What does the law state, in general?
The law states that in order to maintain licensure as a registered professional nurse in New York State (NYS), registered nurses (RNs) must have attained a baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure.
When will this law take effect?
The law went into effect immediately on December 19, 2017; however, the requirement to obtain a baccalaureate in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure will take effect 18 months after the act became law. (See NYS Senate Bill S6768 for further information).
What does this mean for currently licensed RNs who do not hold a baccalaureate degree?
RNs licensed on or before the effective date of this act (December 19, 2017) are exempt from the new requirement.
What if I am a student currently enrolled in a nursing program?
All students who were enrolled or pending acceptance into an associate or diploma program preparing registered nurses on the effective date of this act (December 19, 2017) are exempt from the new requirement.
How did this legislation come about?
Over 52 years ago, the American Nurses Association published its first position paper on educational requirements for entry into practice, advocating that the baccalaureate degree be the minimum degree for entry into registered nurse practice.
Over the years, numerous regulatory and accrediting bodies have recommended this change to nursing education minimum requirements as a means to address increasingly complex patient care resulting from shorter lengths of stay, higher acuity and more sophisticated interventions. This proposal is the result of a growing body of research evidence that additional education results in better patient outcomes.
Why is this change in minimum educational requirements for registered professional nurses an important step in nursing education and the profession?
The impetus for this change in minimum educational requirements for registered professional nurses is due in part to the recognition of the increasing complexity of the American health care system. Rapidly expanding technology and procedures place greater demands on nursing competencies.
Several recent research studies demonstrate the added value of additional education in relation to improved patient outcomes. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that workplaces with baccalaureate-prepared nurses have lower patient mortality rates, lower failure-to-rescue rates and higher proficiency in diagnoses and evaluating nursing interventions.
Will associate degree and diploma nursing programs be phased out or eliminated?
No. The law recognizes the need for and value of the multiple educational paths and entry points into the profession.
Why should those exempt from the requirement to advance their education consider pursuing a baccalaureate degree in nursing?
For those holding an RN license in NYS at the time the law was passed, the mandatory requirement to advance their education does not apply (please refer to bill in its entirety); however, nurses who fall into this category may want to consider advancing their educational preparation by pursuing a baccalaureate in nursing for a number of reasons:
1. Employment options and career advancement
Having a baccalaureate degree expands employment opportunities. Depending on the workplace and/or state where one is licensed, many nursing specialties require a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. Additionally, many health care facilities require nurses in administrative or leadership roles to possess a baccalaureate degree. This leads to both an opportunity for professional growth and increased earning potential over the span of their career.
2. Professional growth
A baccalaureate degree in nursing builds upon previous knowledge and existing skill sets of the associate- or diploma-prepared nurse. Baccalaureate education enhances quality and safety in the health care environment and facilitates care designed to address social determinants of health and care that is evidence-based.
With an increase in complex patient care needs, keeping pace with the constant changes in health care within the ever-changing patient care settings requires continued professional development. A baccalaureate program instills the importance of lifelong learning and need to keep current with the latest evidence-based practice.
Additionally, a baccalaureate degree is required for those who want to pursue advanced practice as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or nurse scientist.
3. Better patient outcomes
With a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is a significant positive relationship between the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce and the quality of patient care and patient outcomes, baccalaureate completion programs build upon previous knowledge to enhance quality and safety in today’s challenging health care environment, an environment which is moving from predominantly inpatient settings to community-based settings.
4. Competition for hiring
As with many professional careers, nursing has become a popular and desirable field of study. With increasing competition for existing employment opportunities, baccalaureate-prepared nurses have an edge in the job market. The number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses is climbing both in NYS and nationally — nurses in the baby-boom generation are starting to retire and many are taking early retirement after the pandemic. These roles are being filled by nurses with baccalaureate degrees.
5. Job satisfaction
Baccalaureate-prepared nurses reported significantly higher job satisfaction related to opportunities for autonomy and job and organizational security, with less job stress and physical demands.
6. Magnet designation
The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program is a rigorous accreditation process hospitals seek to show they are centers of excellence for nursing care. Hospitals that seek to earn Magnet status from the American Nurses Association are required to demonstrate as part of the application process that 75 percent of their nurse leaders are qualified at baccalaureate level or higher. The current trend is for more area hospitals to obtain Magnet designation.
Seeking higher education
There are many routes to advance your education. We have partnered with Excelsior College, Mercy College, Chamberlain, SUNY Delhi, Pace University, Grand Canyon University, and New York Institute of Technology to provide our graduates with a streamlined, preferred status path to BSN completion. Opportunities exist that allow nurses to continue working while attending flexible in-person and on-line programs.