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As an RN, you’re a dedicated professional, possibly with several years (or maybe decades) of bedside experience under your belt. You’re confident about your skills, you love nursing, and you know you make a positive impact in patients’ lives. But you may be aware of a distant rumbling within the industry regarding the push for nurses to get a BSN degree – and perhaps you’ve even noticed it’s getting louder at, or closer to, the facility at which you work.
It’s true that nurses with an associate degree (ADN) often do the same job as those holding a BSN. They pass the same NCLEX exam, hold the same license, and often start at the same entry level salary as a BSN-holding nurse.
So it’s no wonder why experienced ADN nurses can have strong feelings about the push for more education. Resentment is a big one, because the push could be interpreted as a questioning of a nurse’s skills and ability. Fear is another one: fear of going back to school, writing papers, and using computers — and often there’s a fear of the “better-than-thou” demeanor that was prevalent in older-generation educators. There are other concerns, too, like time management, cost, and family support.
But good things can come out of the push, too. Going back to school can provide a nurse with great sense of personal accomplishment. It can help set an impressive example for her children. Earning an RN-to-BSN degree can also open doors to promotions, higher salaries, and greater respect from other health care professionals.
Interpreting the factors behind the push
When industry forces (including the Institute of Medicine, Carnegie Foundation, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and Magnet Recognition Program) call for a workforce of BSN-prepared nurses, they are not directing criticism at ADNs. Rather, these respected entities are responding to a health care system in a state of rapid change due to new legislative reforms and the increasing complexity of care delivery. Many recent reports issued by these institutions indicate that ADN nurses may not been prepared for the new kinds of roles and functions that the evolving health care system will demand of them – and soon.
This is also true of the research showing that hospitals with a more educated nursing workforce have lower mortality rates and better patient outcomes.
Here are the facts: medical errors, hospital-acquired infections and other issues that lead to poor outcomes are largely due to system and process problems. To help correct these, health care needs more nurses who are prepared to use critical thinking and implement solutions. The curriculum offered in a BSN program emphasizes leadership and evidence-based practice in a way that the much shorter ADN program cannot.
What does the push mean for you?
One thing that’s certain is that the changes taking place in health care will eventually affect your practice. What’s not as certain is how or when. Therefore, it may be wise for you to examine your thoughts and feelings about going back to school for a baccalaureate degree.
With hospitals, the nursing industry, and government agencies all pushing nurses to get an RN to BSN degree, you may want to consider how you can leverage this push to help you accomplish your career and personal goals.
After using this worksheet to gauge your BSN-readiness, feel free to speak with one of our friendly success advisors at American Sentinel University (866.922.5691 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if a flexible, online RN-to-BSN degree is right for you.