Bachelor’s degree in nursing

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Introduction to nursing

Those who dream of a career in nursing will most likely need to undertake a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) at some point in their studies. Though some states allow nurses to practice with an associate degree, career advancement and opportunities will require a minimum of a bachelor’s. 

Nurses are the backbone of any hospital. In addition to being on the front line of patient care, nurses also educate patients and their families about conditions, perform minor tests, operate various pieces of medical equipment, and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals in regard to certain patients. 

The right candidates for nursing need to have an excellent bedside manner and should be prepared to work hard. Nursing is a highly specialized profession and requires a lot of hard work. 

Requirements 

Admission requirements vary from university to university. Depending on the reputation and prestige of the institution, some might have stricter admissions than others.  

The first requirement is a cumulative GPA of between 2.75 and 3 or higher depending on the degree program. This can come from either a high school diploma or an associate’s degree from an accredited university. Applicants will also need to submit a current resume and a set of references from academic or professional sources that will speak to their character and work ethic. 

Applicants will also need to write a short essay. This is usually on the subject of why they wish to pursue nursing as a career, and why they wish to take the course. However, applicants may also be given a question by the university to answer.  

Not all courses require volunteer experience, but it can bolster an application. Applicants might also be asked to attend an interview as part of the admissions process. Since nurses need to have a good bedside manner and character, an interview is the primary way colleges can assess this aspect of a candidate. 

Some courses allow you to transfer in from other universities. To be able to do so, you will have to meet a certain credit threshold for the course. 

Online

Many universities have 3 pathways for study – online, offline, and a hybrid of the 2. Offline study means that you will be attending university on campus. This is the most inflexible of college options, and could require you to relocate to attend the university of your choice. 

Online courses can be taken from anywhere in the country as long as you have access to an internet connection. This could be a useful path for those who have other commitments that would prevent them from relocating for college. For example, those who would have to work full-time on top of their studies might benefit from an online course. If there is a need for clinical work, this can be arranged locally.  

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Hybrid

Hybrid courses offer a mix of both online and offline study. This will typically take the form of online lectures and classes, with offline practicums that will need to be attended on-campus. Courses that offer hybrid options frequently arrange for practicums to take place in one block for the ease of students who might be traveling to the university from out of state. 

Accreditation 

Nursing is a highly specialized profession, and those who choose to pursue a BSN need to ensure that they are getting the best education possible. The knowledge that they are gaining will have a literal impact on the lives of all their patients, and so applicants must ensure that they are receiving a good quality of education. The primary way to do this is by checking the accreditation status of the course. 

Accreditation proves that a degree has met the standards set out by various governing bodies. In nursing, there are 2 levels of accreditation – state, and national. State accreditation means that the state itself has approved the program. Anyone who graduates from it should be able to apply for a state license. National accreditation means that the program meets the standard of a federal body that has most likely been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. 

All those thinking of applying for a BSN should seek a state-accredited program as an absolute minimum. However, those that have national accreditation will always be superior. Search for courses accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (otherwise known as the CCNE), or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (otherwise known as ACEN). 

Coursework 

A BSN is typically a 4-year program where students gain essential knowledge and skills. In addition to academic study that covers aspects of diagnosis and patient care, many courses also have a program of clinical experience. From shadowing nurses to aiding with low-level procedures and circulating through different departments, a nursing student can gather real on-the-job training to prepare them to immediately enter the workforce as a skilled and experienced nurse. 

Nursing students may also get the opportunity to specialize during their training. There are many different fields in nursing including oncology, pediatrics, women’s health, and community health. Some BSN programs give students the opportunity to specialize in one of these roles through coursework and module choices, allowing them to then pursue a role in this area once they have graduated. 

Program concentrations 

The BSN is designed to prepare students to become registered nurses. While the endpoint is the same across all courses, many have differing start points depending on the level of education that students have achieved. Course materials and concentration can therefore differ slightly depending on how much prior knowledge a candidate enters the program with. 

Some BSN courses are made for students emerging from high school. While they will have some knowledge of the sciences and the career as a whole, they might not have any experience working as a nurse. This course will therefore prepare them for a full introduction to this vocation. 

Another common concentration is the RN to BSN track. If a candidate already has a qualification that allows them to practice as a nurse, such as a diploma or an associate’s degree, this track will build upon these skills to further enhance their expertise as a healthcare professional. 

Certificate opportunities 

In addition to acquiring their BSN, a student may have the opportunity to minor in a variety of other disciplines. This will allow them to gather even more knowledge that could be applicable to the next step in their career. It could also give them the experience they need to work in a sector beyond healthcare. Not every nurse works with patients in a hospital setting. This is a varied vocation, and the right minor can prepare a student for a career in a particular industry. 

For example, you can frequently find nursing programs with minors in nutrition, healthcare management, and many other disciplines. Studying a more business-orientated minor can set BSN graduates up for careers in management – either within hospitals, in other offices of public health, or even in commercial or industrial settings. 

Costs of the degree 

The cost of completing a BSN will vary depending on the university attended. In general, private universities are more costly to attend than public ones, and online courses may be less expensive than on-campus programs.  The average cost of a 4-year BSN program ranges from $40,000 to approximately $100,000 depending on state, school, program format, and attendance.  

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Financial aid 

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships and funding for outstanding students in certain tracks. Candidates should always check with their chosen schools to discover if there is a scholarship program available and to find out if they meet the criteria for application.  

The majority of students will also take out some form of loan or financial aid during their studies to help meet the cost of their tuition and other expenses. These are available from many sources, but applicants should always head to the Federal Student Aid site to find out more about the financial aid available from the government first. 

Licensing or certification 

Some BSN programs require a nurse’s license for admissions, others do not. For the former, candidates will need a nurse’s license for the state that they will be completing their clinical work experience in. With offline courses, this often means that they will need to have a nurse’s license for the state in which the university is located. 

Programs that do not require a license as an admissions requirement often offer certification and licensing as part of their courses. Once the student has completed their BSN, they can complete the necessary courses needed to become a registered nurse through their university. This includes passing a test called the NCLEX. 

If you hold a license for one state, you might be allowed to practice in another under the Nursing Licensure Compact — 34 of the 50 states have enacted legislation that allows its nurses to practice under the NLC. You have 30 days after establishing residency in the new state and gaining employment to apply for licensure by endorsement. 

If you are moving to a state that is not in the compact, you will have to reapply for new license through that state’s board of nursing. Since this can be a lengthy process in both scenarios, it is recommended that you start this process as early as possible. 

Career options 

The majority of students who complete a BSN will become registered nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for registered nurses is approximately $73,300. Due to their BSN training, these nurses might be qualified to work in a specific area like in community outreach programs, or with children, or in a specific department of a hospital.  

Nurses with BSNs also have more education than some of their peers. Therefore, it is easier for them to achieve and succeed in supervisory roles. Such roles come with higher salaries compared to nurses with lesser degrees.  

Continuing education 

Should a nurse wish to continue their education, they will find plenty of options open to them. Nurses in the U.S. must undertake continuing education units (CEUs) to help maintain their license. Many of these courses can be undertaken online and can run in tandem with a nurse’s career, allowing them to learn and further specialize while still working and earning a living. 

In addition, a nurse decide on a further degree to attain the resources to move further up the career ladder. A master of science in nursing (MSN), potentially followed by a doctorate, would give someone on this career path the skills, knowledge and experience to move on to a position of management, education, or research. Anyone wishing to climb to the top of the nursing career path should consider an MSN as their next step. 

American Nurses Association (ANA)  

The ANA is a professional organization that looks to protect and further nursing as a vocation and career. They have many resources for both registered nurses and students alike. Anyone seeking more information about the world of nursing may find the answers that they seek here. Joining ANA also gives nurses the chance to connect with other professionals all across the USA. 

National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) 

The NSNA brings together student nurses to help them prepare for licensure and entry into this career path. They also promote the development of skills and standards that will further the nursing profession as a whole, and can offer scholarships and other forms of mentorship to their members. 

National Nurses United (NNU) 

With more than 170,000 members in the U.S., the NNU is the largest union for nurses in the country. It was founded in 2009 following the unification of three other organizations – including United American Nurses – and protects and advances the interests of nurses and patients alike. Registered nurses should strongly consider joining this union.