I just want to help people
July 30, 2009 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I want to be a nurse. Should I get a BSN, RN, or something else? Caveat: I have another B.S. under my belt.

Calling all nurses!

I graduated in May 2008 with a B.S. from my local (respected) university with a degree in Human Development. I've decided that I want to pursue a career in nursing. Based on people I've talked to, I have two options:
1. Get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
2. Only get an RN license

Option 2 is a shorter program I could complete at several local colleges. However, according to the nurses I've talked to (mostly recent grads), it's a good idea to have BSN to back up your RN.

Many schools offer Accelerated BSN programs to people who already have a B.A. or B.S. in another field. This means that I can complete my BSN in less than two years (rather than four). However, the programs are difficult to get into (I think?) and are all out of state. I need to take four pre-reqs and I am almost done with two of them.

Plenty of nurses who've been at work for a long time (my aunts) have their RNs and say that it's just fine. Are the standards different for green, new hires? Are the times a-changing? And what can I do to make myself desirable when I apply for nursing schools?

(I've read this question and it's got some great advice. However, I'm also looking specifically for some testimony on the desirability of an RN vs a BSN.)
posted by pintapicasso to Education (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One thing: I'm pretty sure you can't get federal loans for a second bachelors degree. So if you were hoping to finance your education with loans, you would be restricted to private loans. With an RN program, you would have access to the (much better) federal loans.
posted by lunasol at 7:48 AM on July 30, 2009

This is based on Canada, so you may decide that this doesn't matter to you, but, in Canada, a BScN is now required for practice as an RN in most provinces. Existing diploma-only RNs have the ability to upgrade, either by attending classes or distance (online) studies.

As someone who works in a rehab facility (and as a former BScN nursing student - I decided the field wasn't for me), I would also observe:
- That you will probably get more respect from other health care professionals with the degree (sad, maybe, but true)
- If you ever decide to get into management, you will most likely required to have a BScN/show evidence of working toward your degree
- You may have an edge over the competition in looking for jobs, especially if you want to get into a more complex nursing field (i.e. working with neonates)
- If you ever decide to work abroad, having the BScN will make finding a job much easier
- Obviously if you want to do graduate studies in nursing, the BScN is a must

All this is by way of saying that I think that if you're going to invest the time and money in a nursing program, why not go for the BScN? So many more doors will be open to you.

Regarding the accelerated program, I have a friend/coworker who is completing the program at the University of Toronto. She's really enjoying it.

Regarding getting into nursing school, I would suggest volunteering in a local hospital, and also trying to arrange job shadowing.

Good luck, whatever you decide!
posted by purlgurly at 7:50 AM on July 30, 2009

Go for the BSN-RN. Associate RN training is pretty much exactly the same (or seems to be where I am in Texas - their programs seem to have more clinical practice while BS programs have more research coursework- but not a significant amount either way), the license exam is the same, but the BSN will make you more marketable in what is a tougher hiring market right now.

It may depend on where you'll be working when you get out. If it's a smaller community and you're planning to start at a community hospital the Associates degree RN will be just fine. If you're near a major medical center and want to work at a larger hospital, a magnet hospital, then they seem to be really trying to push the field toward BS degreed RNs.

The hospital I work at is a fairly famous one in a major medical center and the Graduate Nurse Program for new hires is only open to BSNs now. The Associate RNs that have been working for years at my hospital are encouraged to go back and get their BS.

Then I have friends that are Associate RNs at smaller hospitals and like their jobs just fine. Their student loans aren't as much as mine (as a BSN), they may even make a little more than I do or at least the same.

It's still a toss up - but it seems to me the push is towards BS and I've heard from new grads that there's lots of hiring freezes and only new grad programs for BSNs. Maybe look at some of the hospital websites for new grad jobs where you are, see what their requirements are.

Whichever route you pick just persevere and good luck.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is a third option for people who already hold a bachelor's degree: a direct entry MSN program. There are around 20 or 30 of these in the US ( I used to be the grad coordinator for one several years ago), and while the specifics of the programs vary, usually you complete the RN requirements in about 1 calendar year, which means you can sit for the NCLEX and start practicing while you finish the rest of the program (usually about 3 years total). Some include the awarding of the BSN degree enroute to the MSN, others go direct to MSN (the one I worked for did). The different programs offer different advanced practice specialties, including Nurse Practitioner in some programs. They should all have the same basic prereqs as any BSN program.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Both my sister and best friend are nurses. My sister went through a traditional four-year program to get her BSN. My friend got a history degree before going back to nursing school for his BSN.

Both of them confirm dog food sugar's assertion that having a BSN does make you significantly more marketable. It also increases the variety of positions--and the responsibility of those positions--for which you'll be a good candidate. This means getting paid more, on average. And the field is changing. The LPN, which is the lowest nursing credential, is largely being phased out except for hospice care and nursing homes, and the BSN is increasingly preferred over the RN for new hires. Yeah, if you've been there for twenty years they aren't going to replace you--experience is invaluable--but when hospitals consider new candidates, the more advanced your degree, the better you look. If you want to get into management, you'd better seriously think about a masters degree.

Accelerated BSN programs like the one you're talking about are significantly less competitive than traditional nursing programs, and they're all over the place. I'd be shocked if there isn't such a program offered within an hour or two of where you live unless that happens to be in the middle of nowhere. I can think of four within commuting distance of my parents, for example, and there's at least two where I live currently. In addition, many hospitals and community colleges offer accelerated BSN programs, so it isn't like you need to go to Yale or something.

About that: you do not need to go to a top school to land a job as a nurse. Yeah, the market is a little tight right now, but demand is still so high that qualified nurses can basically write their own ticket regardless of what school they went to, but this is far more true for BSNs than for RNs.

Also, I'm pretty sure lunasol is wrong about eligibility for student loans. As far as I can tell, the only requirements for Stafford loans are that you either be a citizen or have appropriate visa status, be enrolled at least half-time in a qualifying program, and not be in default on any existing student loans. I don't know of any reason why going back for a different bachelors would disqualify you. Ask, obviously, but I think you'll be okay here.
posted by valkyryn at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2009

Eleven years after getting a bachelor's degree in psychology my wife became a hospital RN after completing that program at a community college. She's been there for 22 years.

At 55, she has no plans to get a BSN. She would be the first to tell you that you're more likely to be hired with the BSN. She'd also tell you that she and other RN's at her place of employment regularly face a subtle pressure from above to get their BSN degrees.

What might be an additional argument in favor of the BSN is that the economic situation has created a real drop in the patient load where she works. A lot of people are electing to forgo elective surgical procedures these days.

In other words, the job market in this field may tighten up a little bit.
posted by imjustsaying at 9:18 AM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: I'll speak to this question as nursing student who is wrapping up an additional BS degree, after acquiring a previous BA just a few years earlier. My primary suggestion is for you to evaluate what you ultimately want to do within the scope of the nursing profession. If you have any hint of wanting to pursue administration, management, research or the like, I would recommend a BSN program as it will shave some years off of your education in the future (rather than going back if you pursue an Associates program now). If you feel that bedside nursing within an acute-care facility, hospice or long-term care is where you want to be, an AA degree will be fine for you.

Also, I appreciate that you want to help people (per your title) but my second recommendation is to pursue a volunteer role at a hospital to truly determine what the RN role encompasses, before you spend the money on pursuing this path. I'm of the belief that everyone applying to nursing programs should have some time under their belt within the setting of direct-patient care, as you can't truly appreciate what is included in the role of the LPN or RN without participation and close observation. Some people just aren't cut out for the physical or mental stresses of the job or don't ever get comfortable working with or even touching patients. A few students in each cohort at my school inevitably drop out as its not what they thought it was.

Feel free to MeFi Mail me if you have any further questions I can help address.
posted by Asherah at 9:23 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hi there, I have an ADN and am working north of the SF Bay area. I'll be returning to school for my BSN next year.

I chose an ADN program for financial reasons - I hadn't much money to begin with, and didn't want to go into debt to acquire my degree. (Now, with some savings set aside, a good-paying job, and some household budgeting voodoo, I should be able to do so again.)

In terms of what I've been able to do with it thus far - it's worked out okay in my instance. I'm at a fairly small acute care facility (around 200 beds). Opportunities to cross-train are essentially there for the asking; we have a clinical ladder that is...well, it's a bit crap, really, but it's there. Weird things have dropped into my lap unexpectedly. (For example - I was pulled off my floor for a year to help implement electronic documentation hospital-wide. I can't say it was fun, but it was definitely challenging.) I'm not interested in management.

But advancement opportunities are definitely slimmer with an associate's degree. So it may be helpful for you to think of your nursing *career,* as opposed to merely what will land you your first job. My passion is patient care, but realistically - things like burnout, injury and yes, economic belches are factors to keep in mind. Additionally, if you have aspirations towards, say, working/volunteering in another country, teaching, research or advanced practice - a BSN or greater will serve your goals better.

So perhaps mull over where you want to be in 10 years time, do lots of research, and continue talking to your aunties (and any other nurse you can get your mitts on). Best of luck to you, whatever you decide.
posted by arachnid at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm coming late to the party here, but I actually work as an admissions/student adviser person for an accelerated BSN program.

I agree with the notion that a BSN is probably preferable to an associate degree in nursing if you want to be as competitive as possible when seeking employment/advancement. I don't have much more to offer beyond that Asherah and valkyryn have some solid advice - particularly regarding the suggestion to get some volunteer experience and exposure to actual nursing practice before you enter a program.

For more reading, this list from the AACN of accelerated programs nationwide might be useful if you're still considering accelerated programs. The usual tradeoff for this type of thing is that an accelerated program will save your time but cost you extra money. While not true in all cases, this might be a factor for consideration. The actual credential when you're finished will be identical regardless of the path you choose to get there.
posted by owls at 8:35 AM on July 31, 2009

re loans: I'm starting a 2nd degree BSN program this fall and I've been offered three federal loans - a subsidized Stafford/Ford, an unsubsidized Stafford/Ford, and a Nursing Student Loan. The first two are through the Department of Education and the third is through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Caveat: these loans will not cover anywhere near the full cost of attendance, but they will cover most of my tuition and I've got living expenses taken care of.
posted by shiny blue object at 9:59 AM on July 31, 2009

I was in a similar situation (bachelor's in a non-healthcare field, looking to get into nursing) and I chose to go with a direct-entry MSN program. There's a list of them here. It's more prereqs than an accelerated 2nd bachelor's degree, but I like that it will get me a new, higher degree than I've already obtained.

A few things to notice:
Direct-entry graduate programs in nursing may offer a Master of Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, or Doctorate of Nursing Practice. These programs tend to require different amounts of time in school, and the time commitment doesn't necessarily correspond to the degree you'll get. For example the Master of Nursing program at the University of Minnesota is 18 months (less than it might take to get a 2nd bachelor's degree!), while the MSN program at the University of Texas is about 3 years, and then the 3-year direct-entry nursing program at the University of Washington gets you out with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

The confusion seems to stem from a shift in the field to making the DNP instead of the MSN serve as the terminal degree in nursing. As far as I can tell, colleges are changing the degree awarded to sound more prestigious, in recognition of the fact that these nurses have put enough time and money and effort into their education that it would count for a doctorate degree in most other health professions. So, for the same amount of time and work in school, you could end up with a Masters or a Doctorate depending on whether that particular school has made the switch.

Perhaps none of that is relevant if you're just looking to become a general nurse at a hospital or clinic (in which case I think the earlier advice about going for the BSN instead of just a 2-year degree is spot on). But if you think you might want to do something more specialized or with more direct responsibility, you might want to check out some of the direct-entry graduate programs.

In terms of what programs are easier to get into, I will reveal that I was accepted to both Masters programs that I applied to (with some decent scholarship offers from the schools), but I still only got into one of the two accelerated BSN programs I applied to. While they're all competitive, I get the impression that the accelerated BSN programs get far more applicants, so you'll have to do more to stand out from the crowd.
posted by vytae at 9:35 PM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, and one more thing to notice about any of the accelerated programs: they almost all recommend that you not work while you're in them. For the longer graduate programs, you might sit for your RN certification after a year and a half, and then you can work part time and finish the grad degree part time. But during that initial bit before you take the NCLEX, they say you won't have time to do any other jobs in addition to your classes and studying. So you're going to need to have some way to pay for your life during that time, whether it's savings or a working spouse or loans or whatever.
posted by vytae at 9:37 PM on July 31, 2009

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