An RN asks: Why should I have to go back to school?

You’re an accomplished RN, a nurse with years of experience helping patients in every circumstance imaginable. So when you hear your manager, employer, fellow nurses, nursing associations, and trade journals harping on and on about the need to go back to school, you may be asking yourself: Why? I know my stuff! What’s the point now of going back to school now?

An even more pressing question in your mind might be: What will a degree really DO for me at this point in my career?

These are valid questions. After all, like most every RN, you’ve picked up knowledge and experience about how to do your job by learning it on the fly. So what difference will a degree make, exactly?

The truth is, while health care reform legislation, changing payer policies, and initiatives like the Magnet Recognition Program® may be driving all the buzz, earning a degree will most significantly have an impact on you – on a personal and professional level.

In fact, your years of RN experience and knowledge provide an advantage: they serve as a strong foundation for connecting the dots to a more rewarding career and more positive patient outcomes. Because with an academic degree, you gain two important things: critical thinking skills and benefits that may include job security, higher pay, and more career choices. (Learn more about critical thinking – definitions and nursing applications.)

A degree enables amazing ‘aha! moments’ that connect the dots

Have you ever wondered why a solution for one patient often won’t work when applied to another? When you learn on the job, you learn tasks associated with a particular patient’s care at that moment in time. Neither you nor the patient benefit from the application of a greater knowledge, based on evidence or theory, behind the tasks you perform every day.

When you can connect the dots between your existing knowledge and a greater awareness of nursing practice, you become a better nurse. You become a critical thinker, and as a result, you will provide better care and more positive outcomes for your patients – and that reflects on you, your manager and your facility.

Pursuing a nursing degree gives you the opportunity to become a knowledge worker, not just a task master. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing gives you the credibility and confidence to facilitate change, initiate protocols, and lead and encourage your co-workers.

Understanding health care on a deeper level also enables you to deconstruct what you know and visualize how all of the “parts” fit together. In today’s hospital environment, nurses are being called on to manage more and more of these “parts,” like care planning, patient communications, and fiscal and informatics duties. Connecting the dots gives you a strong basis for critical thinking – and employers today are demanding that nurses have that skill.

Connecting the dots builds confidence – and gains you respect

Connecting the dots – applying formal education on top of your years of nursing experience – empowers you to design specific solutions. The ability to think holistically makes you more confident and your job then becomes more rewarding (not to mention easier).

A BSN or MSN nursing degree not only opens the door to job security, but gives you control of your destiny: more choice, better pay, improved hours. Continuing your education demonstrates to managers, patients, and co-workers alike that you care – about yourself and about them.

Maybe now is the time to empower yourself with knowledge, through an RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case management, infection control, and executive leadership.

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