Countdown To An 80% BSN Workforce By 2020


Countdown To An 80% BNS Workforce
by Elizabeth Ann Boman Miquelon BSN, RN

In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), known at that time as the Institute of Medicine, recommended that 80% of the nursing workforce in the United States should be educated at the BSN level or above in order to improve patient safety and quality of care. They challenged the U.S. healthcare system to achieve this goal by 2020. Since the recommendation, research has suggested that patients have better outcomes and are less likely to experience avoidable complications when the nurses who care for them have higher levels of nursing education.


So what does this mean for us?

I know that advancing our education matters to many of us as staff nurses. Unfortunately, not all of my nursing colleagues understand exactly why this is so important. We may think, “But I make sure patients are clean and turned, wounds are dressed, vent settings have been checked, drips titrated per protocol, pain under control, and all bowels moving and bladders emptying. I walk down the hall and assess a GI bleed or C. diff by aroma alone. Why do I need a BSN?”

For a time, I didn’t realize the importance of getting a BSN. I thought, “I have already been on my hospital practice council, participated in quality improvement projects, completed data audits, and even mentored most of the nurses on the unit who already had their BSN. Isn’t that enough? I’m an experienced RN who provides great care.”


Why we have to do more

Some employers have mandated a timeline by which RNs must complete their BSN degree. The delivery of this message can be challenging; yet in today’s world of advanced health care, it has become critical for all nurses to implement evidence-based practice, think critically, and meaningfully collaborate as part of an interprofessional team. All of these skills and traits are major components of RN-to-BSN degree programs.

Some nurses worry that they will just be relearning what they already know and therefore wasting time and money. However, research shows that nurses in their first BSN completion courses have reported that their new coursework is immediately applicable in their practice. Through nurse interviews, BSN graduates frequently report heightened competencies and renewed satisfaction in their practice. More importantly, they expressed strengthened confidence in their expanded knowledge and skills as advocates for patients with an improved delivery of quality care.

After all, nursing is all about caring for patients.  We all want the best available resources.  Health care is evolving, and we as professional nurses have to do the same.  Continuing to higher levels of education is about improving and achieving new competencies. It’s also about more career opportunities.


So how do we get there?

Presently, there are many health care organizations and hospitals that encourage nurses to attain higher levels of education. Through support, incentives, and tuition reimbursement, employers are transforming their organizations by helping nurses advance their degrees. For instance, many hospitals have introduced a tiered nurse advancement incentive program that motivates RNs to obtain their BSN and advanced degrees.

In addition, online learning has paved the way for nurses to earn their BSN degrees more easily, conveniently, and quickly than in a traditional classroom setting. Even the busiest nurses can progress toward higher degrees in their spare time. Gone are the days when hours upon hours in a classroom were required; no longer are medical professionals mandated to spend too much time away from home each week in order to advance. With online learning programs, tools, and materials, a BSN can be within reach for many nurses who otherwise may not have time to attend traditional classes.

Regardless of where we are in our nursing career, every nurse has room to grow. It’s uncomfortable to be uncomfortable – I get it! Don’t be afraid to make a change to better yourself as a professional; embrace it and grow.



Edwards, D. (2013). An 80% BSN workforce by 2020? What is the IOM report the future of nursing really telling us? Retrieved from Reflections On Nursing Leadership.

Flynn Makic, M., Martin, S., Burns, S., Philbrick, D., and Rauen, C. (2013). Putting evidence into nursing practice: Four traditional practices not supported by the evidence. Retrieved from AACN Journals.

Institute of Medicine. (2011). The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press

Oh, E., Kim, S., Sun Kim, S., Cho, E., Yoo, J. Kim, H., Lee, J., You, M., Lee, H. (2010). Integrating evidence-based practice into RN-to-BSN clinical nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education, Vol. 49, No. 7. doi: 10.3928/01484834-20100331-02

Elizabeth Ann Boman Miquelon BSN, RN
About Elizabeth: Liz has been the Editor in Chief of the From Your RN (FYRN®) newsletter for the past eight years. Her clinical diversity in floating led to her creation of the FYRN® newsletter. Liz has been recognized as a leader in nursing issues, practice changes, and initiatives. 

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