The U.S. system of educating Registered Nurses has not become standardized despite many comments and plans of various nursing associations and healthcare organizations. I graduated from a community college nursing school with an associates degree over 20 years ago. At that time, an associates degree was considered the standard and there were many, many more associate degree nurses working in the US than any other nursing degree. Over the last 20 years of my career, BSN degree nurses have increased and I found myself wondering what they could have possibly learned in the two extra years of schooling; yes I was cynical of BSN nurses!
My career as a nurse has been very fulfilling and challenging at the same time. The challenges are not often the actual care of the patient but more issues involving other staff and management issues. I have felt a push pull with management and not fully understanding the goals and direction my unit is going in; simply put, nursing was evolving and changing and I was not evolving and changing with nursing. I could not understand why we couldn't just "leave things alone and do things as we have done them the past 10 years" and I always felt that nurses who had an associates degree and went back to school to attain a BSN were drinking the kool aid; everything I needed to know about nursing I learned in my 2 year community college nursing program and on the job training.
Recently, I have given a lot of thought about a BSN, and decided the time is right for me to pursue a BSN degree; I have a generous tuition reimbursement at my job and we are a magnet facility and we have been encouraged to continue our education and, at a minimum attain our BSN. On a side note, I am virtually stuck at my hospital and cannot move to another hospital because I live in a metro area and the supply of BSN nurses is plentiful; many hospitals are magnet and they will only hire BSN nurses.
I took the jump and I am now enrolled in an on line BSN completion program, and it is going well, but can be quite difficult at times. The value of this continuation of my education is something you cannot understand unless you actually take the classes; BSN classes are not just "fluff" classes, these classes will give you updated information regarding nursing and what nursing organizations would like nursing to look like in 20 years. It has been a journey for me and has opened my eyes to how all things are connected within a healthcare organization and has given me a better idea where my health care system is going and ultimately, it IS about patient safety. By being more educated in goals and regulatory considerations of healthcare in very empowering and I feel like I can have a broader view of patient care and what my role is in patient care. I am not just a person to follow orders, I have a responsibility to advocate, guard and deliver the highest care possible within my scope. We, as nurses, have a place at the table, what we can contribute has value. Attaining a BSN is opening my eyes to the professionalism of nursing which is empowering.
Embracing the BSN program did not come easy to me at first, I struggled the first few weeks of class and I had a bad attitude about the time I needed to spend studying, however, after completing some of the assignments I can say that it caught my interest and I realized that there is much more to nursing that the microscopic part I play on a daily basis; there are many areas of growth in nursing and many, many more opportunities for you as a nurse other than bedside nursing; as an aging nurse, my days are numbered for "bedside" nursing and that is a reality for the younger nurses who have an associates degree but haven't gone back for their BSN; at some point it will take a toll on you, whether emotional or physical, and you will be able to stay in nursing but not take a job at the bedside; a BSN will give you some options that you will not have with your Associates degree.
After spending over 20 years as an associates degree nurse, I can honestly say that while I have come to the conclusion that there is value in attaining a BSN, everyone is not going to attain their BSN for a variety of reasons and this does not lead to the devalue of an AD nurse; they have the skills to perform as an RN and there is nothing taught in a BSN program that applies to patient care; what is taught in a BSN program is leadership, organizational management, diversity and other topics important to nursing, but not related the hands on skill of nursing.
I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have a paper I printed out during my first BSN class that has my name with the credential of BSN after my name, this way I can visualize my goal every day and continue to work through my classes and, most important, stay on track and complete my degree. Early 2018 is my completion of my BSN program, and, while a lot of work awaits me between, I am looking forward and not back!!