What do you hope to achieve in the future? What opportunities do you have right now for college entry? What family and work obligations are you handling? What are your financial considerations right now? Are you considering a career shift? What must you know about your choices before you make your informed decision? It is normal to have several questions in your mind when you are at the entry point of your life trying to decide where you want to go. Responsible and practical people think ahead and consider many factors in selecting a route to their success.
Now, I assume that you have considered a career path in Nursing. The next thing you must do is to know your options. Next would be to properly select what fits you as a person and your circumstance in life. Third would be to stand by your decision and grow where you are planted.
Knowing your options means becoming responsible and accountable to your decision. Deciding to pursue Nursing requires knowledge on the traditional entry points, the emerging entry routes, and the continuing education programs. In the US, the nursing profession recognizes three traditional entry points to becoming a Registered Nurse. These include diploma programs offered by hospitals, associate degree program typically offered in community colleges, and a baccalaureate degree program offered at four-year colleges and universities. The emerging entry routes that are now attracting students into the nursing profession include entry-level master’s programs, accelerated programs for graduates of non-nursing disciplines, community college-based baccalaureate programs, and Registered Nurse completion programs for Licensed Practical Nurses and other Allied Health professionals. Continuing education programs include RN to BSN programs and Baccalaureate to Doctoral Programs.
Selecting the best option entails thinking about your financial capacity and the career path you want after college. This is to save unnecessary expenses and to immediately start a career as soon as you become a professional. The longer you dwell in school trying to figure out what you want, the longer you will become stable in your career. This is a common lapse among adolescents who are still trying to see their place in the world. Sometimes, parents may not have guided their children enough to help them select the best option for them. On the other hand, young adolescents may be quite narrow-minded at the time of selection of the course to take and may not have been open to suggestions and advices from the experienced ones.
How do you then select which option is best for a nursing career path? Reflect. Is there a possibility in the future that you may see yourself taking up a doctoral degree or are you the kind of person who will settle for mediocrity? If you are sure enough that you will not be taking masters or doctoral degree and your financial capacity at the point of selection only permits for you to choose diploma programs and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), then so be it. Be aware that diploma programs use an apprenticeship model that will prepare you to deliver direct patient care in a variety of settings. It is more skills-centered than theory focused. ADN programs provide you with an efficient and economical pathway to becoming a registered nurse. You will be prepared for competence and technical proficiency in safe nursing practice and fully assume the nursing role. However, for both programs you will have a limited opportunity for career advancement. You will be advised to upgrade your diploma or ADN degree to BSN.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs will open up a world of opportunities and senior level positions. This will cover all course work taught in the diploma programs and ADN with focus in physical and social sciences, nursing research, public and community health, nursing leadership and management, the humanities and arts, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, nursing law and ethics, nursing informatics and nursing theories and standards across the lifespan.
Before you decide, consider all factors including availability of financial aid at various institutions and your own availability during schedule of classes. If you decide to continue education beyond your selected entry point, you must put in mind that it is vital to complete your basic education in an accredited program because credits from unaccredited programs are not generally accepted as transfer credits in the BSN institutions. Contact the administrators and see what agreement can exist as well as determine what courses may yield transfer of credits.
Once you have made your selection, stand by your decision and move forward in your career. Today, we have greater need for the graduate level nurse. Clinical Nurse Leaders, Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Researchers, Nurse Educators/faculty, Nurse Administrators, and a lot other roles require expert level preparation. These advanced career options require a BSN degree. Masters degree equips nurses for flexible leadership roles within a dynamic health care and educational system. Doctoral programs leading to either a research-focused (PhD, DNSc, and DSN) or a practice-focused (Doctor of Nursing Practice/DNP) degree both require a BSN completion. This poses a challenge among the new breed of nurses to become valuable bearers of knowledge and skills leading innovation, actively promoting and exemplifying health as well as elevating standards of nursing care in various roles and settings. What kind of nurse would you want to become?