North Shore-LIJ Becomes NY’s First Health System to Require New Nurses to Get Bachelor’s Degree

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Higher Levels of Nursing Education Improve Quality and Patient Care

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As patient care becomes more complex and high-tech, there is growing evidence that developing a more highly educated nursing workforce improves patient safety and leads to higher-quality, more cost-effective patient care

As nursing assumes an increasingly prominent role in the delivery of care during this new era of healthcare reform, the North Shore-LIJ Health System announced today it will soon require newly hired nurses to have a Bachelor of Nursing Science (BSN) degree or earn one within five years. This new requirement takes effect on September 1.

All new nurses who do not have a BSN must enroll in a bachelor’s degree program within 24 months of their hire date and earn their degree within five years. For more than a decade, North Shore-LIJ has offered tuition assistance to employees for BSN degrees as well as flexible onsite nursing degree programs with several Long Island universities and colleges.

Nurses on staff at North Shore-LIJ who have not earned their BSNs are exempt from the new policy, however, nurse executives and hospital leaders are strongly encouraging employees to continue their education and take advantage of the health system’s tuition reimbursement program, which has helped thousands of nurses at the system keep up with current and future demands.

Michael Dowling, North Shore-LIJ’s president and chief executive officer, said the new requirement is based on research that shows a significant relationship between higher levels of nursing education and improved quality outcomes, lower mortality and fewer adverse events. “As patient care becomes more complex and high-tech, there is growing evidence that developing a more highly educated nursing workforce improves patient safety and leads to higher-quality, more cost-effective patient care,” said Mr. Dowling.

In 2009, a bill was introduced in the New York State Legislature to require registered professional nurses to attain a BSN degree within 10 years of their initial licensure. If passed, New York would be the first state in the country to have a BSN as standardized entry into the nursing profession. Attempts by nurses and other advocates to pass similar legislation in the state date back to 1976.

“Nurses require a broad-based education that prepares them to meet increasingly complex patient health needs in constantly evolving practice environments,” said Maureen White, RN, senior vice president and chief nurse executive of the 15-hospital North Shore-LIJ Health System. “Nurses must be prepared to work with individuals, families and communities of diverse backgrounds in a range of settings as part of interdisciplinary teams. The bottom line is that our nurses have a deep and direct impact on every single patient who enters our doors, more so than any other medical professional.”

Ms. White said that about 60 percent of North Shore-LIJ’s more than 10,000 nurses already have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. In addition, 465 nurses currently are working on their bachelor’s degree, she said, “So it’s clear that many already recognize the importance of advancing their clinical knowledge skills and enhancing patient care in their own environment.”

About North Shore-LIJ Health System
The nation's second-largest, non-profit, secular healthcare system, the North Shore-LIJ Health System cares for people of all ages throughout Long Island, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island -- a service area encompassing more than seven million people. The winner of the National Quality Forum’s 2010 National Quality Healthcare Award, the North Shore-LIJ Health System consists of 15 hospitals, 17 long-term care facilities, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, three trauma centers, five home health agencies, a hospice network and dozens of outpatient centers. In addition, North Shore-LIJ is partnering with Hofstra University to develop a new medical school, which will admit its first class in 2011. North Shore-LIJ’s owned facilities house about 5,600 beds, employ more than 10,000 nurses and have affiliations with more than 9,000 physicians. Its workforce of about 42,000 is the largest on Long Island and the ninth largest in New York City. For more information, go to http://www.northshorelij.com .

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