This story, originally published on July 22, 2013, has been updated.
One is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine’s 2010 Initiative on the Future of Nursing report that recommended that 80 percent of nurses in the United States hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020. Another reason is a growing preference by hospitals to hire BSN nurses, especially if the institution is aiming for Magnet status, Cheryl Wagner, associate dean of graduate nursing at American Sentinel University, said. Master’s-level and Ph.D.-prepared nurses are needed to fill new roles in the health care system and to teach future nurses.
Is having more education a good thing for nurses?
“Absolutely. There’s been such an explosion of knowledge in the field and you don’t have time to learn about the profession or nursing theory in two years. You have to focus on anatomy, skills and medications,” Wagner said. “A BSN degree can increase your career options, and research is starting to show that patient outcomes are better with baccalaureate-trained nurses.”
Going back to school isn’t for everyone, however.
“Our student success advisers noticed that some students struggled more than others, so they did some research to see why. From that research they put together a screening tool to help nurses assess their own readiness,” said Wagner.
Here are five factors to consider before heading back to the classroom.
1. Can you meet the required time commitment?
“Lack of time is one of the main barriers to furthering your education when you have a job and family,” Wagner said. “Online education makes attending class more convenient, but we still estimate that you’ll need 10 hours on the discussion board and 20 hours to do the reading and assignments per week, per course to get the most out of your classes.” If you’re in a challenging new job, caring for elderly parents or parenting toddlers, you may want to wait.
2. How’s your attitude?“'My boss is making me do this,’ is not a good reason to be in school,” Wagner said. “People who are committed to learning and broadening their horizons generally are more successful than people who really don’t want to be there.”
3. Do you have support?“Students do better when their families and workplaces are behind their efforts because going back to school requires some juggling,” Wagner said. Some workplaces will create flexible schedules and some will even pay for part or all of your tuition. Discuss your plans with family members and supervisors before enrolling, she suggested.
4. Can you afford it?Compare degrees and tuition costs for degree programs at different schools. Then check out loans, grants, scholarships, discounts and other financial assistance.
5. What’s your goal?
“You may want a bachelor’s degree for personal satisfaction or because it might help you move up the career ladder or give you greater job security,” Wagner said. “If you’re going for a master’s degree or Ph.D., it’s good to know what you want to do with it because those degrees are specialized.” Having a goal will strengthen your commitment.
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