Nurses with advanced degrees more likely to land jobs after graduation

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Despite a recent report that there are fewer jobs for nurses in hospitals, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has good news for students graduating this May from entry-level bachelor's and master's nursing programs: New data shows they are much more likely to receive a job offer upon graduation than any other field.

A national survey of 515 deans and directors from U.S. nursing schools found that 59 percent of new graduates from bachelor's programs had job offers at the time of graduation compared to the national average across all professions (29.3 percent). Furthermore, four to six months after graduation, 89 percent of new bachelor's degree graduates had secured employment in nursing.

Registered nurses who graduate from entry-level master's programs also had luck landing jobs after graduation. The survey found 67 percent secured a position at graduation and 90 percent found employment four to six months after graduation.

More hospitals are requiring new hires have a bachelor's degree in nursing (43.7 percent compared to 39.1 percent in 2012) and 78.6 percent of healthcare employers now express a strong preference for BSN program graduates, according to the survey.

"Clearly, healthcare settings nationwide are seeing a difference in nursing practice based on the level of education and are making hiring decisions to enhance the quality of care available to patients," AACN President Jane Kirschling in the survey announcement. "With a significant number of nurses nearing retirement, we fully expect to see the demand for baccalaureate-prepared nurses continue to rise into the foreseeable future."

The call for nurses to earn advanced degrees comes in the wake of recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that 80 percent of all nurses hold bachelor's degrees by 2020 as part of a nationwide movement to improve patient care.

But the extra cost and additional course load after a long day at work is also a hardship for those nurses with two-year associate's degrees, many of whom have worked in the healthcare industry for years, according to an article on NJ.com.

Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., set a policy last year that all registered nurses must earn a bachelor's degree within the next decade, NJ.com reported. The new policy means nearly half of the registered nurses at the hospital must go back to school in order to keep their jobs.

In response, more than a dozen colleges and universities are offering special accelerated programs and online courses to help the registered nurses quickly upgrade their diplomas. Some colleges are even sending professors to hospitals to help nurses take classes between shifts, according to the article. Fortunately, for the nurses at St. Peter's, the hospital is picking up most of the cost for the courses.

Although studies that show patients receive better care in hospitals that employ nurses with higher-level academic degrees, many of the nurses interviewed for the N.J.com article weren't sure the extra schooling would make them better nurses. Most of the courses, they said, focus on research and theory--not practical day-to-day nursing techniques.

To learn more:
- here's the survey report
- read the announcement
- check out the NJ.com article
- read the IOM recommendations

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