What to Expect from Your RN-to-BSN Program

RN to BSNJanuary 06, 2017

In late 2010, the Institute of Medicine issued a clarion call for significant reforms to the way nurses are educated. Directed at the American healthcare system in general, and the nursing profession in particular, the report stated that by 2020, 80% of registered nurses should have obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The point appears to be that it’s no longer worthwhile debating the value of pursuing further nursing education and training. The need for qualified, well-educated nurses with BSN degrees is only expected to grow. If you’ve been considering pursuing an RN to BSN program, there’s no time like the present.

RN-to-BSN programs are increasingly important if we are to meet the needs of an aging population within an increasingly complex healthcare delivery landscape. RN-to-BSN programs are concerned with three fundamental aspects of nursing: professional development, skills building, and cultural awareness/acceptance.

What are the advantages of pursuing an RN-to-BSN degree?

The potential benefits are numerous: better salaries, the ability to meet continuing education requirements, greater career flexibility and more job opportunities, and self-realization and empowerment through education. The professional development available to RN-to-BSN students means students come away with better communication skills, more developed critical thinking skills, and greater prospects for assuming leadership roles in the workplace.   

RN-to-BSN programs across the country are rising in popularity and enrollment, and have done so for a number of years. Presently, nearly 700 programs exist, and a significant proportion of those feature the ability to fulfill at least some required coursework online. In fact, online nursing programs, like distance learning across the board, are an increasingly popular option, especially for students who may be presently employed as nurses.

Enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program means you won’t be left behind as the nursing workforce becomes increasingly well educated. Advances in techniques, technology, procedures and best practices require continual devotion to educational advancement. As communications and digital technologies continue to increase in sophistication and widespread use, and as the healthcare system continues to embrace those societal, technological advances, nurses who do not keep up will inevitably become less and less relevant.

There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of pay. To put it succinctly, better-educated nurses can and do command better pay than their peers who are not as well-educated. While additional college represents a not-insignificant financial investment, BSNs can expect to pocket significantly more in annual salary. Over time, this difference adds up to a substantial boost in income and compensation.

It’s important to note, too, that obtaining a BSN makes a nurse far more eligible for managerial positions. If you hope one day to become a department head or nurse manager, you’ll need this degree to advance. Keep in mind that some notable institutions, such as the Veterans Administration, and various branches of the U.S. military, will only accept BSN applicants for employment.

What Can I Expect from the Typical RN-to-BSN program?

Whether it’s an online nursing program or a more traditional campus, most RN-to-BSN programs share certain aspects in common. For instance, students can expect classes in core science subjects, such as biology, sociology, chemistry, psychology, physics, microbiology, etc. Expect some advanced nursing-related coursework as well, including  anatomy and physiology, diet and nutrition, nursing leadership, geriatric/pediatric/adult medicine, healthcare informatics, statistics, medical ethics, etc.

Traditional coursework, whether conducted online or in person, will also be augmented with practical, hands-on clinical rotation work. This “practice experience” is usually obtained at working facilities, such as nursing homes, clinics, or hospitals, and emphasizes real-world experience. Although simulations and mock scenarios may be involved, the idea is to demonstrate real-world practices among actual patients. Direct and indirect care scenarios should be covered.

How Long Will it Take?

Typically, RN-to-BSN programs involve at least 120 credit hours and take about two years of study to complete. About half of those credits will come from lower-level courses, while about 30 credits will involve upper-level nursing courses, and about 30 credits will derive from practical, clinical courses.