Nurses significantly impact patient health outcomes thanks to their unique position in the healthcare system. They provide patients with quality care and expert health guidance and play a critical role in the patient’s experience, offering them hope and support during difficult times.

The entire focus of a nurse’s career is on service to others. While nursing provides a stable career for millions of people in the United States, most nurses consider their job more of a calling than a career. 

Given the critical role they play in healthcare delivery, nurses with the highest knowledge and skills are valued as potential leaders by employers. Those aspiring to nursing leadership can grow their expertise by enrolling in an online RN to BSN program that allows them to earn a bachelor’s degree while continuing to work as a nurse.

The Contributions of Nurses to Healthcare

Throughout the history of healthcare, nurses have significantly impacted how healthcare is delivered, as well as the experience and outcome of patients. Famous nurses such as Florence Nightingale, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Susie King Taylor, Hazel W. Johnson-Brown, and Virginia Lynch became trailblazers in nursing leadership, extending care to new populations of patients and opening doors for women in the healthcare profession.

Nurses’ value became apparent again during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working on the front lines, nurses put themselves in danger trying to provide the best possible care to patients. They also quickly learned to provide quality care through telehealth, working with some patients remotely. The pandemic clearly showed how vital the nursing profession is to society.

Nurses’ impact on healthcare delivery extends beyond patient care.

Support for whole health. Nurses do more than take vital signs, draw blood and administer medication. They also connect patients with the resources to improve or maintain their health.

Support for family and caregivers. Nurses often serve as the primary liaison between clinicians, a patient’s family, and caregivers. Nurses help all involved understand what the patient is going through, providing insight into improving their health. These actions engage patients in their health.

Advocating for others. As the main point of contact for most patients and their families, nurses also use their experience to advocate for them within the healthcare team.

Applying critical thinking skills. Successful nurses use critical thinking skills to holistically understand a patient’s needs and deliver excellent care. For example, a nurse assigned to change a wound dressing and monitor a patient’s vital signs will realize how different wounds impact patients of different ages and physical abilities. This insight allows them to know when immediate medical intervention is needed. Critical thinking also enables nurses to manage multiple patients and juggle different tasks during their shifts.

Challenges in Nursing and the Value of a BSN

While the nursing profession significantly contributes to healthcare, it also faces challenges. In addition, there are changes in the demographics of the nursing profession. 

One of the most significant demographic trends is older nurses retiring. According to Nurse Deck, about half of the roughly 4 million nurses working in the United States are over 50 years old. Federal government data projects that the combination of new nursing jobs and the need to replace retiring nurses will result in an average of 203,200 nursing jobs every year over the coming decade.

Another change involves education. While more nurses seek higher-level degrees, especially those interested in nursing leadership, about 57 percent hold bachelor’s degrees, and 18 percent have graduate degrees. It’s clear to see how earning a BSN sets a nurse apart.

A bachelor’s degree opens doors for professionals motivated to take on a nursing leadership role. Some might become nurse managers who oversee a nursing team. Other nursing leaders may focus on making operational changes resulting in improved healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.

BSN holders also typically earn a higher salary. They make almost $4 per hour more than those with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), according to a recent survey of 3,000 nurses. Salary differences vary depending on location.

NMU RN to BSN Program

NMU designed its online Bachelor of Science in Nursing: RN to BSN program for working nurses ready to expand their knowledge and skills. The rigorous online curriculum allows students to finish their degree in as little as four semesters, with each course lasting seven to eight weeks.

While courses are online, nurses complete their clinicals at a location near where they live. The curriculum provides nurses with a solid foundation of knowledge to take on nursing leadership and management positions. Core courses include:

  • Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Nursing Care of Populations (Theory)
  • Leadership and Management in Nursing (Theory)
  • Professional Nursing Practice (Clinical)

Nursing students also can choose to take optional leadership courses that include effective communication, ethical leadership, assessment in the workplace, and leadership in diverse workplaces.

There’s never been a better or more important time to become a nurse. For nurses who want to become the best they can be in their jobs, earning an RN to BSN degree paves the way for them to attain their goals.