Five years ago the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report set an ambitious goal: increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree (bachelor’s of science in nursing degree or BSN) from 50 to 80 percent by 2020.

Small steps

As health care grows increasingly complex, nurses can improve patient outcomes by enhancing their critical thinking and decision-making skills and improving their ability to collaborate effectively with other health care partners. By pursuing advanced education, nurses can be better prepared to effectively address evolving changes in the health care system.

The push for advanced education in the nursing profession is rooted in research showing direct links between BSN-prepared nurses and improved patient care. In her groundbreaking 2003 study involving Pennsylvania hospitals, Linda Aiken, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FRCN, director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, found a 10 percent increase in the number of BSN-prepared nurses reduced the likelihood of patient death by 5 percent. And her international study published in the Lancet in 2014 revealed a 10 percent increase in bachelor’s degree nurses was associated with a decrease in the likelihood of a patient dying within 30 days of admission.

Coming together

To achieve the IOM goal, the greater nursing community supports Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN), a funded grants initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. APIN works to prepare the nursing workforce to deliver high quality patient care across all practice settings through partnerships with community colleges, universities and other health care practice partners.

"As older nurses retire and baby boomers age, registered and BSN-prepared nurses are in demand."

The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) oversees APIN efforts on behalf of the Tri-Council for Nursing, which includes the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National League for Nursing and AONE. Together we are committed to collaborating with nursing and health care leaders, policymakers, academic institutions and other stakeholders to support and adopt innovative and emerging strategies to produce highly educated nurses.

Raising the bar

Higher degrees of education can make a job seeker more attractive to employers, and nursing is no exception. As older nurses retire and baby boomers age, registered and BSN-prepared nurses are in demand. Additionally, as more people access health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the number of people who need care will only increase.

To provide care, employers often seek out BSN-prepared nurses. Why? Factors include the growing number of Magnet® hospitals, which require participating institutions to hire a majority of BSN-prepared nurses; the 2010 IOM report; and health care’s increasing focus on leadership and care coordination skills. Nurses looking for career advancement should consider advanced education. It’s the best way to participate fully in the transformation of health care. 

By Mary Jo Assi, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FNP-BC, Director, Nursing Practice and Work Environment, American Nurses Association

Growing Careers in the Medical Field

Six nurses share what inspired them to pursue a career in nursing.

Marjani Jean-Philippe, RN
Student, Nurse-Midwifery, Frontier Nursing University 

"My decision was predicated by my desire to honor and preserve normal physiological birth. My hope is to inspire each woman to teach another, and improve birth outcomes one woman at a time."


Erin Purcell, RN, BSN
Jefferson School of Nursing

“I wanted to help and care for people when they are experiencing a difficult time in their life. The ultimate goal is to start teaching clinically to help future nurses form and master their skills in a clinical setting.”


Nicole Poecetti, RN, BSN
Penn State University 

“I wanted to pursue a career that was hands-on, where I could learn something new every day. I wanted to be at the bedside, directly helping patients whether it be controlling their pain, helping them walk or simply holding their hand.”


Eliza Nichole Angila
Student, MEPN, Family Nurse Practitioner, UCSF School of Nursing

“I hope to collaborate with patients and develop solutions based on their individual needs. I hope to gain the clinical skills and knowledge necessary to provide tailored care to each of my patients.”


Alex Morales-Blanco
BSN Candidate, Johns Hopkins University: School of Nursing

“I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Spanish was my first language. I’ve always found inspiration in this quote: 'When you’re a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours.' Today, I’m an aspiring pediatric oncology nurse. I love the positive impact one can have as a nurse—not just on the patient, but on their family as well.”


Amber S. Hinson, RN, BSN
FNP Student,
Gardner-Webb University

"As a child I enjoyed learning about science and the human body. As a Christian, I have a passion for helping people. The nursing profession is a natural blend of those two loves for me."