Associate-Degree Level vs Baccalaureate-Degree Level in Nursing: The Differences in Competencies
Grand Canyon University: NRS-430V Professional Dynamics
January 24, 2013
The first step in becoming an RN is to attend a college degree program that has been accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). In the United States, upon graduating from an accredited nursing program, nursing school graduates are allowed to practice as Registered Nurses after passing the National Council Licensure Examination, most commonly known as the NCLEX. The NCLEX passing standards represents “minimum assessed competency for safe and effective entry level practice” (Brown, Wend, Halsey & Farwell, 2012). However, a general high level of safety is expected across all levels of nursing practice. Controversy amongst the nursing profession has been developing for well over 10 years in regards to which nursing education should be the acceptable minimum standard preparation for an entry level position in nursing practice. The nursing educations that will be discussed are the associate-degree nursing education (ASN) and the baccalaureate-degree nursing education (BSN). A competency is described as “an expected level of performance that integrates knowledge, skills, abilities, and judgment” (American Nurses Association, 2008). To understand the differences in competencies between the two levels in nursing, the educational requirements for the two will need to be explored.
The ASN is offered by community and junior colleges and usually takes about two to three years to complete. The associate curriculum focuses on the technical aspects of nursing allowing for the ASN nurse to provide direct, hands-on patient care in a structured health care setting, such as hospitals, clinics and private practice. Some argue that the nurse with the ASN level is task oriented, has only developed hands on skills and can even foster poor patient outcomes (Moorhead & Cowen, 2006). ASN programs do not prepare nurses for professional development through graduate study or to further their nursing career. Why go through an ASN program if it carries many limitations? During the World War II, the demand for nurses was on the rise and the ASN was created to produce more nurses to meet this demand. In summary, the ASN programs offers a shortcut for nurses to acquire the necessary minimal skill set to obtain licensure and practice safe entry level nursing, without the emphasis on leadership, nursing theory, and critical thinking.
The BSN is offered by colleges and universities and takes about four years to complete. The baccalaureate curriculum emphasizes leadership, nursing theory, problem solving and critical decision making and managerial skills along with the provision of technical nursing skills and knowledge. The Texas Board of Nursing lists specific content areas for the BSN program as research, community and leadership. The BSN course allows for nursing students to make crucial decisions in patient care. Nurses with a BSN have an understanding of culture and society and are “prized for their skills in critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion and for their ability to practice across a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings” (AACN, 2006). BSN nurses can analyze and make recommendations for treatment because the BSN nurse is thought to be whole rounded and well informed compared to an AND nurse (Henderson, 2010). In short, BSN programs take longer to attain and include the entire curriculum of the ASN program along with extensive treatment of the physical and social sciences, the humanities, nursing research, community health, management and leadership.
The first major difference between the BSN and ASN prepared RN is the length of their education. The nurse’s scope of practice defines the extent of the provision...