Bachelor of Science in Nursing in Wisconsin

Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have made the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) the recommended path Wisconsin to receiving a RN license in Wisconsin and elsewhere. In response to recommendations that 80% of the nation’s RNs hold BSN degrees or higher by 2020, Wisconsin has been quick to put together a task force to implement this change.

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In May of 2013, led by the Wisconsin Center for Nursing, the Wisconsin Action Coalition was launched to determine the issues that needed to be addressed to make the 80% goal a reality in the state. The Coalition found that 76% of healthcare providers were taking action to increase the number of nurses with a BSN. Currently, just 53.5% of Wisconsin’s RNs hold a BSN or higher.

Reports released by the Coalition shows that 63% of hospitals and clinics were putting actions into place to remove regulatory barriers so as to allow nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training. This means that BSN-educated RNs can now pursue career opportunities within acute care, home care and long-term care that weren’t available to them before.

The Wisconsin Board of Nursing will play an important role in ensuring that the new standards are met and that RN licenses are granted to qualified candidates.

Enrolling in Online or On-Campus Pre-Licensure BSN Program in Wisconsin

Nursing programs are prevalent across Wisconsin and are available in online, classroom or hybrid format. The hybrid programs mix classroom and online courses to allow nursing students to enjoy a level of flexibility while still getting the experience of a college campus setting. Accelerated programs are also available at some locations.

BSN campus programs are available in many cities in the state including the following:

  • Green Bay
  • Milwaukee
  • Mequon
  • Waukesha
  • Madison
  • Eau Claire
  • Watertown
  • Fond du Lake
  • Oshkosh
  • La Crosse

Wisconsin BSN programs are generally 124 credit hours.


General education courses that may be required as part of pre-nursing studies prior to applying for the nursing component of the four-year program include:

  • Biological Chemistry
  • English Composition
  • General Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Microbiology

Nursing programs in Wisconsin are highly competitive. A minimum GPA of 2.8 in these prerequisite courses is typically required.

Some programs require completion of the HESI entrance exam with a score of 80% or higher.

Core Curriculum and Clinical Experience

Nursing specific courses will vary from program to program, but typically include the following:

  • Health Assessment
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Critical Inquiry into Research
  • Advanced Medical Surgical Nursing
  • Family Centered Mental Health Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Health Care Policy and Administration
  • Professional Practice Preparation
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Approximately 1,000 hours of clinical experience is required for the BSN and can be completed in a variety of settings including area hospitals. Three examples of hospitals where nursing clinicals can be performed include:

  • University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics – Madison
  • Froedtert Hospital and Medical College of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
  • Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Exam and Licensing for BSN Program Graduates in Wisconsin

RN Licensure in Wisconsin can be obtained through the Wisconsin Board of Nursing. Requirements include:

  • Complete education requirements and submit documentation.
  • Successfully complete NCLEX exam.
  • Does not have arrest or conviction record subject to Fair Employment Act.

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is a national and state requirement for licensure. Registration for the exam involves the following steps:

To take the NCLEX RN before program completion, candidates can have their nursing program coordinator submit a WI Act 114 Certificate of Approval to the Wisconsin Board of Nursing before registering to take the exam.

Career Opportunities After Graduation

Hospitals and clinics throughout Wisconsin understand the need for nursing residency programs, which help nursing graduates by reducing the learning curve during the first year of practice. Clinical and professional competency is built using mentoring and job shadowing.

The Wisconsin Action Coalition reported that 76% of facilities surveyed stated that action was being taken to implement nurse residency programs. Some of the institutions where nursing residencies are currently available in the state are:

  • Wisconsin Nurse Residency Program – Marquette University, Morgantown
  • The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics – Madison
  • Meriter Hospital – Madison

A BSN program can aide in securing a RN position after graduation. In addition, the BSN opens up jobs advancement opportunities including the following positions being advertised in February 2015:

  • RN Clinical Documentation Specialist – Mayo Clinic, Adams
  • Clinical Coordinator – Community Health Systems of Wisconsin, Racine
  • RN Mobile Unit – Meriter Health Services, Madison

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