Hospitals’ Push For Higher Degrees Has Economic Costs

More hospitals are requiring nurses to have four-year degrees, which some say decreases the value of two-year nursing degrees.

Nursing standards that are being encouraged statewide have some questioning the true economic costs of increasing demands in levels of education.

Throughout Indiana, hospitals are being encouraged to attain “Magnet” status, a credential awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Among other standards of patient care, Magnet promotes higher degrees of education for nurses. It took staff at Bloomington Hospital four years to gain the certification.

“It was a very long process in ensuring that our patient outcomes were very good, that we had very successful patient satisfaction rates, that we also encouraged our nurses to go back to school for more formal education,” Debra Wellman, IU Health Bloomington Hospital Administrative Director of Clinical Education and Practice says. “So that process was pretty significant getting us prepared.

While many believe Magnet should be the standard for hospitals across the state, some say there is a larger economic cost to consider. Ivy Tech Community College President Tom Snyder says if nurses are forced to get bachelor’s degrees in nursing, or BSNs, demanded by Magnet programs, the state will lose jobs and nurses will rack up more debt as they try to set themselves apart.

“We’ve carefully studied this push to make all nurses BSN and find that there’s no return on investment for the nurse unless they pursue a masters degree or a later business degree, and there’s certainly no return on investment to either the patient or to the person that’s paying for it,” Snyder says. “Particularly the businesses because somebody’s going to have to pick up all this extra cost.”

Despite the call for more nurses to get 4-year degrees across the state, Snyder says the programs offered at Ivy Tech, which are 2-year degrees, provide the same clinical preparation that 4 year degrees offer.

“They get all their patient exposure at the 2-year level and they get no additional at the 4-year level. At least the programs we’ve studied,” he says.

Snyder says 70 percent of nurses who graduated last year came from community colleges, and the field would see a nursing shortage if four-year degree requirements are enacted.

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