BSN as entry into practice; why we decided against it.

  1. 20
    While hopefully avoiding stoking the ADN - BSN debate unnecessarily, I thought I'd share my experience with my state's consideration of BSN as entry into practice, as well as the BSN-in-10 initiative.

    About 3 years ago I sat on a council charged with evaluating and making recommendations on the educational requirements for Nursing. We worked closely with both employers and schools of Nursing to evaluate needs and capabilities and to coordinate the two.

    We initially reviewed the evidence, most notably Linda Aiken's work on the relationship between educational level and quality of Nursing care. On the surface her work seems to clearly support the BSN model, however upon closer inspection we could not show that improved Nursing specific outcomes were due to higher proportions of BSN nurses, at least in terms of a BSN being causative rather than just correlative. While her studies did show a relationship between better outcomes and Hospitals with a higher proportion of BSN Nurses, she failed to adequately account for the fact that Hospitals with higher proportions of BSN nurses also have many factors that would be likely to contribute to better outcomes. For instance, predominately BSN hospitals (teaching hospitals) tend to have better staffing ratios, better support systems, better funding, and are more likely to be "early adopters" of practice improvements. Aiken's accounting for the effects of these differences were grossly inadequate. When her data was properly corrected for these differences, there was no clear difference between ADN and BSN prepared Nurses in areas examined.

    We then looked at differences in curriculum between ADN and BSN programs and found surprisingly few differences. Pre-requisites varied among both ADN and BSN programs, with the only consistent difference being that BSN programs required a Nutrition class. We had assumed that the Statistics requirement was also a universal difference, but what we found was that this was only different in older ADN programs, newer ADN programs carried the same statistics requirement with some requiring a higher level of statistics than even the top BSN program in the state. In the program itself, the curriculum is closely regulated by both accreditation groups and the State Board, both of which hold the curriculum of both types of program to the same standards, minus the BSN program's additional leadership and community health classes.

    Considering the minimal differences between ADN and BSN curriculum, we questioned whether there might be differences related to the 'caliber' of student admitted to each type of program, we were particularly surprised by what we found. Two of the ADN programs in the state required a previous bachelor's degree to even apply, more were considering this. The typical minimum GPA in core prerequisites for competitive entry ADN programs was 3.8, for BSN programs it was 3.6.

    The biggest factor was what we would need to do to move to only BSN programs. Our current BSN programs already have a shortage of clinical spots, so expanding our current BSN programs was not an option. The only viable option was to take our ADN programs and simply start calling them BSN programs by adding community health and leadership classes and requiring the additional "general" credits needed to fulfill the credit requirements of a bachelors. To do this, community colleges would have to partner with Universities who would then grant BSN's for a (large) fee. This would essentially mean the only difference between an ADN and BSN would be 8 core credits, about 35 general credits, and about $18,000.

    The other concern with limiting RN education opportunities to BSN programs by expanding BSN programs was the demographic makeup of Nursing students. More than half of those currently going into Nursing are "second career" students. These students typically are not in positions where attending a direct BSN program is feasible. In my state, BSN programs are only available in two urban areas. It's much easier for an 18 year old to drop everything and move to one of these two areas than it is for someone who has kids in school, owns a home, has a spouse with an immovable job, etc. As a result we were concerned about the effect such a drastic change in Nursing student demographics might have.

    A survey of employers found no glaring preference for BSN prepared Nurses in my state, in fact we were surprised at the number of Hospitals that expressed a preference for ADN new grads as they found their bedside training requirements were less, this was likely due to the limitations in clinical experience in BSN programs. Only one hospital in the state expressed a preference for BSN graduates, although they did not require a BSN, this was the Hospital associated with the state's largest BSN program. They did express that their preference for BSN's was somewhat self-serving; when part of the job market is "BSN-only", it helps maintain demand for a degree that's fairly similar yet typically 400% more expensive than the ADN option. This would seem to shed some light on why "BSN-only" employers are primarily hospitals associated with Universities.

    In the end we determined that we could not support the goal of BSN as entry to practice at this time. We did however endorse the concept of BSN-in-10 through ADN to BSN programs. Although we didn't go so far as to advocate BSN-in-10 as a requirement. This was partly due to reviewing North Dakota's failed BSN-in-10 attempt, as well as the demographics involved in the Nursing workforce. The number of experienced Nurses who leave the workforce is a real problem. This attrition often occurs between 5 and 10 years. Adding a requirement that will take additional time as well as cost, in many cases, up to half of their yearly salary would too often serve as the primary factor in a decision to leave Nursing. There are huge advantages to additional schooling after a period of time in the workforce, one could argue advantages that exceed that of direct BSN programs, however it was not felt that the loss of experienced Nurses outweighed those advantages. But when feasible, all ADN Nurses should be actively encouraged to pursue an ADN to BSN.

    As a BSN prepared Nurse, I was expecting confirmation that my money was spell spent, and I'm not saying it necessarily wasn't, however many of the assumptions I held may have been overstated or just incorrect. For many, direct BSN programs are worth the expense, for other's it's not. What's most important is that students can make an informed decision.
    lactationgurlRN, elkpark, PhotoJenic, and 17 others like this.
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  3. 240 Comments so far...

  4. 10
    My big concern with making the BSN the new standard of entry is that I think result in a domino effect (i.e. making DNP the new requirement for Nurse Practitioners which I am thoroughly against this push). I would love to be an NP (eventually) but I'm not going to put myself through four or more years that a DNP might require. I could have gone to med school and make more than triple the amount and gain far more respect for it.

    I'm currently in a BSN program and tbh, a lot of it is fluffy **** that isn't going to help someone be a better nurse. The amount these BSN programs are charging are too outrageous to justify, especially since most places don't pay BSN nurses anymore than the ADN prepared nurses. If "they" are going to raise the requirements to a college-degree, then they better raise the starting salary as well. Regardless of the "degree," a nurse has a person's LIFE in his/her hand's and therefore the pay needs to reflect that level of responsibility.

    As for "second careers", there are accelerated BSN programs for that. But again, they charge WAY too much. I know nursing students who are going to be in over 30k in debt when it is all said and done.
    Kandy83, prettymica, JZ_RN, and 7 others like this.
  5. 1
    What kind of committee was this? Was it a representative of your state's BON or the ANA? The findings you're posting here claim to be an investigation on Mrs Aiken's work, but I don't see any studies sourced. What gives?
    SummitRN likes this.
  6. 1
    This is really interesting. I'm a BSN nurse, but I work w/ mostly ADN nurses. And they are great! They have to learn the same things that we do and take the same NCLEX. I think it's just a preference of learning styles, in my opinion.

    and theprincessbride, you are right- in my state I'm already seeing it- you need to become a doctor of nursing to work as an NP (Rutgers for example).
    netglow likes this.
  7. 5
    I have always been concerned about who stays at the bedside. Why would someone pay 40 - 60 - 80 thousand dollars for a BSN to stay at the bedside working shifts, weekends, holidays? How many people are staying in 24/7 positions 10 years out?

    Salaries have not kept pace with the cost of a quality education, and some nurses are finding their salaries are topped out at less than what they paid for their education. In other words, they may not ever make a yearly base salary of 60 grand even though they paid that or more for their education.
    JZ_RN, netglow, xoemmylouox, and 2 others like this.
  8. 1
    I am all for making BSN the requirement for entry to practice, but I think hospitals need to look at the education system. I am a second degree student. My first degree is a Bachelor's degree in Biology. By the time I decided I wanted to go back to school for nursing, the California State budget was a mess, and the California State University System was rejecting second bachelor applicants. (After two years of this policy, they decided to start accepting second degree applicants in Fall of 2012, but it is too late for me since I already graduated and have my RN license).Anyways, I was told that I could either go to a junior college and get an ADN, go to a private school for a BSN (anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 for tuition alone), or try to get into a Master's entry program. I got into two private schools, but decided to be financially responsible and went to the junior college.
    It is true that schools and their curriculum vary drastically. I took my pharmacology class over the summer at a community college with several other students taking the same class who were in a BSN program at California State University Long Beach.
    Anyways, now I can't get a job. I would be fine with doing a one year RN-BSN. But the director of my nursing school said that the school district can't afford to do that, since they are still struggling with budget cuts. The State schools offer a year and a half RN-BSN that is full time, and it would be very hard to work full time. I really just need public health, critical care and research (I took leadership, pathophysiology, nutrition, health assessment 2 years of chemistry, statistics, etc, etc for my ADN and Biology degrees). But there is no school that will let me take just those courses and get a BSN.
    If the BSN is to be the entry level requirement, I dont think that the middle class should be punished because they can't afford to go to a private school when the state schools are cutting their budgets.
    redhead_NURSE98! likes this.
  9. 5
    Quote from cass1320
    What kind of committee was this? Was it a representative of your state's BON or the ANA? The findings you're posting here claim to be an investigation on Mrs Aiken's work, but I don't see any studies sourced. What gives?
    We were formed under a consortium of public and private universities, community colleges, and the Department of Health (BON).

    I only summarized the Review of Aiken (and others) work that was done, this review was completed by a subcommittee.

    Her work is readily available and I would encourage you to review it if your interested. The initial purpose of the subcommittee was to determine the reason why BSN prepared Nurses produce better outcomes. Their attempts to drill down the cause of better outcomes produced some significant concerns with methodology.
    tokmom, Crux1024, cp1024, and 2 others like this.
  10. 9
    Thank you! It's a vindication for all of us ADN's out there doing the same job as a BSN. If the hospitals really want BSN's let them pay for them ie full tuition reimbursement, not a piddly $2,000 year!
  11. 17
    I have a MSN and am a nurse practitioner, but I also earned a BA before I became an RN. I worked for 3 years as an RN while obtaining my MSN.

    I could never, and still can't, see what the big deal about having a BSN was/is. It's a freaking bachelor's degree, like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has these days... almost embarrassing that we as a profession are arguing about it.
    Last edit by apocatastasis on Nov 17, '12 : Reason: grammar
    Kandy83, elkpark, i<3u, and 14 others like this.
  12. 6
    Not sure how true this is, but the College that I am currently working towards My ADN with claims that they have a significantly higher pass rate of the NCLEX than the 4 yr University's BSN graduates do. So I guess the real question would be "How accurately does the NCLEX test those entering the nursing profession?" If the NCLEX is a fair gauge of a new grads knowledge, then I would the imagine that the BSN would not be necessary for an entry level Nursing position. It MAY, however be necessary to pick up a management position...
    Kandy83, JZ_RN, cp1024, and 3 others like this.


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