Radiography or BSN?
April 4, 2011 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I need education and career advice from those who have BTDT.

I have a bachelor's in public health. At the time, it seemed like a good degree to get, but since my husband got his job that has great security and fabulous benefits, we are place-bound here and there are just no local career opportunities in my field.

I would love to become a PA, but it doesn't make a lot of sense for me to pursue that, considering that I'd have to move away from my family (that includes very young children) and take on enormous debt. Also, my husband works at a nearby university, so I can go to school there for free. So PA is out, some other medical degree is in. I've narrowed it down to radiography or a BSN.

The radiography degree is an associate's, and because of my prior coursework, would take me 68-74 credit hours to complete.

The BSN would take 84 credit hours.

(I have met with counselors from both programs, so I know that everything would transfer.)

At first glance, it seems like the BSN is the way to go, but I've been wondering because I've heard that nursing salaries are falling, and what I've read of radiography indicates that techs start at $20/hour or more.

I would like the ability to work part time, though. Benefits are non-issue for me, because I can do my own thing, retirement wise, and we have very good health, dental, and life insurance through my husband, and that would stay the same even if he went to part time work.

Also, I suspect that there are more employment opportunities for nurses than radiographers, and that's a big deal for me- I live in a underpopulated, remote area.

posted by Leta to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a BSN. I work part-time and am very satisfied with my career choice. My degree has served me well and has offered a lot of flexibility (I also have small kids). I have been an RN for 14 years. I have not heard of salaries for nurses falling. I haven't researched this, so you may be correct.

I think you need to ask yourself some questions and do some soul searching:

1. Is a four year degree important to you? Or not?

2. Are you eager to graduate and start working? Or, do you not mind spending more time going to school?

3. Are you comfortable with direct patient care? Are you ready for some high-stress and long hours?

Nursing isn't for everyone. As you are probably aware, there is a high burnout rate. I am perfectly happy at my present job because I work in outpatient cardiopulmonary rehab and it is a joy. The hours are fabulous and I don't have to wear scrubs. Working on the units were stressful at times but weren't so bad when I was working once a week. I told myself I could do anything once a week, and it's true.

Nursing school is not as daunting as some people are going to lead you to believe. It is easy. Yeah, you're in school a lot but the material is not rocket science. The NCLEX is easy. Showing up is half the battle. I'll bet you'll make some great friends in your program.

As a nurse I think it is vital to work on a med-surg nursing unit in the hospital to gain experience, critical thinking skills, and organizational skills. After working on a floor you can transfer to a potentially less stressful areas that interest you (GI lab, PACU, home health, etc.) The possibilities are endless. Some nurses I know never followed this advice. Some went straight to work in the ER, doctor's office, or L&D and are perfectly happy and competent. You'll find your way if you decide to become a nurse.

I would also suspect that it may be easier to obtain a job as a nurse rather than a radiology tech in a rural or remote area.

I don't know much about radiology techs though I have envied them in the past. I'm pretty sure they make less money but 20 bucks an hour isn't bad. When you're a tech you don't have to get your hands dirty so to speak. You aren't taking care of the same patient for 12 hours straight. I do know that cardiology techs are in demand.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 7:21 PM on April 4, 2011

And since you have/had a desire to be a PA but is financially unfeasible, you could always go on to become a nurse practitioner (very much in demand, especially looking to future) or clinical nurse specialist.
posted by Fairchild at 7:30 PM on April 4, 2011

Another thing to consider is that you may have to wait longer to get into a nursing program. Check with your university acceptance rates for both programs. This may or may not affect your decision.
posted by Fairchild at 7:48 PM on April 4, 2011

Do you like computers? Do you learn new technology easily/quickly? I used to work with a lot of radiology/cardiology techs while I worked in medical software, and there are some fascinating and cutting-edge areas of medical imaging out there. Many hospitals (especially rural hospitals) are replacing their old 4- and 8-slice CT scanners with newer 64+ slice scanners (as well as replacing MRI machines), and the new machines often come with powerful 3D imaging software programs. They can do some pretty amazing stuff (google around for examples of images, or memail me and I can send you some specific links). I knew of some techs that were dedicated solely to 3D reconstruction, which seemed to reduce some of the downsides of being a rad tech (i.e. wrecking your back and knees by hauling people on and off the scanner tables).

Additional question regarding your future: have you met any radiologists? If so, how would you feel scanning/processing/preparing "their" studies to their exact specifications? They are an intense breed of physician....
posted by Maarika at 8:08 PM on April 4, 2011

Maarika, I'd love links. I've only met radiologists when I was a patient, so not really. I do like computers, but I really don't know how easily or quickly I learn new technology- everything that I know (not much) has been entirely self taught, so I don't have anyone else to compare to.

Fairchild, answers to questions:

1. No. I have a four year degree. I don't feel like I need two. I just want to do good work and make decent money.

2. I don't really mind going to school longer. I just want to make a better choice this time around.

3. Yes, at least I think so. I am not freaked out by people's bodies and their functions, like, at all. I'm not a person who is easily grossed out, I've never fainted, I'm fine with blood, etc. I think I would, to a degree, thrive on a high stress job, but I don't really want to work long hours. If by long, you mean 12 hour shifts, sure, I could do that, but I'd only want to do it two or three times a week. I don't want to work 60 hours a week ever, but especially not while my kids are still so little.

The college up the road offers an MSN and a post-graduate NP certificate. I have thought about this long and hard, and it is very appealing. I guess I'm just a little daunted by the idea of six more years in school. (A PA degree only takes two years.)

Not to sound overconfident, but I'm sure I would do just fine in nursing school. I have a related degree that covered all but 8 credits of BSN prereqs, and I graduated with honors while working (often two jobs), being pregnant and having an infant. Just being able to go to school and take of kids that are not relying on my body for nourishment would be a breeze by comparison.

The reason I think there would be more nursing jobs here is because literally all the young women I know here work professional jobs are either in education, or at nursing homes. Besides clinics and hospitals, there are a ton of nursing homes here- all our young people leave, so the native population is aging, and we are a retirement destination, so we even import old people. Coupled with low real estate, it's like a nursing home paradise. There are three within walking distance of my house. There are also several agencies that do private duty nursing, so that's another potential employer.

Right now, this is the major reason I am leaning toward nursing- the way I see it, the more possible jobs, the better.
posted by Leta at 8:42 PM on April 4, 2011

The college up the road offers an MSN and a post-graduate NP certificate.

Many people would advise to take this route. I think there have been some threads about MSN programs on AskMe. I don't have an opinion but it seems like a good choice if you are willing to put the time in. The only thing that worries me about entry to a MSN program without an undergrad in nursing is that it's going to be all consuming. I think some of these programs (MSN program for non-nursing bachelor's degree) advise students not to work. It might be tough with two little kids. You sound competent and plenty intelligent. Whatever path you take will surely lead to success.

Good luck with your decision.
posted by Fairchild at 8:54 PM on April 4, 2011

Sure thing - here are some 3D imaging links (in case others are interested, too):

A CT scanner site with demo video
Another CT scanner site with rotating images
A software site with lots of demo videos
Another software site with case descriptions and images

Sounds like nursing may have more job opportunities in your area - do you have any local connections in health care that could give you the real scoop on job opportunities/availability/futures? It would be good to get real on the ground, local info to compare to any college admissions people you talk to (who may not be grounded in reality but want your tuition dollars). Clinical staff are usually really busy, but any informational interviews you could do (off hours?) would be super helpful.

Good luck!
posted by Maarika at 10:56 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maarika, I think you are right on. I had not thought of this, thanks. I should talk to people nearby who currently work at hospitals and clinics. I actually know someone who works at the big hospital in human resources, maybe I'll give her a call.

Fairchild, I would have to get my BSN before doing an MSN. Technically, the MSN program only requires an RN, but the college up the road doesn't offer an ADN to become a registered nurse. The MSN and FNP are both three year, part time programs... which is yet another reason that that I really like the idea of working part time- going to school AND working AND having a family gets a little crazy, especially if it's done for years and years at a time.

(In theory, I could go someplace else to get an ADN, but that would be pointless- I'd have to travel 90 minutes each way, pay tuition, and it would take me roughly the same amount of time since I already have a bunch of the prereqs and all the liberal studies.)

Throughout childhood, I wanted to be a doctor- as I got older, I narrowed it down to wanting to be a pediatrician or a GP. Then I got a job at a huge teaching hospital, where residents lived in campers in an out of the way parking lot and took speed to get through rotations, and I watched established physicians work 70 hour weeks, and I realized, wow, doctor's lives suck. Then I fell in love, and we wanted to have a family before my fertility started to decline (this was mostly my urgency- my first undergrad taught in explicit detail how steep a woman's fertility dropoff is at age 27, so much sooner than people think). The notion of medical school was permanently shelved.

It seems like being an FNP would be a great fit for me, since they are poised to take over a lot of primary care provider practices. (Plus, NPs can work for Doctors Without Borders- another childhood dream- and PAs can't.) I guess I just need to face my fears- my greatest fear in all this is that I'm going to end up a multi-degreed, CHES, RN, graduate level housewife. Which I know is not likely, since I'm looking at a field that has held steady even through this recession, but still, the thought scares me.

You are right. I need to do some soul searching and deal with this insecurity before I decide what I'm doing and when.
posted by Leta at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2011

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