Why get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing?
Many registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) don’t think they need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. But while professional nursing regulations don’t usually require workers to have a BSN, the job market does, says Gemma O’Donnell, MS in nursing, who teaches in the LPN/LVN to BSN program at the University of Phoenix Main Campus.
“All of my students are LPNs, which means their job prospects are often limited to lower-paying ones at nursing homes, jails and drug rehab facilities,” she explains. “They want a BSN so they can improve their options.”
Here are six reasons to pursue a BSN:
Many hospitals require it.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) now considers a BSN the minimum qualification for professional nursing practice. Accordingly, many hospitals that once hired nurses holding associate degrees (ADNs) or less no longer do so, O’Donnell points out. “It is very challenging to get hired at hospitals without [a BSN],” she says.
Lesley Hunt, MS, a nursing case manager who also teaches in the LVN/LPN to BSN program, agrees, noting, “[Nurses with] ADNs are finding that jobs are few and far between.”
You’ll have more job opportunities.
AACN also notes on its website that the BSN-trained nurse is the only undergraduate-level nurse qualified to practice across all care settings.
“This is absolutely true,” Hunt says. “ADN programs do not provide training in public health or nursing case management,” which are required for work as a school nurse, a community health nurse or as a case manager for managed care organizations. BSN nurses also are trained in family health and case management.
You can move into management.
The degree is required for most nursing management positions, according to O’Donnell. “[It] gives you the ability to use your clinical training beyond the bedside,” such as in the position of nursing staff manager or patient safety manager, among other specialties.
“With the BSN, you’re also qualified to pursue the MSN,” O’Donnell emphasizes, referring to the Master of Science in Nursing, which is usually required for senior-level management.
Teaching is an option.
A BSN qualifies you to teach courses for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), LPNs and sometimes other nurses, Hunt says.
“Professional nursing is teaching,” she emphasizes. “You’re not just teaching your patients; you’re frequently educating your colleagues on the job.” She says BSN programs require student teaching on clinical topics for working nurses, who then critique your teaching methods. O’Donnell notes that she taught nursing clinicals at a community college shortly after receiving her BSN.
Enhanced skills mean you’ll provide better care.
“I was once an LPN, and I was very limited in terms of what I was allowed to do [under state nursing regulations] for patients,” O’Donnell says. “But getting the BSN really shows you how to apply critical-thinking skills and empowered me to be better prepared for leadership roles.”
She explains that unlike vocational nursing programs, BSN coursework teaches you about vulnerable patient populations like the poor, abused and elderly, while going into greater depth on medical conditions. “BSNs have increased accountability,” she says.
States soon may demand it.
The BSN in 10 initiative — which aims to make BSN degrees required by law for all nurses within 10 years of being licensed — is gaining traction in some states, O’Donnell says. New York and New Jersey have introduced legislation to this effect, and other states are considering it.