Media Relations

AACN Applauds Decision of the AONE Board to Move Registered Nursing Education to the Baccalaureate Level

Share |

Press Release
For Immediate Release

AACN Applauds Decision of the AONE Board to Move
Registered Nursing Education to the Baccalaureate Level
AONE Action Echoes AACN’s Calls for a Better Educated Nursing Workforce

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6, 2005 – The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) applauds the recent statement from the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) to move the education level of registered nurses to the baccalaureate level in the future. AACN has long advocated for creating a more highly educated nursing workforce in the interest of improving patient safety and providing better care. Nurse executives, federal agencies, the military, national nursing organizations, health care foundations, Magnet Hospitals, and minority nurse advocacy groups all recognize the unique value that baccalaureate-prepared nurses bring to the practice setting.

“AACN is a leading advocate for the baccalaureate degree as the minimum educational credential for professional nursing practice,” said AACN President Jean E. Bartels. “We applaud the AONE Board of Directors for their leadership and vision which will reinforce efforts to enhance the education level of the nursing workforce and better position nurses as equal partners in the health care delivery system.”

AACN believes that education has a direct impact on the skills and competencies of a nurse clinician. Nurses with baccalaureate degrees are well-prepared to meet the demands placed on today's nurse across a variety of settings and are prized for their critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion skills. Baccalaureate-prepared nurses receive an additional layer of entry-level education which enhances their professional development, prepares the new nurse for a broader scope of practice as well as public and community health roles, and provides the nurse with a better understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence care delivery.

Currently, only 43 percent of the registered nursing (RN) workforce possesses baccalaureate or higher degrees, with the remaining nurses prepared with an associate degree (34 percent) or diploma (22 percent). Efforts to enhance the education level of the nursing population are hampered by the fact that very few nurses prepared in associate degree programs continue their education once they begin working. According to the latest survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 16 percent of associate degree-prepared nurses obtain post-RN nursing or nursing related degrees.

“AACN encourages nurses prepared in diploma and associate degree programs to advance their education in the interest of patient safety and as a mechanism for career advancement,” added Dr. Bartels. “We stand ready to work with representatives from these programs to expand awareness of degree completion options, establish innovative partnerships, and facilitate nursing’s movement toward the baccalaureate degree.”

According to AACN data, there are currently 628 RN-to-Baccalaureate degree and 137 RN-to-Master’s degree programs offered at nursing schools nationwide, many of which may be completed online. Further, hundreds of articulation agreements exist between community colleges and four-year institutions to seamlessly move nurses with diplomas and associate degrees into baccalaureate nursing programs.

Further, new evidence is emerging which underscores the importance of baccalaureate nursing education to safe patient care and quality outcomes. Leading nurse researcher Dr. Linda Aiken published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September 2003 which found that patients have a “substantial survival advantage” if treated in hospitals with higher proportions of baccalaureate-prepared nurses. Dr. Aiken and colleagues found that every 10 percent increase in the proportion of nurses with bachelor’s degrees results in a 5 percent decrease in patient mortality rates. A new study published by Dr. Carole Estabrooks and colleagues in the March/April 2005 issue of Nursing Research confirmed that baccalaureate prepared nurses have a positive impact on mortality rates following an examination of more than 18,000 patient outcomes at 49 Canadian hospitals.

“The research clearly shows that baccalaureate nursing education is linked to quality patient care, fewer nursing errors, and saving lives,” said AACN Executive Director Geraldine “Polly” Bednash. “Nurses sign a social contract with patients to provide the best care possible and fulfilling that contract means acquiring the knowledge and expertise needed to get the job done right.”

In support of AACN’s work to advance the education level of the registered nursing workforce, the following documents have been prepared to educate health care providers, legislators, the media and the public:

Position Statement:

The Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing as Minimal Preparation for Professional Practice

Fact Sheet:

The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice


The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is the national voice for university and four-year-college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 585 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice. Web site:



Robert Rosseter, 202-463-6930, ext. 231