New York became the first state in the country requiring all nurses to complete a four-year degree program, according to Nurse.com. The new law, which the American Nurses Association has lobbied for since 1964, marks the standardization of nursing education across the state. Under the new law, which took effect in January 2018, all nurses will have up to ten years from receiving their nursing license to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. If a nurse fails to attain the four-year degree within the allotted decade then they will be stripped of their nursing license unless “extraordinary circumstances” can be shown.
The new law will not apply to currently licensed registered nurses in the state, students enrolled in a nursing program in New York State, or any individuals who have already been accepted to nursing school in New York State. In common parlance, these groups will be “grandfathered” in to the policy. For anyone that starts their nursing career or applies to a nursing school starting in 2018, the new law will apply. Under the previous law, nurses can become licensed in New York after completing either a two-year associates degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree and then passing a state licensing exam.
Speaking to Adirondack Daily, Sandy Gothard, a nursing program director said, “Research has shown that nurses with a baccalaureate level degree are the safest… if you were to tease out the differences between a two-year and a four-year degree, the baccalaureate permits a broader understanding of the patient.” In one study, cited by the University of Buffalo, “each 10 percent increase in baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workplace results in a 5 percent decrease in surgical patient deaths.” Other studies, by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that “workplaces with baccalaureate-prepared nurses have lower patient mortality rates, lower failure-to-rescue rates, and higher proficiency in diagnoses and evaluating nursing interventions.”
While nursing education advocates have long proposed standardizing nursing requirements, recent developments in the healthcare industry have finally prodded states to action. Previously, doctors bore the main responsibility for caring for patients. However, since the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) passed, nurses have taken a more prominent role in the healthcare industry. Now, many states allow nurses to prescribe medication and treat patients with minimal supervision by a physician. In response to their increased role in patient care, it only seems logical to increase the education and licensing requirements for nurses.