Regarding the letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register on 11/21/2012 entitled:, “Bachelor’s degree will lead to better nurses for patients” by Vickie Barth (see link below): It is possible that patient outcomes would improve if every nurse was required to have a bachelor’s degree. It is also possible that patient outcomes would improve if every health care professional was required by the State to have additional training and education. The question is what should the State require. The only moral justification for licensing by the State is public safety. Laws and regulations intended to increase safety come at a cost in terms of both money and loss of freedom. The balance between public safety on the one hand, and the loss of freedom and increased costs on the other hand, should be based on reasonableness. What is or is not reasonable is properly the subject of political debate. In this case,allowing people with associate degrees in nursing to be licensed as RNs does provide reasonable public safety. Other goals expressed by Ms. Barth, such as “to advance our professional status…” or to “…determine our own practice.” are honorable goals, but they are not proper reasons for the State to make their licensing requirements more restrictive.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/comments/article/20121121/OPINION04/311210042/Letter-editor-Bachelor-s-degree-will-lead-better-nurses-Iowa-patients
Iowa should not require registered nurses (RNs) to have a bachelor’s (4-year) degree in order to get a license to practice. Currently, Iowa law allows people to become RNs if they complete an associates (2-year) degree and pass a uniform exam. As the Des Moines Register reported, opponents of the bachelor’s degree requirement argue that bachelor’s degree programs have not proven to result in better care. (“Bachelor’s for nurses considered” 1/414/2012 – see link below.)
The Education Standards Of Practice Committee of the Iowa Board of Nursing is charged as follows: Review options and develop a proposal to submit to the Iowa Board of Nursing for the Associate Degree prepared nurse to educationally transition to a Baccalaureate in Nursing Degree as a license renewal requirement. Why was the committee not charged to investigate whether or not there are public safety problems with the current requirement, and, if any are found, whether or not requiring a bachelor’s degree would solve such problems? We do know that such a requirement would significantly increase the cost of becoming an RN for many people. That would likely result in fewer RNs and higher health care costs (and higher wages for RNs with bachelor’s degrees and more students in four-year colleges of nursing).
Of the 16 appointed committee members, 11 are RNs with a bachelors or higher degree, 3 are not nurses – representing consumers, community colleges, and four-year colleges, and 2 are nurses who appear to not have bachelor’s degrees. (See link to committee list below.) So, 12 of 16 appear to have a vested interest in making the bachelor’s degree a requirement.
The only purpose for government licensing of any profession should be public safety. More often than we would like, politically favored groups with vested interests ask to be licensed (or regulated) by government in order to to reduce competition and increase their own wages or profits. Since the committee meeting reported by the Register was not open to the public, we should presume it was because those with vested interests in making a bachelor’s degree a requirement did not want their comments heard.
The Register reported that there will be public hearing on this issue after the next closed committee meeting on December 13th. Let’s hope the public hearing is packed with people who care about both public safety and the freedom to practice a profession without unneeded government licensing regulations.