ASN or BSN for NGO work? Location: MA

  1. I am seriously interested in pursuing a career as a nurse. I specifically would like to do NGO work with organizations like Doctors Without Borders (or similarly-oriented organizations, abroad or in the US) or work as a traveling nurse.

    I completed two years of a liberal arts education at Tufts University before dropping out due to the realization that I was not interested in pursuing a degree in the humanities anymore. After completing a journalism assignment on healthcare in India, I fell in love with the medical profession. I never considered it before, but seeing that I love working with people, problem solving and high stress/high reward environments, it presented itself quite clearly.

    My question is whether I should enter a BSN major as a transfer student or pursue an ASN and then complete a RN to BSN program while working. What are the pros and cons to each? If I am willing to settle for any job that will give me experience, is it possible to find work as an RN with ASN? The reason why I'm hesitant to go straight into a BSN is due to money & time.

    If I am to complete a BSN, I would apply to UMass Boston or a similar public university. If I were to choose ASN, I would probably enroll in a low-cost community college (like Bunker Hill) or attend Lawrence Memorial/Regis College.

    Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

    Best.
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   Rose_Queen
    Research jobs in your area. If postings state BSN required, you'll need that BSN. If they state BSN preferred, you'd have a leg up with a BSN. If they don't state a preference, you may be fine with an ADN. It really depends on the job market in your area. Then there's also financial considerations to make- you should not take out loans for education for more than what you can reasonably expect to make in a year. Stay away from for-profit schools, who only want to take your money and may not provide the best education.
  4. by   FNP2019
    If you're really committed to the NGO route, I'd recommend going for a BSN, especially since MSF requires mgmt experience. It's great that you already have some developing country experience! I'd also keep in mind that they have a pretty strong preference for language skills, so it'd be good to start learning French too. (I've been working in international health for the last 6 years, and its the only way I've been able to get a job!)

    You can find MSF's qualifications here- General Requirements | MSF USA

    I'd also recommend checking out other organizations doing similar work- off the top of my head: Mercy Ships, International Medical Corps, and Project Hope all do great work.

    Best of luck!
  5. by   FutureHolisticRN
    A quick search on the Doctor's Without Borders webpage shows that they require nurses to have 3 years of professional experience before applying to work in the field. It also states that one year of management or direct supervision is required. That being said, with the current state of hiring in Massachusetts, I'd recommend you get your BSN. I also don't see one being in a supervisory position as an ASN in this day and age. Most places will not hire those with only an ASN especially in Boston, so keep that in mind. Perhaps to save money you could take prerequisites for an accelerated BSN at Bunker Hill?

    Alternatively you could do BHCC's ASN program but just plan on completing an online RN-BSN as soon as possible!
  6. by   sgroga01
    Thanks for the tips all! Fortunately, I speak English, Spanish and French fluently so all that is left is... well, pretty much everything else, like knowing how to be a nurse.

    Knowing myself, I'm not ready or willing to do a four-year undergraduate program right now, which is why I was interested in completing an ASN. However, I spent a couple of hours looking at job offerings and you're right, it appears that very few facilities (if any) in MA hire ASNs. I'm sure that even fewer employers will be accepting that level of degree in two years time.

    I've concluded that I will wait until I'm 24 and then enroll in an accelerated BSN program for adults at Simmons, which provides scholarships and is better suited for someone who doesn't want to take a traditional path. Their clinical placements seem amazing (they're certainly better than anything BHCC could offer me) so I think it will pay off to wait. For now, I'll continue traveling

    Anyways, I appreciate the words of encouragement and NGO recommendations! Thanks all.
  7. by   FNP2019
    Sounds like a great plan! If you've got the languages, you are halfway there! :-) In the meantime, I encourage you to look into options that might expose you to health in the community- maybe working as an HIV counselor or as a translator in a clinic. Feeling comfortable with the medical environment and lingo will be a definite boost when you start school.
  8. by   sgroga01
    That's a great idea. I've started looking at open courses from various universities to keep my brain moving in the right direction. I'm currently wandering around Latin America with very little room or stability for a serious volunteer position but I'll keep that in mind. I was thinking about doing grunt work like flyering for community health programs or applying for a job as a receptionist in a local family practice once I get home, whenever that may be. We'll see :-) Too many options is better than too few.
  9. by   adventure_rn
    The only other thing I'd add is that in order to get hospital experience in Boston (which you'd need prior to starting MSF), you'd be better off getting a BSN. Large cities tend to be saturated with new grad nurses looking for hospital jobs, which makes those jobs very competitive; having your BSN will make your job search much easier. It would probably be easier to find hospital jobs in the smaller cities outside of Boston.

    As an aside, I'd recommend looking at Mercy Ships. It's effectively a hospital housed on a large ship that travels along the coast of Africa; they specialize in providing free life-saving surgeries. It has a religious affiliation, but you don't have to be religious to participate.
  10. by   FutureHolisticRN
    The Dix Scholars program at Simmons is AMAZING! Best of luck to you!

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