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3 Obstacles to Higher Education Levels in Nursing

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 23, 2011

This is a huge problem for nursing and healthcare in general and we need to find a multitude of ways to fix the impending nursing shortage. With the looming disruption caused by retiring baby boomers, it's admittedly a bad time to call for a requirement that will limit the number of RNs.  

That's not a reason to abandon it entirely. Nurse leaders can read the evidence as well as anyone. If we recognize that BSN nurses result in better patient outcomes, then let's start planning for how to get there. Some hospitals have a requirement that nurses obtain a BSN within a certain number of years after entry to practice. More hospitals need to start this.

We need to place higher value on further education and make it easier for nurses to work and study. Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement, which helps make the prospect of further schooling manageable. Hospitals must ensure that education is emphasized and valued and that nurses are encouraged if they want to do this, for example by being flexible with scheduling.

2. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

The majority of RNs don't have a four-year degree. And most of these nurses are dedicated, accomplished clinical professionals. They point out that most new associate degree nurses have more clinical experience coming into practice than those with BSNs. It's arguable that associate degree nurses are actually better nurses in the first year of practice because they've had more clinical experience. But here's the rub. This isn't evidence, its observation. It's not scientific data collection and analysis of patient outcomes over the long term.

If you're not a nurse, you cannot comprehend the level of passion this topic engenders. I have been flamed by nurses for appearing to suggest that BSN-educated nurses are in some way "better" than associate degree nurses.

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23 comments on "3 Obstacles to Higher Education Levels in Nursing"


Beth Freed, CCRN, MSN, FNP-BC (12/30/2012 at 7:09 PM)
In an ideal world, every nurse would strive to gain the highest education possible. Money, time, responsibilities, lack of support, raising families, caring for elderly/sick parents, etc can be blamed for not achieving these goals. It is easy on the outside looking in to downplay 'the whys', and unrealistic to think the only good nurses are BSN trained. I have former coworkers (ICCU) that range from having Associate to BSN education of whom I would trust my life because of their experience, critical thinking skills, caring, and compassion. In that setting, if you are not passionate about what you do, you do not survive. The focus needs to be on CONTINUED education in order to train already talented nurses to remain on top of their profession.

Christy (10/12/2011 at 3:30 PM)
I am currently working on my ASN in California. My sister-in-law has a BSN (also in California). She works with nurses who have graduated from the school I am attending and as far as she can tell, the major difference in education is management type classed required for a BSN. The program here is so impacted that most nursing students (myself included) must take additional classes while waiting to gain admittance to the nursing classes. I am currently taking psychopathology. A class not required, but relevant to my chosen profession. Next semester I will be taking organic chem and nutrition. Again, classes not required, but may aid me later in my studies. I can accept that "better out comes" happen with a BSN. Now find out why and incorporate that into an ASN program. Also, figure out a way to get more nursing students through school. I don't want to do the classes faster, I just don't want to have to wait 2 years to start. There is no perfect solution. If as a country we are worried about a nursing shortage, then we need to do what we can to get more qualified people the education they desire to become nurses.

KATHY MARSHALL (10/6/2011 at 9:23 AM)
Yes, nurses need to be educated at least to a BSN level. But I am not. Why? First, let me say I have over 20 yrs. experience and I have many "certifications" as well as "extra" college credits that don't apply to a BSN program. I have checked into numerous RN to BSN programs and have found the minimum # of credit hours I need to fufill the requirements for a BSN is 42. I work full time so part-time attendance is my only option. If I took 2 classes a semester (6 credits) it would take me 7 semesters (2 1/2 yrs with summer classes) and cost me about $17,000. During those 2 1/2 yrs there would be no time for vacations, etc. I am 54 years old. Although I'd love to get my BSN and work on a Master's, the requirements don't make sense to me, considering my past education and experience.