1. Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN

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At its December 2003 meeting, the New York State Board for Nursing passed a resolution requiring RNs who graduate with an associate degree to obtain a baccalaureate within 10 years of licensure. Failure to meet the deadline would make the license inactive until the baccalaureate is obtained. The ruling would not affect nurses already licensed.


According to a 2002 survey conducted by the board, 61% of newly licensed nurses in New York are educated at the associate degree level. "This is exactly contrary to what national bodies recommend," says Barbara Zittel, executive secretary to the board. "The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, along with policy advisors to Congress and to the U.S. secretary of health and human services, recommend that at least two-thirds of the nursing workforce hold baccalaureates or higher degrees by 2010."


Zittel explains that one study in particular, conducted by Aiken and colleagues and published in the September 24, 2003, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, played a significant role in the formulation of this proposal. Aiken's study found that hospitals with a higher percentage of nurses educated at the baccalaureate level or above show a better survival rate for patients undergoing surgery.


The proposal will be presented to the Board of Regents this winter. If approved, it will be entered into the legislative process, though not without opposition from such groups as the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing. In a letter to Ms. Zittel, Sharon Bernier, the organization's president, writes: "As the national representative for the 800 associate degree programs in the nation . . . we wish to express our extreme disappointment that an organization representing all levels of nursing in New York State would choose to suggest such a discriminatory action."


"This proposal does not want to do away with all associate degrees," Zittel emphasizes. "It gives a practicing nurse 10 years to obtain the baccalaureate; it's similar to teacher education programs."-Dalia Sofer