2020 was The Year of the Nurse. It was also the year nurses found themselves in the midst of a global pandemic, and the world learned that nursing is an essential career. Nurses faced challenges that they never imagined possible and rose to the occasion. Nurses around the world demonstrated an inner strength which positively impacted a multitude of bodies, minds, and spirits everywhere. Many nurses, finding themselves on the frontlines of a global pandemic, demonstrated that they are capable of more than they were ever been tasked with before, and more than they ever dreamed possible. An ever-increasing number of nurses began to desire more autonomy, career advancement, and higher pay. While there are many paths to achieving nursing career advancement, most of those paths involve an advanced nursing degree. The first step in assessing the benefits of an advanced nursing degree is to understand what an advanced nursing degree is.
What is an Advanced Nursing Degree?
Any degree that advances a nurse’s current level of education and training can be considered an advanced degree. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) can advance to a Registered Nurse (RN) through an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) program and completion of the NCLEX. Many community colleges offer LPN-RN bridge programs.
The RN with an ADN can advance their nursing degree to a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). RN-BSN programs are often online nursing degree programs.
The BSN prepared RN has several options for career advancement through an advanced degree. Often the next step is a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN). There are many MSN nursing tracks, such as leadership, education, and advanced practice nursing for the Nurse Practitioner role (APNP). Ottawa University offers a unique RN-MSN program to help you achieve your end goal even quicker. Each of these paths leads to career advancement and higher nursing pay. They also lead to increased autonomy and enable nurses to reach their personal nursing career goals.
The terminal degree in nursing is a doctorate degree. There are two pathways to a doctorate degree in nursing. The most well-known doctorate degree in any major is the PhD. Many nurses do have a PhD, and often utilize this degree in areas such as research and education. Nursing also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which is a clinical practice degree.
Benefits of an Advanced Nursing Degree
- Increased earning potential. Advancing your nursing education generally leads to furthering your career in nursing. There may be initially no direct salary difference between an ADN prepared nurse and a BSN prepared nurse. The salary difference becomes evident over time. Over the course of the nurse’s career many doors will be opened, and career opportunities will become available to the BSN prepared nurse, which may not be available to the ADN nurse. Those career opportunities often come with an increased salary. The advance from BSN to MSN or DNP often comes with changing responsibilities, such as leadership, education, and advanced practice Nurse Practitioner roles. Each of these is also associated with an increased salary.
- Potential for promotion to leadership roles. In an age in which technology has made nursing education accessible in almost every geographic area, nearly all leadership positions require advanced nursing degrees. Employers require advanced degrees in nursing because nurses gain the knowledge and experience needed to become experts in their chosen field. There are many tracks available under the MSN umbrella, one of which focuses on leadership. Nurses who complete an MSN degree in leadership enter the leadership roles with the knowledge necessary to be great leaders right away, and employers know that.
- Increased autonomy. As you advance your nursing education, you increase critical thinking and research skills. This advancement in skills enables you to enjoy more autonomy, both at the bedside and beyond. Increased autonomy is essential as you move forward with a career in nursing.
- Meet employer demands. Some facilities, and even some states, are requiring that ADN prepared nurses earn a BSN within a set period after employment. Nurses who do not meet this requirement will lose their employment and the salary benefits associated with that employment.
- Better working hours. Bedside nursing comes with hours unique to nursing, as nurses work evenings, nights, holidays, and weekends on a regular basis. As you advance your nursing career, the working hours tend to improve, as the need to work weekends, overnights, and holidays is often decreased.
- New career opportunities. Leadership is not the only career advancement open to nurses. Nurses who earn master’s or doctorate degrees in nursing can choose career paths such as becoming a nurse educator or a nurse practitioner. Each of these offers the nurse a new career within nursing. Ottawa University helps registered nurses further their careers with our RN-MSN program.
- Fill a need within healthcare. The current and projected physician shortage is a source of anxiety within healthcare. Nurses have an opportunity to fill that need within healthcare by increasing their education and becoming a nurse practitioner. Nurses can also increase their education and take on roles previously taken on by physicians. In addition to the known nursing shortage, there is also a nurse educator shortage, which is projected to worsen. Increasing your education can help you fill that need.
- Personal fulfillment. Advancing your nursing education allows you to pursue your own areas of passion. Not only are you gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to advance your career, you can often weave your own passions into your assignments. You get to explore your passions, while getting educational credit.
- Gain respect. Nursing is one of the few careers that place such a huge responsibility on employees without at least a bachelor’s degree. While we all know that ADN and diploma nursing education are rigorous and give you the skills necessary to be a great nurse, others outside of nursing do not always see beyond the degree. Increasing your education will allow parity with other professions.
- Increase the quality of care you provide. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) endorses increasing education for nurses, due to published research that demonstrates that a 10% increase in the proportion of BSN prepared nurses at the bedside correlates with a 10.9% reduction in patient mortality. We all want to give the best care to our patients and increasing your nursing education can be a great way to do that.
Online Nursing Degrees
Nursing career advancement is often heavily dependent upon the level of education attained by the nurse. Ottawa University offers a fully online RN-BSN degree program made up of eight-week terms. This allows nurses to complete their BSN while working and meeting family responsibilities. Ottawa University also offers an RN-MSN pathway for nurses interested in advancing directly from ADN through BSN to MSN. The MSN specialization is offered in both nursing leadership and nursing education. Contact the Ottawa University advising department today to learn how we can help you advance your education and your career.
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