By: Michael V. Gruber, Mph
he complexities of a changing medical field in technology, advanced information, and facing a growing leadership role among nurses has increased the need for a degree of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing among registered nurses (RN to BSN). This higher level of education takes commitment and dedication and in the following article, we will outline how to achieve these goals.
Advancing your nursing degree – The difference between RN and BSN
Beginning a career in nursing for those who desire an abbreviated education will get an associate’s degree (AD) which usually involves 2-3 years of schooling. A nurse may also follow a diploma program, usually through a hospital, that is also 2-3 years in length before becoming an RN. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Sample Survey, 70% of nurses have AD or diploma level degrees. An RN must also pass all required examinations such as the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses) before practicing with patient contact.
For many nurses looking to advance their careers, a BSN is the natural next step. It is a 4 year program that includes research oriented learning, leadership training, and liberal arts. Many of the students that are enrolled in the BSN program are previous RN’s with associate degrees or diplomas. They are now going back to school with all the hardships involved; financially, time inflexibility, family and other outstanding commitments.
The differences between an RN and BSN are not necessarily clear to the patient who is being treated with basic care. A nurse treating a patient won’t be asked, “excuse me, are you a RN or a BSN?” Yet the differences lie within. The education gained, the additional technical training, and the potential advancement are not immediately recognized by the patient. A nurse with a BSN can review research papers, advocate for the patient, work with leaders in the hospital or medical facility with confidence and advanced management skills. A nurse with an RN may have all these abilities, yet a BSN enhances them and increases advancement opportunities.
Career Opportunities with a BSN
RN’s return to school for a number of reasons, yet many are personal in nature: To become leaders in the nursing industry, advancing their careers, or move to the next level and receive a master’s or doctoral degree.
Management-level nursing requires an advanced degree such as a BSN. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in management, nurses can become anywhere from the assistant head nurse or head nurse, to assistant director, director, and vice president and upwards. Other career opportunities include research, consulting, and teaching. A nurse with a BSN can manage a home health care clinic and ambulatory services, etc. Nurses can also move into the business side of nursing to becoming an manager of an insurance company, pharmaceutical manufacturer, and managed care organization (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2005).
Salary Benefits of advancing a degree from RN to BSN
Advanced nursing degrees create new career opportunities and justify an increased salary. An RN and a BSN will receive the same salary for the same nursing position, but as the BSN moves through the ranks to a higher position, salaries tend to increase. For example, a promotion to a management position of head nurse with a BSN has a higher salary than being the floor nurse with an RN.
Education Opportunities and Education Cost
In 2004, there were 600 RN to BSN programs in the United States. Many RN's use the tuition reimbursement from their employer as an incentive to go back for the BSN. There are also accelerated BSN programs for those individuals who already attained bachelor or higher degrees and wish to go into nursing. There are more than 165 of these programs in the United States. These programs are 12 to 18 months in length (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2005). In choosing the appropriate program, it is necessary to choose whether to work in a classroom setting or study through an online RN to BSN program.
The classroom setting has many benefits which include peer contact and live lectures. Sharing experiences with others and learning from other previous like-minded RN’s is a great benefit. The dilemma with classroom education for most nurses is the stringent scheduling and time management needed to attend class and work around an RN’s busy schedule.
An online nursing degree course is the other alternative. It is a way for nurses to work while continuing with their education with flexibility around time commitments. The non-clinical portion of the classroom courses are given online and the clinicals are usually arranged at a medical facility near the nurse’s home. There may be timed lectures or the nurses may do lectures at their own time with assignments being sent to the lecturer by fax or mail on designated due dates. Examinations are usually offered online. Many times the online school follows a semester schedule and has a set start and finish date, though this is not true for all schools. To learn more about online RN to BSN programs, refer to your school of choice and learn what that school offers.
Personal satisfaction, a qualitative factor that can not be measured or quantified, is what many BSN students say is most important about receiving their advanced degree. Our society is advancing in all areas, with technology and intellectual expertise. The information is available and the prerequisites allow many RN's to attain an advanced degree; the determining factor is, we must advance as a society and create leaders in all areas of industry. A BSN gives the degree and knowledge and critical leadership skills for an RN to advance in the world of medicine, business, and personal achievement.
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