In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), now known as the National Academy of Medicine, recommended increasing the proportion of BSN-prepared nurses to 80 percent of the nursing workforce by 2020. While the number of registered nurses (RN) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is rising, it is unlikely to hit the 80 percent mark for another five to nine years. Meanwhile, healthcare employers and organizations continue to emphasize the link between BSN preparation and improved patient care.

What Did the IOM Recommend in Its 2010 Report?

In the IOM’s report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the institute established eight recommendations focused on the following key messages to keep pace with ongoing evolutions in healthcare:

  • A nurse’s level of preparation determines his or her full scope of practice.
  • An improved educational system can enable nurses to seamlessly complete higher preparation.
  • Along with physicians and other medical professionals, nurses can help reform healthcare in the United States.
  • It is important to boost the effectiveness of workforce planning and policymaking through an upgraded information infrastructure that collects useful data.

Why Is the IOM’s BSN Recommendation Important?

The importance of the IOM’s recommendation for increasing the proportion of BSN-prepared nurses to 80 percent of the nursing workforce by 2020 is evident when you look at the research. Several studies correlate BSN-prepared nurses with improved patient outcomes.

What Other Reasons Support the IOM’s Recommendation?

Employers are heeding the call of the IOM and healthcare organizations. Thus, they are encouraging nurses with an associate degree to complete a bachelor’s program, and they are preferring to hire RNs with a BSN. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) requires all nurse managers employed by hospitals seeking Magnet status to have a BSN. And, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recognizes the baccalaureate degree as the minimum preparation for the practice of nursing. Other reasons that support the IOM’s BSN recommendation are:

  • Today’s healthcare system is complex.
  • The role of a nurse has expanded beyond task-oriented duties.
  • The majority of patients receiving care are older — a large segment of the population age 65 or over.
  • Patients are living longer with one or more chronic health conditions.
  • Technology is becoming more sophisticated.

How Many Nurses Hold a BSN?

As of 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates roughly 3 million registered nurses in the United States, and the Campaign for Action reports that 56 percent of nurses hold a BSN or higher.

Health economist Dr. Joanne Spetz expects the 80 percent goal to be achieved by 2025, and health services researcher Dr. Chenjuan Ma says 2029.

To realize the 80 percent BSN initiative, employers must encourage RNs to go back to school. Online RN to BSN programs are an ideal way for working nurses to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.


NCBI: Educational Levels of Hospital Nurses and Surgical Patient Mortality

NCBI: Effects of Hospital Care Environment on Patient Mortality and Nurse Outcomes

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Associate Degree in Nursing Programs and AACN’s Support for Articulation

NCBI: Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes

American Nurse Today: Can Nursing Meet the 20/20 Goal?

National Academy of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health – Report Recommendations

American Nurses Credentialing Center: Magnet Recognition Program – Eligibility Requirements

Campaign for Action: Transforming Nursing Education

Lippincott Nursing Education Blog: IOM: 80% of Registered Nurses to Have BSN Degree by 2020

NCBI: An Increase in the Number of Nurses With Baccalaureate Degrees Is Linked to Lower Rates of Postsurgery Mortality Driving Factors Behind the 80% BSN by 2020 Initiative

Elsevier: Projections of Progress Toward the 80% Bachelor of Science in Nursing Recommendation and Strategies to Accelerate Change

HealthLeaders Media: The Future of Nursing Report: Where Are We Now?