How BSN students can emerge from a nursing shortage in a stronger position.

The Center for American Progress (a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy group), issued a 2022 report titled “How To Ease the Nursing Shortage in America,” that calls upon state and federal governments to make investments to support current and aspiring nurses and to make “the entire system more equitable.”

That report and several others detail the ways that COVID-19 strained the health care system and everyone involved, especially nurses. Some aspects of the nursing shortage predate the pandemic. Other factors became more visible and acute. During the peak surge of the pandemic, one in six U.S. hospitals reported critical nursing shortages.

Pandemic Effect

Many nurses faced furloughs when elective surgeries were canceled. Significant numbers of late-career nurses chose to retire early. All told, employment levels for registered nurses declined by 3 percent between 2020 and 2021, the largest decline in at least 20 years. Chief nursing officers have consistently reported staffing as their greatest challenge throughout the pandemic, with vacancy rates as high as 30 percent.

As pandemic-related issues continue to recede, educators and policy makers look to reinvigorate the nursing profession and create a more resilient health care system.

Strong Nursing Demand 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030, and that employment opportunities for nurses will grow at 9 percent, faster than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026.

The Importance of a BSN during the Nursing Shortage

In a 2019 report, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing explored the case for why a BSN degree such as that offered by John Carroll University produces a nurse professional with a wider range of critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion skills.

BSN degree holders often received larger sign-on bonuses and first-job pay upgrades — with hospitals recognizing the degree as the equivalent of four years of experience. Baccalaureate-prepared nurses also receive options to practice across a wider variety of inpatient and outpatient settings and roles, including: federal agencies, the military, nursing think-tanks, healthcare foundations, Magnet hospitals, and minority nurse advocacy groups.

These benefits are reflected in an increase in enrollment in BSN programs. That same American Association of Colleges of Nursing report from 2019 found that the number of BSN-prepared nurses is at an all-time high of 56% of all RNs.

Why Specialization Pays

Baccalaureate-prepared nurses achieve a critical first step along a career path that leads to some of the higher paying nurse positions — across direct patient care, administration, education and research. Some potential career specializations include:

  1. Pharmaceutical RN 

As a pharmaceutical nurse, you combine the skills of nursing and pharmacology to serve as a critical link in the chain between patients, physicians and effective medication management. Your primary responsibilities include administering medications, monitoring and assessing patients’ responses to treatments, educating patients and their families about proper medication usage, and communicating with healthcare providers regarding patient care. 

  1. Informatics Nurse

As an Informatics Nurse, you will work at the confluence of electronic medical records systems, machine learning, and patient care. You will combine nursing science and training with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice. Working with data and information is inherent to the Nursing Informatics role, regardless of what the job title is.  Informatics Nurses apply data, diagnosis information, and research knowledge as application analysts, project managers, informatics specialists and educators.

  1. Adult-Gerontology Nurse

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners study the physical and mental impacts of aging, and play a role in advising and educating families about care options for their elders. You will develop chronic illness treatment plans — a growing need as about half of U.S. seniors have three or more chronic conditions. AGNPs may decide to become primary care nurse practitioners (AG-PCNP) or acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNP). Demand for either specialist reflects an aging United States. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report details how from 2009 to 2019, the population of adults 65 and older grew 36%, to more than 54 million Americans. By contrast, the under-65 population grew just 3%.

Nursing at John Carroll University

John Carroll University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing, launched in collaboration with Cleveland’s world-class medical institutions (Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and the MetroHealth System), will begin enrolling students for the Fall 2023 semester. Through the BSN program, new teaching and simulation facilities in the Dolan Center for Science and Technology will support a forward-looking, evidence-based approach to nursing education.

JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.