Health Policy$ense

Economics of Nursing Market a Barrier to BSN-Educated Workforce

In a new post on the Robert Wood Johnson's Human Capital Blog, LDI Senior Fellow Linda Aiken and her colleague Olga Yakusheva assess progress toward the IOM’s 2010 recommendation that 80% of nurses in the United States hold at least a baccalaureate in nursing (BSN) by the year 2020.  Aiken & Yakusheva report on changing trends in nurse employment and education, market forces contributing to these changes, and the growing evidence base linking BSN-prepared nurses and patient outcomes. They point out that the economics of the nursing market remain a barrier to accomplishing this goal:

While accurate nationwide estimates of the cost of a BSN degree are difficult to find, the average cost (not including room and board) of a 4-year college degree in 2013-14 was $9,000 to $30,000 per year...Given that a diploma-prepared nurse earns, on average, $65,000 per year, the decision to transition to a BSN can come with a hefty price tag in tuition costs and lost wages—as high as $138,000-$180,000 for ADN-to-BSN, and twice as high for Diploma-to-BSN transitions. Yet, the salary premium for having a BSN is currently a miniscule $6,400 a year...which means that nurses embarking on a BSN education are generally not expected to even begin earning a positive return on their educational investment until 20 to 30 years into their careers. As a point of comparison, the earnings premiums for having a 4-year college degree in fields other than nursing is about $25,000 annually. If we are to generate a sustainable transition to BSN-educated nursing workforce, policymakers, employers and payers need to understand the necessity of aligning the wage premium for BSN-prepared nurses with the rest of the labor market.

The full post is here.