The Differences Among Us: ADN vs. BSN
Having worked with hundreds of registered nurses throughout my ten year career, it is not usually very easy to determine if the nurse next to me graduated with an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. Whether working with a charge nurse, staff nurse or even a case manager, the differences are minor, and only upon further inspection realized. Both types of nurses are qualified and excel at their jobs, but the BSN nurse has the extra training and critical thinking skills needed, not only for their current station in life, but also their future and growth in the field. First I will be discussing why there are so many more ADN nurses in relation to BSN nurses. Secondly, a discussion of why there is a major push towards BSN prepared nurses. Last, a look into the differences I have noticed in my own nursing career between the ADN nurse and the BSN nurse.
Not long ago, the primary degree in nursing was a hospital diploma. This was the standard way to becoming a nurse. As recently as the mid-1980’s, half of the country’s registered nurses had started that way. By that time though, community colleges and the associate’s degree of nursing was beginning to take over (Perez-Pena, 2012, para. 4). Although many four year programs existed, this was the quickest and easiest way for a student to obtain a nursing degree. This quicker program appealed especially to the workforce that were going back to school to earn a second degree, and to the mothers that were going back to school later in life, after having raised their families first. According to the 2008 HRSA National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, there are 3.1 million RN’s in the United States, of which 2.7 million are employed. Of those total RN’s, fifty percent either hold an ADN or a diploma as their highest degree (Sportsman, n.d., p. 1). At this point in time there is a big push to get these ADN prepared nurses up to the standard of the BSN education. More programs and incentives are now being offered than ever before, making it easier to move on and obtain a bachelors degree.
Although nursing degrees can be earned in three different ways, the trend that most hospitals and employers are moving towards is the BSN degree. Some hospitals will offer higher wages and an increased chance of upward movement in their career with a higher degree. A hospital a with large percentage of BSN prepared nurses, not only is better with patient care and outcomes, but also looks favorable to the community. Another incentive for hospitals is the coveted “magnet” designation, awarded by the American Nurses Association to about 400 hospitals and sometimes featured in their advertising. Among the association’s criteria for magnet status is the nursing staff’s level of education (Perez-Pena, 2012, para. 6). With more nurses in the workforce than ever before, many nurses find themselves wanting to expand their horizons and move into management and leadership roles, which can only be done with a higher degree.
More and more RN to BSN programs are emerging every day to meet the need of the BSN standard of today. There is the traditional way of earning your BSN by enrolling in a four year college and attending classes on campus. Although this way had been the norm for many nurses going back to school, many online programs are now available. This convenience makes it possible for nurses working full time and taking care of families to also advance their education. Many more community colleges have also made arrangements with their four year counterparts, helping more nurses easily transition to and achieve their ultimate goal of earning a bachelors degree. In Oregon, eight community colleges and the state’s Health and Science University have shared a nursing curriculum since 2006, an approach since adopted by others around the country (Perez-Pena, 2012, para. 10).
Not only is having a higher