For a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing, earning a bachelor’s degree is the next step of professional development. While an associate degree in nursing (ADN) supplies students with many of the technical skills and scientific knowledge essential to the practice, a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) builds onto that foundation by strengthening critical thinking skills. Nurses may be surprised to find that a BSN also includes liberal arts courses, as the curriculum is designed to prepare nurses for professionalism in a multi-cultural work environment. Largely, however, a BSN will focus on nursing theory, clinical practice, and other skills directly applicable to nursing.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
Over the past decade, the medical community has shown an increasing need and support for higher education among nurses. Studies have shown that higher education has a direct link with improved patient outcomes, and as the healthcare industry expands, nurses are taking on new responsibilities and specialized roles. Evidence supporting higher education for nurses has proven so compelling that the medical community has adopted a big educational goal: that 80% of nurses should hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020.
Earning a BSN increases skills in critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion. Additionally, BSN degree holders have an earning potential 10% greater than RNs holding a two-year degree. For RNs who are aspiring to pursue advanced degrees as family nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, a baccalaureate degree is often an essential milestone. However, there are also RN to MSN degree programs available that allow students to achieve credits for a BSN and MSN in a comprehensive degree path.
Getting Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program
Select BSN programs do not require an RN licensure for admittance, but these programs typically include RN licensure as a prerequisite to upper-level courses. Another option for an entering freshman is to major in pre-nursing and advance to the BSN program after obtaining RN licensure. BSN programs that are designed specifically for RNs typically require the following:
- An associate degree in nursing
- Official transcripts of all colleges attended, proving minimum GPA
- Current, unrestricted RN license*
- Name of thing you need to get into this program (ex: Passing GMAT score)
*Admission may be granted to students pending successful completion of the NCLEX-RN exam.
Inside a Bachelor’s in Nursing Degree Program
Bachelor’s degrees require approximately 120 credit hours and traditionally take four years to complete. However, RN to BSN programs offer expedited completion by allowing students to transfer 30 to 60 credits of lower-level coursework toward their degree. Additionally, there are many online RN to BSN programs that allow working nurses to meet their educational and professional goals. While some traditional universities offer on-campus programs for working professionals, the unorthodox schedules of nurses can often make it difficult to commit nights and weekends to the pursuit of a degree. Earning an RN to BSN online may also serve as a solution for nurses who live in rural area or states with a limited number of nursing schools.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine presented the goal to advance an additional 30% of nurses to the BSN level. Since then, online RN to BSN programs have proven vital to this goal, and many traditional universities offer accelerated online BSN programs. Many online RN to BSN programs do not require clinicals or an on-site practicum, making it possible to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing completely online. A BSN includes core liberal arts, science, and mathematics courses as well as upper-level nursing courses such as advanced acute care concepts and nursing leadership and healthcare policy.
What’s Next for Bachelor’s in Nursing Degree Holders?
Nurses with a BSN do not currently receive any formal distinction from RNs who hold associate degrees. However, a bachelor’s degree provides advanced skills and a broader framework of knowledge that can work as a selling point to employers and may qualify nurses for leadership roles. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded the national average salary for a registered nurse at $67,930 in 2012.