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Registered nurses are the largest group of health care professionals, according to 2011 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With more than 2.7 million nurses practising in a wide variety of clinical, research, and administrative settings, it can be difficult to resolve the confusing variety of degrees, certifications, and responsibilities they represent. For example, it is possible to have a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) without being a Professional Nurse (RN) and it is possible to become an RN without a Bachelor of Nursing.
Registered nurses can enter the profession with one of three academic qualifications. The first is a diploma from an accredited hospital nursing program. The second is an associate’s degree from a community college or university, and the third is a bachelor’s degree. Programs begin with a solid background in basic science, such as biology and chemistry, as well as mathematics and written communications. They go to the specific nursing subject, including patient care, anatomy and physiology, and medical ethics. Typically, programs include supervised clinical rotations as well as classroom instruction.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Although it is possible to become a nurse with a two-year associate degree diploma, a four-year bachelor’s degree provides more extensive training. The other two years of classroom and clinical training offer further nurse training for leadership, critical thinking, and management. It also opens the door for ambitious nurses to earn more from earning advanced degrees and specialized certifications. It is important to note that completing a nursing degree does not automatically mean that the student is a registered nurse. Each nursing graduate must still complete a rigorous national exam, called the NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license and practice.
Importance of BSN Bachelor
Since the mid-1990s, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has advocated for a college degree to become the minimum standard for registered nurses. The AACN maintains that the best-rounded education provided by a BSN makes nurses more versatile, more capable of assuming leadership roles, and superior in their primary role in patient care. Many employers, such as the US Department of Veterans Affairs, require a bachelor’s degree for any position beyond the entry-level. A number of nursing schools provide accelerated BSN programs for nurses who entered the field with lower qualifications, but who wish to upgrade.
The nursing profession is growing rapidly. US employment statistics predict a 26% increase in the number of registered nurses between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is partly due to the growth of the health sector in general, and partly due to the high turnover rate of the profession. The agency notes that the most qualified nurses will be in high demand, with superior prospects for those with a BSN, or those who have gone from a BSN to qualify as advanced practice nurses.