RNs may need 4-year degree

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A firestorm of commentary broke out last month upon news that New York lawmakers might soon again debate a bill that would require registered nurses to attain a four-year bachelor's degree.

The measure would exempt current registered nurses but mandate new associate's degree holders earn a “BSN in 10.” It reflects a push by the Institute of Medicine to have 80% of RNs  (more than double now) holding a bachelor's in nursing by 2020.

After dying in committee last year, the bill now has bipartisan support from New York legislators, nursing associations and health policy groups, reports say.

But it is still hotly debated by those who feel two more years of college is not necessarily a guarantee of better care. They also say tougher requirements — and accompanying costs for nurses and nursing schools — could discourage nursing candidates.

Experts note research shows increased survival rates in acute care settings where more higher-degreed nurses work.

The bill's backers say it also is part of an effort to create more future nurse educators.