What inspires nurses to go back to school? A new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation attempts to answer this question, by identifying the motivational factors as well as the barriers that come into play when nurses contemplate advancing their education. The researchers found that RNs working to attain a higher nursing degree seem to be inspired by personal growth as well as professional development, even as they acknowledge how challenging it can be to strike a satisfying work-life balance. In this series, we’ll take a look at the powerful motivators that inspire nurses to get a BSN or MSN – some of them obvious and some a bit more surprising.
Inspirational Factor #2: Gaining New Knowledge
Nursing care is about so much more than bedside skills and clinical techniques. As health care grows more complex, nurses are finding they want to expand their knowledge, either to elevate the level of patient care they provide, or to gain the expertise they need to enter into a nursing specialty.
Today’s nursing programs focus on the concept of evidence-based nursing practice (EBNP), which involves integrating the best data available with clinical expertise and patient-centered values. Nursing care that is evidence–based and conducted in a compassionate context leads to better clinical decisions – which in turn promotes healing and wellbeing in your patients.
EBNP is focused on research and knowledge, rather than doing things a certain way “because this is the way we’ve always done it,” or based on traditions, myths, personal observations, the advice of colleagues, or outdated nursing textbooks.
As you go about your daily duties, numerous opportunities exist for you to question the validity of current nursing practices in your hospital and to elevate the care your patients receive. For a dynamic example of how this process can work, take a look at our report on Chris Kowal, a nursing student who observed that the tool being used to assess pain in his ICU patients was outdated – so he found a more suitable tool and then successfully implemented it. Would you like to make a similar impact? American Sentinel’s accredited, online nursing degree programs all include a Capstone Project – an exercise in applied learning that will help you become a facilitator of change within your own hospital by creating a solution to a problem you’ve identified, just as Chris did.
The BSN perspective: Applying knowledge to nursing practice
A BSN program helps nurses to develop critical thinking skills and improve existing communication skills. It can open minds to new ideas and new models of care – resulting in the highest possible standard of patient care that you’re able to provide. Perhaps this is why such a large body of research has linked BSN-prepared nurses with better patient outcomes.
Also, consider this: during a medical crisis, patients are vulnerable. They’re relying on you not only to provide physical care, but to advocate for them in a system that can be frightening and difficult to navigate. To be an effective patient advocate, you must be able to view the patient as a whole person, considering his own culture and goals (and not just the goals of the health care organization). You may need to employ critical thinking to perform patient assessments, develop nursing diagnoses, and plan nursing interventions. These are all areas where education can supplement your existing clinical skills.
The MSN Perspective: Gaining the knowledge needed for a nursing specialty
As health care grows complex, many nurses are deciding to focus their efforts on a particular area of nursing. There are many benefits to specializing – including increased respect and recognition, greater job security, enhanced career satisfaction, and increased salary potential. Nurses who have their eye on a particular nursing specialty will need a plethora of new knowledge, as well as skills in strategizing, forming collaborative relationships, and taking a multi-dimensional approach to problem-solving.
Consider an online RN-to-MSN degree program to be the critical first step toward any career specialty. American Sentinel University offers accredited, online MSN degree programs with focused coursework that helps prepare nurses for a career in case management, infection prevention and control, nursing education, and nursing management and organizational leadership.