Guide to RN to BSN Programs
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Obtaining clinical experience is an invaluable component of your nursing education, making on-campus programs a better choice for this degree.
Preview the advanced courses you may take as you pursue your bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Find out how you can confirm that your program has been accredited by CCNE, the national accrediting body for nursing programs.
Demand for qualified nurses is high across the country, particularly in Health Professional Shortage areas, where qualified medical professionals are badly needed.
Consider the RN to BSN Degree Track
The RN to BSN degree is intended to allow practicing RNs who hold a nursing diploma or associate’s degree to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree much faster. This accelerated degree program typically takes only two years to complete.
Attaining a BSN will expand your career options, allowing you to specialize in such fields as oncology, nurse management, or operating room nursing, and often results in a higher salary.
Online registered nursing programs vs. brick-and-mortar programs
You can earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree through traditional campus-based or online programs. A variety of full-time and part-time RN to BSN programs are available, though all of them will require you to complete a residency or practicum before graduation, so you should not expect to complete your entire education through the computer.
Though all registered nurses completing an RN to BSN degree already have experience in nursing, the additional hands-on experience gained in a campus-based program is invaluable to your future nursing practice. Brick-and-mortar programs have the advantage of offering guided, hands-on instruction in specific nursing skills, such as measuring patient vital signs and dispensing medicine. However, these programs may be more expensive, as they often require additional lab fees and have higher overall tuition costs.
Many RN to BSN programs are offered completely online, with the exception of clinical requirements or a practicum or capstone project, which must be completed in a clinic under supervision. Because they are already working as RNs, many students are able to complete their clinical requirements in their place of employment. However, while you can complete theoretical nursing courses such as anatomy and healthcare information technology through online courses and gain the same knowledge as in a campus-based program, online students may miss out on valuable laboratory experience under the supervision of nursing professionals.
Learn Why RNs Should Earn a BSN
Registered nurses provide a variety of technical healthcare services for patients, including taking patient histories, administering medications, and assisting other healthcare professionals in performing medical procedures. They work directly with patients and other medical professionals, and may also manage other nurses and medical staff. RNs work in a variety of settings, from individual departments of hospitals or clinics to emergency rooms, ICUs, long-term care facilities, and even field hospitals in conflict or disaster zones. They promote good healthcare practices in their communities, carry out preventative programs, and ensure individual patients receive the care they need while sick while assisting in their recovery.
With a BSN degree, RNs can enter professional management positions such as nurse case manager, clinical nursing manager, hospice care program administrator, or nursing director, as well as continue their general practice in a specialized field such as oncology or primary care nursing. Nurses in leadership positions manage other nurses in a specific department of a hospital or clinic. Case managers administer and overlook the entire treatment program of an individual patient, from the time they are admitted to when they are discharged. They emphasize preventative care and can give specific advice to their patients, as they are very familiar with treatment histories.
See if an RN to BSN program is the right fit
All nurses at any level need certain traits: if you’re an RN, you should be caring, empathetic, and nurturing. You should also be dedicated to promoting healthcare and improving the wellness of individuals and entire communities, with a strong interest in medicine, disease prevention, nutrition, patient care, medical procedures, and public health.
But you need more if you want to earn your BSN in order to earn nursing promotions. You should also be organized, efficient, and have strong communication and leadership skills. You will qualify for supervisory roles in the nursing department with your BSN, so prepare yourself for roles with greater responsibility.
Remember that nursing is a rewarding career, but it is also very demanding. Nurses work long hours, often for many days in a row, and in some lines of work such as emergency room nursing or disaster relief, their jobs are stressful. Nursing is not likely to provide you with a nine-to-five career, until you get to the managerial level, which typically requires a master’s degree in nursing.
Discover the Curriculum of an RN to BSN Degree
The courses you take while earning your RN to BSN degree will depend on your previous education, which determines whether you need to take core courses in subjects such as biology or anatomy. However, the bulk of your education will focus on topics specifically related to nursing, such as community health, aging, or research in nursing practice. Many classes will require a clinical component, where you will apply the theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom or through online lectures to a clinical setting. Along with a practicum or capstone, these courses allow you to practice your skills with real patients while still under the supervision of nursing educators.
Understand the prerequisites in an RN to BSN program
Prior to admission to most RN to BSN programs, you should have completed a core set of science classes including chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology. You will also need to show proof that you are a licensed Registered Nurse to be accepted into a program.
Preview the courses you will take in an RN to BSN degree
The following courses are common in RN to BSN programs:
Genetics for RNs – In this course, students receive an overview of key concepts in genetics and genomics as used in nursing. You will learn about the types of genetic testing available and common diseases with a genetic component.
Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning – This course teaches the procedures involved in assessing the health of patients. You will learn what to look for when taking patient histories, how to check vital signs, and conduct physical examinations.
Evidence Based Practice – In this course, students discover the scientific principles underlying medical practice as they apply to nursing. You will study quantitative research methods and learn to critically evaluate existing research.
Leadership in Contemporary Nursing Practice – In this class students study nursing management principles and prepare to take on leadership roles within the profession. You will learn different management styles and their effectiveness in healthcare, and will be required to demonstrate leadership.
Nursing Capstone – In a capstone or practicum course, students work in the field under the supervision of nursing educators, and apply the skills and principles learned in earlier coursework. You will be expected to perform the duties of a nursing professional while being evaluated and given feedback from an instructor.
Consider your specialization options
There are many specializations to choose from within the field of nursing. At any level of nursing, choosing a specialization allows you to be more competitive in the workplace by becoming an expert in your chosen field. When considering a specialization, think about where you want to work, whether at a hospital or clinic, in emergency situations, or with outpatients in a private practice, elderly care facility, or rehabilitation center. Another consideration is whether you would like to work with children, adults, or the elderly. You can specialize in pediatric care, or, if you would like to treat older patients, hospice and palliative care. Other popular specializations include ICU and emergency room nursing, cardiac care, oncology, and neurology.
Understand why You Need to Pursue an Accredited RN to BSN Degree
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is the accrediting body for nursing colleges and departments. The CCNE’s website features a useful directory of accredited nursing programs at all degree levels around the country. Choosing a CCNE-accredited program ensures your degree meets the minimum quality standards, such as the educational level of the faculty, student-to-faculty ratio, and assessment standards. It also guarantees your degree will be recognized by employers. This is especially important if you plan on earning a higher degree in nursing in the future, such as a master’s.
Discover the Job Landscape for Registered Nurses
Although you will not earn a new nursing title immediately upon graduation, earning your BSN will help you stand out among other nursing applicants for jobs or promotions. The job outlook for nursing is very positive, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting job growth of 26 percent for all RNs over the next decade. Your outlook will be especially rosy if you choose to work in one of more than 10,000 Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) throughout the country, as designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These are areas lacking sufficient medical staff, and you may even be reimbursed for your RN to BSN program tuition if you choose to work in such an area.
The median salary for RNs was $64,690 per year in 2010, though actual salaries vary widely depending on your experience, location, and degree level. For example, an RN with a BSN can earn an average of $70,325 annually in New York City, while the same RN would earn $59,186 in Atlanta. Salaries tend to be higher for nurses working at private hospitals than at home healthcare services or nursing care facilities. The median annual salary for nurses in management positions is significantly higher overall, at $84,270.