This guest blog post was written by Mitch Lee. Mitch Lee is a community health education specialist and writer on behalf of University Alliance. With several years of experience in public health, Mitch has worked on several community wellness campaigns and participated in education advocacy projects for non-traditional students.
Transitioning from ADN to BSN ─ Growing a Career in Nursing
Many RNs earn their Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) to acquire the basic skills needed to become a nurse. However, many of these professionals opt to return to school to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to further advance their career. Not only is a BSN a prerequisite for many advanced positions, students also learn a number of valuable skills to help them succeed.
History of the Nursing Associate’s Degree
The nursing associate’s degree program was developed as a response to the shortage of registered nurses (RNs) after World War II and the reform movement dedicated to moving nursing into higher education.
As nurses responded to the military’s call for service during World War II, their departures left a severe shortage of RNs in the rest of the country. Initially, the gap was filled with students still completing their education; they worked under the watchful eye of a busy supervisor, putting in overtime to compensate for the shortage of fully trained staff.
In 1950, Columbia University doctoral student Mildred Montag created the philosophy and plan for the associate’s degree in nursing.
“There has been a growing realization that the functions and activities of nurses are changing and becoming more extensive and more complex,” stated Montag. “There has been less realization of the need to adjust nursing programs to equip the graduates for these changing functions. It should be obvious that the demands made on nursing personnel make an improved education mandatory.”
Montag received support from faculty members at Columbia University and eventually an initial pilot program was launched.
The Cooperative Research Project was based at Teachers College, Columbia University. The program started in January, 1952 and served as the start of the project in Junior and Community college education for nursing. The project was based on the following four assumptions:
- The practice of nursing is constantly changing.
- An educational program could be created to train a new nurse at the intermediate level.
- The simplest, most basic nurse functions could be taught on-the-job.
- Programs should be taught at a technical institution, such as a junior or community college.
This plan broke the 75-year-old nursing preparation program, previously viewed as the only adequate training for the profession.
Why Get a BSN?
The ADN and BSN provide nurses with the necessary skills to succeed as RNs, offering similar coursework in nursing, nutrition, anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry and psychology ─ with a heavy weight placed on supervised clinical experience. The main difference is BSN programs offer training beyond essential RN skills, including the chance to develop critical thinking, communication, and leadership abilities.
While a 2009 survey published by RN magazine noted that ADN and BSN candidates holding the same position tend to be paid equally, it’s important to note the advantages offered by the latter degree. Professionals aspiring to advance to a teaching, research or administrative positive need the leadership skills provided by the BSN degree. Additionally, most advanced nursing positions have a minimum required education of a BSN, so an RN hoping to achieve upward mobility would need to obtain this degree level.
Many hospitals have recently started requiring RNs with an associate’s degree to obtain their BSN degree, due to increased demands on the nursing field. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine set a target goal of 80 percent of all nurses to hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020, claiming patients receive better care from nurses with higher levels of education.
In fact, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, created the Magnet Recognition Program to highlight leading healthcare facilities. This distinguishment signifies that as of January 1, 2013, all the nurse managers in the organization have a BSN or graduate degree. “Magnet” status also typically means that a large percentage of nurses hold a BSN for jobs in direct patient care, as roughly 50% of all nurses in such positions at Magnet-recognized hospitals fall into this category.
Choosing a RN to BSN Program
Nurses are able to choose from both on-campus and online programs to earn their BSN degree. Each type of program offers unique advantages to students, allowing them to learn in the manner that best fits their needs.
Students enrolled in an on-campus program enjoy the ability to learn along with their peers and have easy access to instructors. Many people learn better when given the opportunity to participate in discussions or receive one-on-one instruction from a professor during office hours. This form of learning also typically provides more real-world experience than an online format, as students receive hands-on instruction in a collaborative environment.
An online RN to BSN program is an attractive option for many students because they typically allow for increased flexibility. Those working full-time often choose this route, as it offers a better work-life balance. Rather than having to be in class at a certain time, students can typically complete their weekly assignments when it’s most convenient for them.
Students looking to advance in the field of nursing need to obtain a BSN to set the foundation for their future. While an ADN provides the skills needed to function as an RN, the BSN offers instruction on communication, critical thinking, and leadership topics, helping students to prepare for more advanced nursing roles.
Nurse Eye Roll here.. I am a huge BSN advocate. I’ve sat in on many meetings with nursing administration over the past few years and many hospitals are going to start looking at the BSN degree as a requirement in the future. While the ADN is still a great choice for many, it will become a stepping stone to becoming BSN-prepared. Furthermore, should you decide the bedside is not where you belong after you graduate, without a BSN your options are limited. Those of you graduating with an ADN, I highly recommend getting a timeline set for obtaining your BSN sooner rather than later. It is easier to jump back into a program after graduating with your ADN than waiting for 10 years, having your math and sciences expire, and figuring out how to do school all over again. Thanks Mitch, for your expertise in this area!
For any questions or further guidance, here is a Q&A page that might answer ADN to BSN questions:
or you can call 855-300-1473 for technical questions.