Going the Distance in Nursing Education
In the dynamic world of increasing health care technology, specialized care units, and higher acuity patients, the nursing profession must upgrade its currently accepted Associate’s entry level degree to a higher beginning educational level in order to meet the needs and demands of today’s sicker clients. Although the National League for Nursing (NLN) has stated Associate degree nursing programs account for the majority of new graduate nurses, the general public and the medical profession are continuously baffled by the varying academic programs [diploma, associate degree, and baccalaureate degree], as each directs the participant towards licensure and entry level nursing positions (National League for Nursing, 2003) (Creasia & Friberg, 2010).
Part of this public tumult stems from the American Nurses Association (ANA) designating, but not enacting, the BSN as a Registered Nurse’s starting point as far back as the 1960’s (Creasia & Friberg, 2010). While it can be agreed ADN nursing programs do produce excellent graduates, nurses holding Bachelor degrees have a higher success rate in patient care. This patient satisfaction finding may be the result of Baccalaureate university programs requiring approximately three (3) years of educational study, compared to most junior or community college’s Associate degree programs necessitating only eighteen (18) months to two (2) years in length (The Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], 2010-2011).
The short-comings of Associate degree only nurse was distinctly shown in a 2003 cross-sectional study conducted on Pennsylvania hospitals. The study confirmed RNs with a Bachelor degree minimum had improved patient results and lower mortality rates (Aiken, Clarke, Cheung, Sloane, & Silber, 2003). This success rate was attributed directly to these nurses benefitting from a lengthier, more in-depth formal education and thus acquiring increased critical thinking skills