Do I Really Need a BSN?

Posted by Paula Paine on January 14, 2015 in Jennifer Imel had her RN and a good job as a cardiac cath lab nurse. She had been in nursing for more than six years and never wanted for a job. But something kept telling her that if she wanted to advance or maybe even keep her job, she needed to get a BSN. “I was seeing the writing on the wall,” she says. “More and more medical facilities are requiring the degree, so I wanted to get out in front of it and get it done." Imel’s instincts were right on, and she graduated from Ottawa University’s RN-to-BSN program in December.
As hospitals and healthcare organizations around the country adopt new requirements for their nurses and set deadlines for BSN degree completion, nurses are heading back to the classroom in order to keep their jobs, as well as prepare for career advancement. Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, a non-profit group that advises the government and industry on health issues, are influencing such requirements, with the group pushing for 80 percent of all nurses to hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020 as a step toward improving patient care nationwide1.
So does the extra education actually make nurses better? Both Imel’s personal experience and the data say that it does. A study by Van den Heede et al. found that increasing the number of BSN-prepared nurses resulted in a decrease in hospital mortality2. These findings backed up previous studies conducted by Dr. Linda Aiken and others3. Simply put, BSN-prepared nurses improve patient outcomes.  
“I’m here for the patient and to provide the very best patient care,” says Imel. “Earning my BSN has helped remind me of the true reason I’m a nurse and what I love doing every day. The instructors at Ottawa gave meaning to the coursework and why it is important. I absolutely got the knowledge and skills I needed to step up.”
Imel stepped up even while completing her degree by filling in for her Jennifer-IMel-3.jpgboss, who had to go on medical leave. She was able to move right into the role and complete the added administrative functions without a hitch. She happened to be taking Ottawa University’s “Nursing Leadership and Management” course at the time. “That’s when everything just clicked for me,” Imel says. “I was suddenly using what I was learning in class and I understood then why a BSN was necessary.” Since then, Imel has stepped up again after being asked to chair the hospital’s Policies and Procedures Committee. She sees her degree beginning to pay off and pave the way for future opportunities.
The fully online format of Ottawa University’s RN-to-BSN program proved beneficial to Imel because of her extremely busy work schedule and because she lives an hour and a half from a major university. She was able to complete the Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 18 months using OU’s 8-week-term format.
The RN-to-BSN program at Ottawa University was designed by Ms. Kathy Kump, who has been a registered nurse for more than 25 years and is currently working on her DNP. She serves as the program’s director, as well as an associate professor.
“I tell the nurses in my classes that I am a nurse first, then an educator, and always a student,” says Kump. “In our complex and ever-changing world of healthcare, the nurses who teach in OU’s BSN program are learning new things every day, allowing us to relate to our students and what they are encountering in the field. In addition, the curriculum serves to refine and enhance the students’ critical-thinking and decision-making skills so as to better prepare them to face current and future health care challenges as nurse leaders.”
Ottawa University added its RN-to-BSN program in 2013 and is on track for accreditation. Following an extensive three-day initial site visit by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in September, Ottawa University expects to receive notification regarding its accreditation in May or June of 2015. “We received complimentary remarks from the site visitors and enthusiastic feedback for our new program,” says Kump. “Although it will take CCNE approximately five months to determine if the nursing program receives final approval for accreditation, the initial positive report is certainly a favorable sign.”
Prior to receiving the official accreditation notification, Ottawa University is offering new students a pre-CCNE accreditation price of $350/credit hour for its Spring I and Spring II courses starting on January 12 and March 3, 2015, respectively. If the University does not receive CCNE accreditation by June of 2015, these new students will be guaranteed tuition reimbursement for any completed courses in 2015.
To learn more about Ottawa University’s RN-to-BSN program and to review the curriculum, visit


  1. Fineberg, H. and Lavizzo-Mourey, R. (2013, October 9). The future of nursing: a look back at the landmark IOM report. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
  2. Van den Heede K., Lesaffre E., Diya L., et al. (2009). The relationship between inpatient cardiac surgery mortality and nurse numbers and educational level: analysis of administrative data. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 46(6), 796-803.
  3. Aiken LH, Clarke SP, Cheung RB, Sloane DM, Silber JH. (2003). Educational levels of hospital nurses and surgical patient mortality. JAMA, 290(12), 1617-1623.