Should nurses need a 4-year degree to practice?

( Nationwide, more US hospitals require four-year degrees for nurses than ever before.

Patricia Kraft, dean of nursing and health sciences at the College of Coastal Georgia told The Brunswick News that the preparation that a four year degree proves for a nurse not only benefits patients, but everyone in the hospital.

In 1998, 85% of those with an associate’s degree past the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) compared to 84% of those with a bachelor’s degree that passed, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Meanwhile, supporters of the 4-year requirement question the ability of the test to quantify anything about the nurses who take it other than the most basic proficiencies. Such supporters also argue that one reason why hospitals hire nurses with credentials from 2-year programs is that they can pay them less than those with bachelor’s degrees.

According to a report entitled “Healthcare,” this past June by Georgetown University, in the year 2020, over 80% of all jobs in healthcare will require some form of postsecondary education. States with the highest demand for nurses with education and training in the field of nursing, the study predicts, will be Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Nurses with associate’s degrees thinking about going back to school as well as those starting fresh need to do their research regarding where they choose to go; not all nursing degree programs are created equal. The nursing program at Mountain State University in Virginia has recently become the subject of a class action lawsuit from students, claiming that the school deceived them with regard to the accreditation status of their nursing program.

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) put the school on probationary status in 2008; in 2010, the NLNAC voted not to renew accreditation for MSU’s bachelor of science in nursing program. According to the suit, MSU’s Board of Trustees continued to encourage the nursing students to pay tuition at the program despite the fact that it would no longer provide them with the accreditation.

A total of 34 students have sued the university and the case will stand trial in early 2013.