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RN or BSN - Does it Really Matter?

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registered nurse

Nursing practice has always had an emphasis on lifelong learning, but nowadays there is an expectation that more of that learning be done in the formal classroom setting-whether real or virtual. In the past, successful and skilled nurses got by with fewer years of education. Nowadays, nurses are expected to continue their formal education on an ongoing basis, and there are dozens of specific degree programs to accommodate diverse needs.

What's the reason for the shift? Advances in technology, changes in medical practice and developing sub-specialties in the nursing field all add up to an overwhelming amount of information. A dedicated nurse simply may not learn everything he or she needs to know on the job. Formal education may be the key to career opportunities, increased salaries, and leadership roles. An RN to BSN Completion program is now offered by many institutions to accommodate registered nurses who already have their associate's degree or a diploma level degree.

Before deciding if an RN to BSN Completion program is the next step for you, it's important to understand the differences. Take a look at the important features of each level of education:

Potential Differences in Salary Between an RN and a BSN Degree

Initially, an RN and a nurse with a BSN degree might both receive the same salary for the same nursing position. However, registered nurses with a BSN may expect to pursue more in the long term, because they will be eligible for higher-paying jobs and for further higher education. In addition, many hospitals follow clinical ladder programs, which in a nutshell means that an RN and a BSN may both receive the same base pay, but the BSN may receive a certain dollar amount more per hour.

Nursing Career Opportunities

An RN without a BSN degree may be qualified for positions with the following responsibilities: administering medications and treatments in compliance with the physician's orders, interpreting diagnostic tests, formulating care plans, documenting and charting observations and other data related to the patient's clinical condition. An RN with a BSN degree is additionally qualified to review research papers, advocate for a patient and take on managerial positions and other leadership roles. Many specialized jobs may require a BSN degree at minimum, such as pediatric nurses, operating room nurses, and nurse practitioners. As you may see, holding a BSN degree may open the door to many more exciting and challenging roles. In addition, a BSN degree may be required to apply for entrance into higher education programs such as a Master of Science in Nursing.

Many working nurses without a BSN argue that there is no noticeable difference between an RN and a BSN. One participant on a nursing community discussion board stated, "ADN and BSN function the same way and you can't tell the difference by watching their job performance either, no matter what anyone may tell you to the opposite."

While this may be true in positions where two nurses with different degrees have identical duties, the difference between RN and BSN really may come into play when more advanced opportunities are available.

If you are looking at nursing as a way to pay the bills while you explore other options, or if you enjoy the regular duties and predictable routine of an RN, there is no reason to pursue a BSN degree. However, if you are looking at nursing as a long-term career and you plan on applying for better-paying jobs with more demanding responsibilities, than an RN to BSN Completion program may be of help.


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