New York state has enacted legislation that will help improve patient safety by ensuring nurses secure their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) within 10 years of their initial licensing.

Excelsior College continues to work with nurses’ associations and hospitals across the state to ensure registered nurses (RNs) have the information and support they need to attain bachelor’s degrees in nursing. With Excelsior’s existing partnerships, many nurses have access to educational benefits, such as tuition assistance and generous credit-transfer policies.

“When nurses earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing, they gain a deeper knowledge of how to help patients recover from illness or manage disease. They become better prepared to think critically and serve as an integral component of the healthcare delivery team,” said Mary Lee Pollard, dean of the School of Nursing at Excelsior College.

“Achieving higher levels of education elevates their careers and often increases job satisfaction,” Pollard said. “It positions them for greater professional growth and personal fulfillment.”

Improving Patient Safety:

Bachelor’s-level training prepares nurses to take a holistic approach to patient care, understanding how disease affects the entire body and how health outcomes are interconnected with life circumstances.

“If someone has diabetes, they would understand from a holistic perspective the impact of this diagnosis,” Pollard said. “And what’s more, they’ll know to consider important questions, such as what is their family situation, how does their socioeconomic status affect their disease, do they need help preparing healthy foods?”

Local nurses and hospital administrators have found that this informed, collaborative approach empowers nurses to be important drivers in improving patient outcomes and hospital efficiency.

“Registered nurses are the group of caregivers that spend the most time at the bedside point of patient care. They work directly with individuals to improve their health,” said Marie Kaye, DNS, MS, RN, Albany Medical Center’s academic coordinator and AMC/Excelsior College Project LEARN director. As a result of knowledge gained in the areas of population-based care and evidence-based practice while earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, nurses are able to more effectively coordinate the care given by the inter-professional health care team, advocate for patients, and identify the solutions to address their health issues.”

Nursing Program Evaluation Commission:

In addition to increasing the level of education of New York’s nurses, the new law establishes a commission that evaluates barriers to the nursing profession and access to baccalaureate programs.

Known as the Nursing Program Evaluation Commission, its members will report their findings and make recommendations for any necessary legislative actions to ensure those with the ambition to become nurses have access to educational and career opportunities.

“It’s important that we — both Excelsior and the state — remove as many barriers as we can to help students achieve their degree,” said Caroline Mosca, an Excelsior College School of Nursing faculty member. “And in 12 months, once the commission issues its report, we’ll have even more data on how to expand access to bachelor’s degree in nursing programs.”

The Law’s Specifics:

The requirement that RNs earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing within 10 years goes into effect 18 months after it was signed into law in late December 2017. All current RNs and students who are now enrolled in an associate degree program will not be affected by the law. They are grandfathered under the previous regulations.

New York is now leading the way as the only state in nation to establish a BSN in 10 law — and it’s expected to have national implications.

“Our state took an important step forward to improve the patient experience and hospital safety for all New Yorkers,” Pollard said. “This law will help drive positive change throughout our nation’s healthcare system.”