News & Events

President’s Column: As hospitals push for BSN-only hiring, MNA calls for different approach

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
December 2011 Edition

President’s Column
By Donna Kelly-Williams

Sparked by a recent initiative and report generated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine on the “future of nursing,” a number of hospitals are beginning to introduce policies where only nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree will be hired into new positions for Massachusetts hospitals, a policy opposed by the MNA as short-sighted with far-reaching implications for nursing and health care.


While attending many MNA membership meetings across the state I have heard from a number of nurses in different facilities reporting that holding a BSN is a requirement for all new hires at the facility. We have also learned that Cerberus-Steward has a plan in place to make BSN a mandatory job requirement for all staff within three to five years, depending on your years of service. A number of nurses have also reported thazt nurses with many years of clinical experience, board certifications and degrees in public health, health management and education, among others, are being denied transfers and re-employment after educational leaves and deployment to care for underserved populations.

In my role as MNA president, I have been attending meetings of a working group of nurses in various roles who are discussing how this initiative will be implemented in our state. The changes in policy are based on some information in the IOM report regarding the need for enhanced educational preparation for nurses, as well as the academic progression of nurses currently practicing, given the increasingly complex world of nursing practice today.

The MNA values and supports our colleagues who have a BSN, and the MNA has been instrumental in fighting for contract language for tuition reimbursement and other initiatives that recognize and reward nurses for aca

demic progression. Through the Massachusetts Nurses Foundation, the MNA awards generous scholarships for nurses to advance their education. Thousands of hours of free continuing education are provided by the MNA each year, which allows nurses to develop the skills they need to advance their clinical competency and educational preparation

We are participating in this working group as a means of providing a balanced perspective on this issue that is respectful both of the nurses currently in the workforce and of those coming into the profession. Here are some of the points we have been making:

  • All nurses, no matter what their entry into practice, must pass the exact same licensing exam. We are all held to the same standard, and our ability to meet that standard must be the overarching factor.While some research shows patients in hospitals can do better when being cared for by BSNs, there is also research that demonstrates that nursing experience at the bedside can be equally effective. There are also dozens of studies that show that it is not educational preparation that makes the difference, but it is the number of patients assigned to each nurse, no matter what their educational level, that makes the biggest difference in patient outcomes.
  • While our economy is in distress and salaries are stagnating or being cut, the cost of a four year education in this country continues to increase. At the same time, most hospitals are cutting back on tuition reimbursement benefits and continuing education opportunities.
  • There is little or no uniformity in the curriculum between BSN programs, nor is it easy to transfer credits from AD and other programs into different schools, which makes educational development more difficult and cumbersome. There also are long waiting lists to get into all nursing programs, and a longstanding faculty shortage, so creating a larger pipeline of BSNs is even more difficult with a predicted nursing shortage.
  • Finally,there is the issue of diversity in nursing. When I go to speak at nursing schools across the state, it is in the AD programs where I see the largest number of nurses from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Given all the points above, and the fact that we are looking at a growing shortage in the supply of nurses, we don’t believe this is the directions in which we should be moving.

In the months to come, we will continue to follow this issue, and we will continue to advocate for all nurses for the good of our profession and our patients.