Columbia, SC - (WLTX) A recent study released by the University of South Carolina College of Nursing is showing signs of hope for the nursing field in the state.

The optimism comes as the study shows for the first time in the state's history, there are more students graduating with a baccalaureate rather than an associate degree in the field of nursing.

Ronda Hughes, associate professor and Director of the Center for Nursing Leadership at USC, shares the difference that comes with obtaining a baccalaureate . Hughes says, "The main difference between someone having the associates and bachelors degree is looking at the patient in context and really focusing on leadership and in may respects at the bedside that means knowing how to advocate for that patient."

Judith Thompson, CEO of South Carolina Nurses Association explains how patients will benefit from having a nurse with this type of schooling. Thompson says, "The most important thing is they will be experiencing working with and being the patient of someone who has a broader educational background." The CEO goes on to say having a degree not just solely in the sciences but in the humanities makes a world of a difference when it comes to patient care. She says, it gives the nurse the ability, "to ask the questions like who is the patient, what does the patient's family look like, and how are we able to help the family as well as the patient? It gives a broader range of experience that gives people a better access to who is that patient and how can we better serve that patient."

The healthcare field however still faces it's share of challenges.

The Federal Health Resources and Services Administration ranks South Carolina as having the 4th worst nursing shortage in the country the university's study says there's still a lack of nurses and also faculty with graduate degrees, as well as a shortage of clinical sites to train future nurses.