A Chief Nursing Officer Who Does Not Have a BSN-Only Hiring Policy in Place

Oct 11, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by

Three years ago this week, the Institute of Medicine issued a landmark report, Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Its recommendations include increasing the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees to 80 percent by 2020. Jerry A. Mansfield, PhD, RN, is chief nursing officer at University Hospital and the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital, and a clinical professor at Ohio State University College of Nursing. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program (2005).


Lifelong learning has always been a value in my personal and professional life. I fully support the national goal of increasing the number of RNs holding a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).


My personal dilemma is that I once could not gain entrance into a 4-year baccalaureate program. I will never forget my meeting with the dean, who shared that I should “pick another major” since my mid-quarter pre-nursing grade point average was not competitive with more talented constituents! 

As I withdrew from that university, I was determined to follow my dream and become a registered nurse. I learned of a program (i.e., “Diploma in Nursing”) that would allow me to become an RN in the state. I am a proud graduate of St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing, Toledo, Ohio; a once thriving program that has since closed.

Without any regret, I have continued my formal education in nursing, and recently graduated with a doctorate in public health from Ohio State University. No one knows my obsession with life-long learning better than my family!

At University Hospital and the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, we are committed to the goal of hiring RNs with a minimum BSN. It is part of our Magnet journey. We are currently pursuing our second Magnet re-designation and work collaboratively with our colleagues at the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Nursing to facilitate options for staff returning to school for both undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing.

Yet as the chief nursing officer (CNO) at both University Hospital and the Ross Heart Hospital, we found ourselves with greater demand for nurses than supply. We needed a balance of more experienced nurses along with new graduates. As a short term solution, I asked our nursing leadership team and human resource recruiters to hire qualified RNs, especially those with a commitment to continuing their formal nursing education. We have a great tuition benefit!

The results of that action may have contributed to a recent “drop” in our current percentage of RNs who hold at least a BSN.  However, in collaboration with the OSU College of Nursing, we have gradually increased the number of RNs enrolled in the RN-to-BSN program.

The operational challenge of ensuring the highest quality of patient care in the context of health reform and increased public reporting is the life of today’s CNO. The learning continues!

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.