Proposed New York Bill Would Require RNs To Earn Bachelor’s Degrees; Kingston, Medmal Lawyer Reacts


Proposed initiative “BSN in 10” will require registered nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree within ten years to keep working in New York. Currently, there are no other states that require registered nurses to have a four-year degree but just a two-year associate’s degree. Recently, both New Jersey and Rhode Island considered similar proposals but they did not stick through the legislature. Some might think that this seems to be draconian and over burdensome to require RNs to have four year degrees, especially considering that New York would be the only state to require such lofty requirements.

However, this is part of a national push to raise educational standards for nurses and is actually SUPPORTED by nursing associations and major health policy organizations. This also has federal support which has been recommending an upgrade to nursing education requirements. Last year, another stronger federal report came out really creating an impetus for the other two states and New York to propose these bills. As of 2008, the federal noted that 1/3 of all nurses had at least a four year degree. They hope and recommended raising that to eighty percent by 2020! An older study from the University of Pennsylvania found that for every ten percent increase in staffing by nurses with bachelor’s degrees, there was a five percent decrease in surgical deaths. If we follow the federal recommendation, that could result in a forty percent decrease in surgical deaths if eighty percent of the nursing staff has a four year decree.

As pushy as this support seems, it is important. It shows that organizations and governments are willing to take a big risk of possibility turning away individuals from a nursing career because of the added requirement. The health care industry as a whole is facing staffing shortages, particularly for nurses. This has the added effect that of all nurses, very few actually have been properly trained to care for the aging population.

Of course, this bill would have a “grandfather clause” which would protect current registered nurses from having to go back to school.

I think this is a good idea because it will help to lower the high costs of health care by providing more effective nurses which, as the study did show, will reduce errors. Moreover, nurses will be more efficient and proficient in their skills after a four year degree because they will have an additional two years of instruction and, presumably, supervised instruction by educators by current nurses. I am not saying that current nurses with a two year degree are worse off than a fresh-out-of-school student who has a four year degree because I acknowledge that a nurse is going to learn a TON from hands on work and experience. Additionally, I know some nurses with an associate’s degree are absolutely amazing; behind every good doctor is a better nurse.

However, the difference is that those nurses with a two year degree will have to learn the ropes at work on real patients. While that is a great thing, it also means they need to get up to speed. This is excellent if their employer will take the time to properly teach their nurses. BUT this is not going to be good if their employer is too busy, overworked, and really needs nurses IMMEDIATELY. With the extra two years of instruction and supervised attention/training, this could help get students up to speed on mock patients or under strict supervision; much safer for the patient.

But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at