The Difference in Competencies between ADN and BSN nurses

The American Nurses Association defines nursing as “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations” (American Nurses Association, 2013, p. 1).

Their definition of nursing does not specify if there is a difference in who is providing the care. Associate-degree nurses (ADN) and baccalaureate-degree nurses (BSN) both sit for the same NCLEX exam and come out with the same license to practice.

The more feasible route of acquiring a registered nurse license is getting an associate-degree because of the decreased length of schooling and the cost of tuition. Currently only 50% of nurses hold a baccalaureate degree or higher and ADN nurses are being encouraged to pursue higher degrees within five years of graduating from their ADN program (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013, p. 1). There are many differences between an ADN and BSN nurse, duration of time in school, decisions about patient care, and the type of employment possibilities after schooling is completed.

The amount credits required for an ADN degree is 61 credits; this can take between two to three years of schooling (Maricopa Community Colleges, n.d.). The focus of the ADN program is on the skilled and technical part of being a registered nurse (RN). Registered nurses are taught the aspects of nursing to provide direct care to patients and how to care for their families in long-term care and sub acute care settings.

The ADN nurse is taught the basics in order to care for their patients, enough leadership skills to delegate tasks to certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses, and how to communicate with doctors and staff.

The credits required to achieve a BSN degree is 123 credits; this will take on average four years of schooling (Grand Canyon University, 2012, p. 2). The focus of the BSN program is based on evidenced-based practice, research, and critical thinking skills. The BSN program teaches students to think about the whole picture from when the patient arrives to the facility, to when the patient is leaving and how the patient will be successful at home. The BSN nurse will be able to do direct patient care, go into management, pursue a career in teaching, and be able to further their education in graduate schools or programs. Critical thinking skills are an important part of nursing even further instilled in nurses that go to a university to get their BSN. A major difference between a BSN nurse and an ADN nurse is how to navigate through critical and stressful occurrences.

The BSN nurse is in school longer and trained to critically think through different scenarios. If in a situation where an ADN nurse and a BSN nurse are working in a skilled nursing facility and a patient is stating that they are having difficulty breathing, the ADN nurse may think to go get a set of vital signs with O2 saturations and place oxygen on the patient. The BSN nurse may do the same and check blood sugar, check heart and lung sounds, check the patient’s chart to see if the patient has any predispositions, and start making a list of things to tell the doctor when a phone call is placed.

The ADN nurse will have fewer opportunities when it comes to employment after completing his/her degree. Most ADN nurses end up working in skilled nursing facilities, long term care homes, home health, or psychiatric wards or hospitals. A RN with his/her BSN will have more opportunities and a better chance to work in a magnet hospital. Since most hospitals are trying to get magnet status they want to hire nurses that have their BSN and the nurses that are currently working with the hospitals are already being asked to go back to school to obtain the higher-level degree.

BSN nurses can go into management and become a director of nursing (DON), an assistant director of nursing (ADON), or a case manager. BSN nurses can go on and acquire a master’s degree and begin a teaching career or have the opportunity to become a nurse practitioner (NP). There are many reasons to go back to achieve a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree; whether it be going through an ADN program or going straight into getting a BSN. After a registered nurse is able to get his/her BSN he/she has many more opportunities in the field of nursing. For the nurse who does not know if they want to get their BSN, the biggest question for them would be “where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?” It is important for the nurse to visualize where his or her career path is headed, working in a skilled nursing facility or possibly being the director of nursing in that facility. The nurse with the BSN can choose whether they want to be a nurse limited to patient care or a nurse that has the option of transitioning into management or teaching.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2013). American Nurses Association. (2013). Grand Canyon University. (2012). Maricopa Community Colleges. (n.d.).

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