The call for BSN-prepared registered nurses is growing stronger all the time.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing, in its annual survey conducted in August 2016, found that more than half of hospitals and other healthcare institutions require new hires to have a BSN. Fifty-four percent of nearly 600 nursing schools across the nation responding to the survey call the BSN a must — a 6.6 percent increase from the prior year’s survey.

What’s more, nearly all of those healthcare providers — a remarkable 97.9 percent — express what the survey terms “a strong preference for BSN graduates.”

Why a Majority of Hospitals Are Seeking RNs With BSNs

It stands to reason, given that back in 2010, when the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academy of Sciences) — and known since 2015 as the National Academy of Medicine — put forth a report asserting that by 2020, the U.S. healthcare system should increase its pool of RNs with BSNs from 50 percent to 80 percent.

At the time of the report, the number of nurses nearing retirement age created a concern around the need for qualified nurses, at any level of training, to be ready to fill in. But gains made in technology, while improving the ability of healthcare providers to treat and manage patients, require a more highly educated workforce to utilize that technology.

Plus, patients have better outcomes with a more highly educated group of nurses overseeing their care. “Report: 80% of Nursing Workforce Should Have a BSN by 2020” published on noted a correlation between the percentage of BSN-educated nurses on a unit and a reduction in the “morbidity and mortality” for patients in that unit.

Nursing: A Growth Field

The requirement for more education isn’t slowing the growth of nursing; in fact, projections for the decade ending in 2024 show an increase of 16 percent from 2014 numbers, with 3.24 million nurses expected in the workforce by 2024. Further gains in knowledge and technology certainly have a role in the need for an expanded nursing pool. Though, of course, the overall growth of the nation’s population, and a growing awareness of health risks like smoking, means that there are simply more people to care for — including Baby Boomers who have already entered or will be entering their 70s sometime in the coming decade.

More education means improved patient outcomes, but for an aspiring RN, there are many other advantages to going through a BSN program.

“Where traditional nursing education focuses on practical skills,” a New York Times article on RN to BSN programs noted, “students in four-year programs learn more about theory, public health and research.” That education prepares nurses to be more informed and invested members of the healthcare team.

The growth of RN to BSN programs, and online RN to BSN programs in particular, has allowed working nurses to earn their BSN degrees much more conveniently than in the past. The online RN to BSN program at Eastern Michigan University is designed with the two most common concerns nurses have when thinking about a return to school: cost and time. A student can start at six different times during the year and complete the program in 12 to 24 months, for under $10,000.

The future of nursing lies in the hands of nurses with BSNs, and as hospitals and other healthcare institutions are saying, the future is already here.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s RN to BSN Online.