To pursue a career as a registered nurse, there are two direct primary levels of educational preparation; an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). After finishing their degree, students of both programs take the same test called the NCLEX in order to become a registered nurse. However, there are some distinct differences in the educational preparation of both groups.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), cites that educational preparation of BSN nurses includes the following components of:
- Community Education
- Nurse Management and Leadership
- Patient Education
- Clinical, Scientific, Decision Making, and Humanistic Skills
The Difference between an ADN and a BSN Education
Besides the liberal education that a four year degree provides, most associate degree programs lack many of the separate nursing courses that a BSN program includes. For example, some of the separate nursing courses that may not be included in an ADN program are:
- Community Nursing
- Nursing Research
- Nursing Theory
- Psychosocial Nursing
- Health Assessment
- Nurse Management and Leadership
- Nursing Ethics
- Senior Seminar/ Special Topics/ Capstone
All programs vary slightly in how nursing courses are labeled and which courses they include in their curriculum. However, in general, ADN programs are constructed to compress basic nursing content into a few nursing courses. The focus of most ADN programs is nursing skill acquisition and NCLEX preparation.
Additionally, BSN programs teach their students nursing skills and NCLEX preparation strategies but they strive to deliver a broader educational perspective. Ultimately, one focus of a BSN program is on preparing their students to pursue advanced nursing degrees. As a result, BSN programs often focus on interdisciplinary course work, and strengthening their student’s writing and research knowledge so that students have the skills to succeed in graduate school.
Featured BSN Program
Reasons to Pursue a BSN
While the AACN does not discount ADN nurse’s practice or their usefulness, they have supported the baccalaureate degree as the minimal preparation for professional practice for almost the last two decades. Some of the reasons they cite are:
#1 A nurse’s need to be prepared for the expanding professional roles as a result of an evolving health care environment which is increasing in complexity.
#2 Health care’s shift to primary and preventative care with less focus on the inpatient setting.
#3 BSN are prepared to practice in a variety of settings from homecare to case management.
More Reasons to Pursue a BSN
There are many reasons for pursuing a BSN, but common ones include:4.
#4 A BSN might land a new nurse their first nursing job. New nurse graduates that are having a difficult time being hired may have an easier time finding a job with a BSN. A change in hiring practices at many hospitals has resulted in hiring BSNs first, or only BSNs.
#5 A promotion into a leadership position. While upper leadership positions are increasingly expected to have at least a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, a BSN, depending on a hospital’s culture and expectations, could act as a stepping stone in a nurse’s career.
#6 Advanced Nursing. If a nurse plans on becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN), nurse executive, or a nurse educator, a BSN degree is usually the first step before going to graduate school.
The Reasons Supported by Research for BSN Preparation
There other reasons to obtain a BSN besides the initiative of a nursing organization, or for career mobility purposes. For example, research supports the quality of patient care by BSN nurses. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2013), studies have been conducted using large data sets that support an “association” between BSN hospital staffing and lower incidence of:
#7 Pressure Ulcers
#8 Post-Operative Deep Vein Thrombosis
#9 Hospital Acquired Infections
#10 Post-Surgical Mortality
Resistance to a BSN Education
Due to many reasons, such as listed above, hospitals are encouraging their ADN nurses to go back to school and obtain their BSN. However, some nurses do not wish to pursue an advanced degree, or do not feel like it is a beneficial endeavor. Nurses may cite reasons against pursing their BSN such as time and cost.
One solution is to educate nurses about the research that continues to grow in support of the BSN degree as it pertains to its benefits for nurses as well as their patients. Furthermore, hospitals should offer incentive programs to encourage nurses to advance their education.
Do you agree with the research? Do you think that a BSN should be the minimal preparation for professional practice? Feel free to leave your opinion below.