RN to BSN – The difference between RN and BSN

by Michael V. Gruber, MPH
The complexities of a changing medical field in technology, advanced information, and facing a growing leadership role among nurses has increased the need for a degree of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing among registered nurses (RN to BSN). This higher level of education takes commitment and dedication and in the following article, we will outline how to achieve these goals.

Advancing your nursing degree – The difference between RN and BSN

Beginning a career in nursing for those who desire an abbreviated education will get an associate’s degree (AD) which usually involves 2-3 years of schooling. A nurse may also follow a diploma program, usually through a hospital, that is also 2-3 years in length before becoming an RN. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Sample Survey, 70% of nurses have AD or diploma level degrees. An RN must also pass all required examinations such as the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses) before practicing with patient contact.

For many nurses looking to advance their careers, the RN to BSN Degree Program is the natural next step. It is a 4 year program that includes research oriented learning, leadership training, and liberal arts. Many of the students that are enrolled in the BSN program are previous RN’s with associate degrees or diplomas. They are now going back to school with all the hardships involved; financially, time inflexibility, family and other outstanding commitments.

The differences between an RN and BSN are not necessarily clear to the patient who is being treated with basic care. A nurse treating a patient won’t be asked, “excuse me, are you a RN or a BSN?” Yet the differences lie within. The education gained, the additional technical training, and the potential advancement are not immediately recognized by the patient. A nurse with a BSN can review research papers, advocate for the patient, work with leaders in the hospital or medical facility with confidence and advanced management skills. A nurse with an RN may have all these abilities, yet a BSN enhances them and increases advancement opportunities.

Career Opportunities with a BSN

RN’s return to school for a number of reasons, yet many are personal in nature: To become leaders in the nursing industry, advancing their careers, or move to the next level and receive a master’s or doctoral degree.

Management-level nursing requires an advanced degree such as a BSN. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in management, nurses can become anywhere from the assistant head nurse or head nurse, to assistant director, director, and vice president and upwards. Other career opportunities include research, consulting, and teaching. A nurse with a BSN can manage a home health care clinic and ambulatory services, etc. Nurses can also move into the business side of nursing to becoming an manager of an insurance company, pharmaceutical manufacturer, and managed care organization (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2005).

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