when data comes to light that speaks to the benefits of hiring nurses with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) over those who have lesser credentials. Such data was brought to light in a 2013 article published in Health Affairs that revealed a direct correlation between having BSN-educated RNs on staff and decreased patient mortality rates.
A 2007 survey report released by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation revealed that of the nurses who responded, less than 40 percent had received at least a BSN. This number is startling when compared with statements from the Institute of Health that in order to meet future health care needs, 80 percent of nurses should have at least a BSN by the year 2020.
Fortunately nursing schools across Illinois have been aggressively responding to this call for more BSNs, opening new pre-licensure programs at a steady rate. Nurses have also responded, and are enrolling in BSN programs in greater numbers every year. In the past three years more Illinois nursing students have been admitted and graduated from BSN programs than Associate’s Degree of Nursing (ADN) programs:
- Illinois BSN students graduating in:
- 2012 – 2,540
- 2013 – 2,909
- 2014 – 3,111
- Illinois BSN students admitted in:
- 2012 – 4,108
- 2013 – 4,914
- 2014 – 5,167
Students who have completed a BSN program also have a higher passing rate on the NCLEX-RN Exam compared with students who have only earned an ADN. Last year more than 41 percent of BSN programs had a pass rate of 90 percent or higher among their graduates. During that same time, only 34.8 percent of ADN programs had a pass rate of 90 percent or higher among their graduates. Upon passing this exam, BSN graduates can apply for an RN license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Enrolling in Pre-Licensure BSN Programs in Illinois and Online
There are 30 colleges and universities in Illinois that offer BSN pre-licensure programs with campus locations in these cities among others:
- Rock Island
Typically there are two steps to the admission process for prospective students who want to earn a BSN as a path to initial RN licensure:
- First is admission to a general university or college as an undergraduate freshman
- Second is admission to a specific college or school of nursing as a student who has completed the nursing prerequisite courses
General undergraduate requirements and nursing prerequisites usually total around 60 semester credits. The core nursing curriculum taken within a nursing program usually totals another 60 semester credits of upper-division courses. This means that altogether the BSN is comprised of around 120 credits.
Nursing programs generally accept students who have completed their prerequisites at other accredited schools, including through online programs and community colleges.
Prerequisite Nursing Courses
Being able to complete the prerequisite nursing courses means that students will first need to gain admission to a college or university. This usually entails meeting minimum GPA and SAT requirements. Once students are admitted as freshmen they can start taking courses that will fulfill their general undergraduate requirements as well as nursing prerequisites.
Each nursing school is different in exactly which prerequisites it requires. Typically nursing prerequisites include courses like:
- College English
- College math
- College psychology
- Anatomy and physiology I and II
- Health assessment
- Holistic nursing
- Health and health care concepts
- Health care informatics
Many accredited colleges and universities offer nursing prerequisites online. Once complete, students may then apply to BSN schools of nursing as transfer students.
Admission into a School of Nursing
Once students have completed their general requirements and nursing prerequisites they may be eligible to apply for entrance into a BSN nursing program. Each school of nursing has its own admission requirements, which usually include things like:
- Minimum GPA for nursing prerequisites
- Minimum cumulative GPA
- Letters of reference
Because BSN students will be completing a clinical education program as part of the nursing school, they will also need to meet clinical requirements like:
- Criminal background check and drug screening
- Up-to-date vaccination record
- TB skin test
- Malpractice or liability insurance
- CPR and blood-borne pathogens training
Once admitted, students will be able to begin studying their upper-division core nursing courses, including a clinical segment.
Upper-Division Core BSN Courses in Illinois
The core nursing courses will prepare BSN students for real-world nursing. Core classes cover topics on a variety of important subjects, including:
- Fundamentals of nursing
- Community health and nursing
- Transcultural nursing
- Nursing research and evidence-based practice
- Nursing for children and adults
- Maternal child nursing
- Nursing and genetics
- Senior nursing
- Nursing management and leadership
As part of the core courses, students will also participate in clinical education. Clinicals can take place at any health care facility that has a contract with the student’s school of nursing. To adapt to students who may be completing a BSN program online, clinicals can take place at locations scattered throughout Illinois or even the nation. Some places that may facilitate clinicals for pre-licensure BSN programs include:
- Children’s Hospital in Peoria
- Johnston R Bowman Health Center in Chicago
- Advocate Christ Medical Center in Downers Grove
- Evanston Hospital
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago
- Saint Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates
- Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge
- Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village
- Cadence Health-Central DuPage Hospital
- Clinical simulation laboratories
Taking the NCLEX-RN Examination in Illinois
Upon earning a BSN degree, students will be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN Examination proctored by the company Pearson VUE. Candidates can sign up for this through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Candidates can begin reviewing for this by studying materials like:
Illinois test takers score better than the national average. Last year 84 percent of Illinois’ 6,243 NCLEX-RN test takers passed the exam. The state’s BSN graduates also have a better chance of passing this exam than those who only hold an ADN.
Resources for Prospective BSN Students in Illinois
Each college of nursing can additionally point prospective students in the right direction for scholarships and grants.
Employers also recognize the benefits of higher education, and many of Illinois’ major health care providers offer incentives like tuition reimbursement and salary bonuses to support their employees’ quest for a BSN.
Nurses who have a BSN can also find jobs that are more advanced, including positions like:
- Nursing program teacher or lecturer
- Nurse supervisor
- Nurse coordinator
- Clinical nurse manager
- Clinical researcher and support specialist
- Document integrity specialist