Education vs Experience

  1. 6
    Hello Everyone,
    I am a BSN student who is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the future, probably a year after I graduate. I have read some posts and found that many here believe that an RN with that little experience has no place in Advanced Practice programs. This is where I disagree.

    I believe that Nursing culture is shooting itself in the foot here, and here's my cents why. A prospective doctor does not have to leave college after a bachelors degree to gain experience in the field of biology or chemistry before going on to Med school. A prospective college professor does not have to leave college after his bachelor's degree to get experience teaching at the grade school level. So WHY do so many believe that an RN has to leave school after their bachelor's degree to gain whatever many years of experience at the clinical level before going on to grad school?

    I believe that it is counterproductive for the nursing profession as a whole to discourage students who wish to complete their education (MSN or beyond) before beginning clinical or other types of practice. You would think that the sensible thing to do is get your education, and THEN get your experience. Am I the only one who feels like this?
    happy2learn, advanc, medicmama921, and 3 others like this.
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  5. 3
    So true! Couldn't have said it better myself. I would like to pursue a Master's degree but I will only have 3 years experience when I start. I also accepted an ER job out of school and I heard a lot of negatives from some of the nurses who have been there awhile. Why be so negative in a professional that is difficult to retain? Why not be supportive so more nurses stay in the field instead of leaving?

    I feel the same way as you!
    NewTexasRN, Airforce1, and medicmama921 like this.
  6. 22
    There are certain advanced degrees where it will BEHOOVE you to get your experience. For example, CRNA school requires a minimal amount of intensive care experience.

    I do not think it should be a problem for you to go to school and get your advanced degree. However, be aware that facilities and physicians I know do not hire nurses with minimal experience. Just because you know advanced theoretical concepts does not make you clinically savvy. I know many, many RNs now with their advanced degrees not getting jobs. They are all at bedsides, not practicing as ARNPs, but as bedside nurses. They are told by those who are hiring advanced nurses that they would be better off getting bedside experience to beef up their resumes. Remember you will be competing with people with umpteenth years of experience (i.e. nurses like myself) who doctors already seek out. I have two MDs who've personally approached me and have told me to speak with them when I am finished with mine.

    My take on the younger group of nurses going for their advanced degrees is that they do not want to through A,B,C...but go directly to Z. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. I say, "go for it!" but don't expect instantaneous job offers. Those are reserved for the experienced ones.

    Good luck to you in your future endeavors, and remember the more clinical exposure you have, the better healthcare provider you will be.
    batmik, nursel56, freefalr, and 19 others like this.
  7. 7
    I agree with you that you can go right on to a higher degree, but even doctors spend numerous hours on the floor and hands on care before they are put in charge of other doctors or a department of their own. As a nurse with a higher degree, it will be more difficult to fall into a supervisory/ administrative position when competing with nurses who have years of floor experience. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that I think it would be extremely challenging.
    batmik, freefalr, BmoreCRNP, and 4 others like this.
  8. 7
    Here's my ten cents worth:

    Nursing is an expert practice informed by theory built from practice. It is not a theory. Nursing theory is designed to improve/enhance practice in caring for others who are ill (not being a scientist trying to find a cure or a doctor trying to improve a diagnosis etc).

    If you want to be a researcher rather than a nurse, fine - I'm sure you can find some new theories or improve some existing - though to test your theories you will have to go onto the wards and if you can't relate to the practising nurses there, I'm not sure how much insight you can gain for your research from talking with them...

    I reckon if you want to be a nurse researcher or a nurse academic you really need to get floor experience - and keep it current - so that your research can lead to practice development for all.

    Also, speaking as a student - none of my lecturers or tutors is a pure theoretician - and since I want to learn practical stuff for the front line - I would be sceptical of a theorist's perspective.

    Best wishes
    CareteamRN70, Fiona59, ReNewed One, and 4 others like this.
  9. 15
    I really wish I agreed with you. I'm going to get a second bachelors in nursing, and I eventually plan to chose an advanced practice specialty. It would be nice to get school over with sooner and go straight to grad school, but I think I will wait a few years and get some on the job experience.

    You mentioned how physicians aren't expected to get on the job biology or any other work experience before they enter a doctorate of medicine program, so it should follow that nurses shouldn't need to get nursing experience before they enter a masters or doctorate in nursing practice program. But, there is a huge difference in what medical education offers and advanced practice nursing programs offer.

    MD's have just 2 full time years of basic science education, then they complete tens of thousands of structured hours of clinical experiences during their 2 years of clinicals and 3 years of residency before they are board certified physicians. I think part of the idea is that MD's need these years of on the job education to really learn about the process of disease in patients so they can recognize and manage patients consistently well.

    Advanced practice nursing programs, on the other hand, offer far fewer supervised clinical hours and then there are few opportunities for structured APN residencies. Yet, APN's need to have expert knowledge of disease processes and presentations, case management techniques, etc... stuff that all types of health professional needs to learn from experience. In my mind, years spent working with patients as an RN serves as a great substitute for the formal clinical hours that APN programs don't offer to the same degree as MD (or even PA) programs.

    I think that requiring nurses to have experience before they go into advanced practice is a kind of recognition that nursing is an intellectual pursuit. Nurses learn while during their work, and what they learn can be applied to different types of jobs. For years, I feel, nurses were just seen as 'doing' while docs did 'thinking.' It's clear that this was never true, and APN professions are now using the knowledge that nurses gain from their hard work to fill a broader range of challenging roles.

    Even in non-health professions, I think that on the job experience matters a lot. Most of my prof's in college strongly encouraged us to get work experience before applying to grad school or law school - many claimed that it was easily apparent which students had done meaningful work in a related field before grad school. Furthermore, professor's aren't expected to teach elementary school before they teach college, instead they TA college courses and perform original research - which basically the same thing they do as professors, but in a supervised environment.

    But, I wish you luck in whatever you do and however you decide to get there. I don't mean to judge your career choices, I'm sure you'll make the best one for you!
    Last edit by Ginger's Person on Jul 19, '09
    thatpasunshine, freefalr, november17, and 12 others like this.
  10. 9
    Doctors can afford to be idiots when they graduate because they have years of being "the baby doctor" in internship and residencies where they can make mistakes and the attending will catch it (hopefully!) before going off into the wild woods of medicine all on their own.

    If you've graduated with a CRNP you're expected to understand how to practice competently right out of the gate.
  11. 16
    I myself don't see the problem with the one year rule... There is book smarts with common sense and book smarts without common sense. One year of practice at least may/can do some weeding.

    The question is who would you want taking care of you and your family?
    4-6 years of school and no work experience.
    4-6 years of school and at least 1-2 years of experience in the field in which they are seeking "advanced" training...

    School can be hard, work can be hard but what is hard is making a correct diagnoses and choosing the right treatment options. One patient = one life + one screwup = no second chances (ie total devastation).

    Education alone; nope don't like those odds.
    Education plus experience; much improved odds.

    Why to I use the term odds.... There is always an exception to the rule but I still lean towards education plus experience.

    99% right means 100% wrong for 1% and that 1% has a family.
    thatpasunshine, freefalr, Katie5, and 13 others like this.
  12. 4
    Most HR people will take experience over education, because you can always send someone to school, but experience is a qualification that no school can teach. Some MSN programs insist on x amount of years of experience on the floor prior to acceptance to the program
  13. 6
    Quote from Airforce1
    Hello Everyone,
    I am a BSN student who is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the future, probably a year after I graduate. I have read some posts and found that many here believe that an RN with that little experience has no place in Advanced Practice programs. This is where I disagree.

    I believe that Nursing culture is shooting itself in the foot here, and here's my cents why. A prospective doctor does not have to leave college after a bachelors degree to gain experience in the field of biology or chemistry before going on to Med school. A prospective college professor does not have to leave college after his bachelor's degree to get experience teaching at the grade school level. So WHY do so many believe that an RN has to leave school after their bachelor's degree to gain whatever many years of experience at the clinical level before going on to grad school?

    I believe that it is counterproductive for the nursing profession as a whole to discourage students who wish to complete their education (MSN or beyond) before beginning clinical or other types of practice. You would think that the sensible thing to do is get your education, and THEN get your experience. Am I the only one who feels like this?
    A lot depends on what you want to do with an advanced degree. As others have said, if you're interested in a CRNA, CNS or NP track, you will need clinical experience in a relevant field. Some---not all but some---graduate programs require at least a year or two of practical experience.

    If you're interested in becoming a nurse educator, I strongly suggest getting some practical experience under your belt before going on to graduate school. Without a clinical foundation, the nurse educator is reduced to someone just spouting off theories, someone with his/her head in the clouds without his/her feet on the ground. That might work in some academic disciplines but not nursing. Here's an example. In my RN to BSN program, we had a newly minted MSN as one of our instructors. She'd gone directly from her entry level BSN program straight to graduate school and then into teaching. She was didactically skilled but, in terms of clinical experience, still a beginner. She had little to no credibility with my class. Often, the most clinically experienced students would challenge her---sometimes the discussions were amazing learning experiences but most of the time we RNs in the class felt frustrated because of her lack of clinical expertise.

    I don't think nursing is "shooting itself in the foot" by expecting nurses who wish to pursue opportunities in advanced practice to have adequate and appropriate clinical experience before pursuing the next educational step.

    Looking at it from another point of view---let's say you were planning on a career in creative writing and were enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program that would teach you how to be a writer. How might you feel about a professor who had an MFA or a DFA but had never written a book, a story or a poem but knew all the theories and could teach you exactly how to do it? Would that person be credible? Would you really want to take that class? Frankly, I'd ask for a refund of my tuition and a transfer to a class taught by a published author.

    Now, I'm not saying you need years and years and years of clinical experience before getting an advanced degree. But it will help you tremendously to connect the concepts you learn in grad school with real-life experience if you first have that real-life experience.

    BTW, since you're currently in a BSN program, why not ask your advisor about going on for a graduate degree? Your advisor should know you well enough to know your strengths and weaknesses as a student and he/she should be able to give you advice as to what might work best for your particular career goals.

    Best of luck to you in the future!


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