- a three year diploma program, usually taking place in hospitals
- a three year program administered by community colleges
- and the four year program offered at universities
Students who complete any of these take the same test to obtain their license – the NCLEX_RN licensing exam.
Approximately 60 percent of current nursing graduates completed a three year program. Why is the three year plan chosen vs. the four year BSN plan? For many, the extra year of education is prohibitive, delaying needed income. Often the costs of attending a university combined with the need to earn a living make the three year option the most practical.
Research, however, shows that the extra year of education, focusing on a more in-depth treatment of biology and psychology, nursing research, community and public health, management and the humanities, provides nurses with better understanding of the issues that affect patients and therefore directly affects health care delivery. In the last ten years, practice leaders have recognized that education makes a difference. Evidence associates a bachelors degree with lower death rates, fewer errors and better outcomes.
Education has always been part of the nursing field, even after graduation. States require continuing education for nurses to maintain their licenses. Every healthcare delivery system has meetings and conferences to update staff on the latest in science and technology. If nurses never advanced their learning, febrile patients would still be “sweating it out” and seizing patients would still have tongue depressors shoved in their mouths.
The Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report released last fall states that, “Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.” There were also recommended goals to “increase the proportion of U.S. nurses with a bachelor’s degree from 50 to 80 percent; and to double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.”
So what are the barriers to providing nurses with a higher level of education? Among them are the lack of resources required to prepare nurses, and the high demand for a working nurse force. Our need for educators will also grow, as it is expected that in the next decade over half of the current teaching faculty will retire along with over 500,000 nurses working in the clinical setting.
The benefit of obtaining a higher degree, such as a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate, is not only that it improves patient outcomes, but it also provides different career options. With the predictions mentioned above, unless some nurses get their advanced degrees and choose to pass on their knowledge, we may have a shortage on our hands after all.
About the Author
Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.