In 2013, the Washington State Nurses Association published a white paper identifying the state’s ADN-prepared RNs as the biggest pool of nurses available to pursue baccalaureate-level education in order to meet the growing need for more advanced nursing care in the state. Finding ways to support and motivate these RNs to engage in furthering their education through RN to BSN programs is essential to achieving the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations that 80 percent of all nurses hold bachelor’s degrees or higher by 2020. As of 2015, just 51 percent of Washington State’s nurses had achieved a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or higher.
The Nurses Association also reported that recruiting for clinical leadership positions is aimed at experienced nurses that hold BSN degrees or higher. This comes as research continues to show that patient outcomes are better at hospitals that employ a higher proportion of bachelor’s-prepared nurses.
Recent statistics on the state of nursing education in Washington reveal the growing emphasis that is being placed on seeing to it that more nurses achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing:
- In 2012-13, BSN and Graduate Entry (GE) programs graduated 856 students in Washington State.
- The number of RNB (AD-RN to RNB) graduates in Washington has also sharply increased, with 550 students enrolling in these programs in 2012-13, an increase from 383 graduates in 2010-11.
- The Washington State Nurses Association reported that although nursing education programs have doubled in the last 10 years, there still continues to be shortage of nurses relative to the population, with 798 per 100,000 residents, as compared to the national average of 874 per 100,000 residents.
- Of the 2,503 nursing graduates in Washington in 2011, 64 percent graduated with an associate degree, 32 percent graduated with a BSN, and 4 percent were graduate entries.
The Commission reported that nurses with a diploma or ADN that go on to earn a post-licensure bachelor’s or master’s degree make an important contribution to increasing the overall educational competency of Washington’s nursing workforce.
RN to BSN Degree Programs in Washington State
RN to BSN programs are designed to enhance a nurse’s professional status, boost their salary, and prepare them for clinical leadership positions.
The State of Washington Department of Health reported that the number of Bachelor of Science programs in the State have doubled since 2001. Many of programs developed in recent years are RN to BSN completion programs designed specifically for the state’s diploma and ADN-prepared registered nurses.
All RN to BSN programs are designed with working nurses in mind, offering flexible schedules and class times. In fact, most of the more-than 160 RN to MSN bridge programs available nationwide are offered entirely or partially online. The Washington State Department of Health maintains a list of RN to BSN programs,14 of which are offered at campus locations in the following cities:
- Walla Walla
RN to BSN Program Course Content
A comprehensive RN to BSN program provides nurses with skills beyond the clinical aspects of nursing by providing a solid background in areas such as:
- Evidence-based practice
- Patient safety
- Technology integration
- Healthcare systems and policies
An RN to BSN program therefore includes study in topics such as:
- Human physiology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Behavioral science
- Health assessment
- Professional Roles and Values
- Organizational Systems and Quality Leadership
- Community Health and Population-Focused Nursing
- Evidence Based Practices and Applied Nursing Research
Many times, certain credits for coursework completed in an RN-BSN program can be applied toward a graduate degree in nursing.
The rules governing nursing education in Washington State does not specify a number of clinical hours in the required content areas within RN-BSN programs. However, all programs are required to have clinical practice hours across the lifespan, including: pediatric, mental health, obstetric, community health, and medical-surgical.
Clinical opportunities for RN to BSN program nurses are divided into clinical placement consortiums, which group hospitals according to district:
- South Puget Sound Clinical Consortium (also called District #1)
- Northwest Nursing Clinical Placement Consortium
- Inland Northwest Clinical Placement Consortium
- North Puget Sound Clinical Placement Consortium
Hospitals Supporting RN to BSN Education in Washington State
The Washington State Nurses Association reports that mechanisms for encouraging the movement of ADN RNs to BSN RNs can help to increase the supply of more highly educated nurses. In some settings, employers support the educational advancement of nurses seeking BSN degrees through tuition reimbursement and flexible scheduling.
- State employees in hospitals such as Harborview and the University of Washington Hospitals are allowed to enter tuition-exempt programs at state educational institutions.
- The Seattle Children’s Hospital encourages RNs to pursue their BSNs by offering tuition assistance after 3,000 hours of service (about 18 months of full-time service).
- Providence Health & Services (the third largest not-for-profit healthcare system in the U.S.) has partnered with the University of Portland to offer the Providence Scholars program, which offers tuition assistance to select students in their junior or senior years of a BSN program at the University of Portland. This program, coupled with a UP grant, provides tuition coverage of more than 80 percent.