Differences In Competencies between Nurses Prepared at the Associates Degree Level Versus The Baccalaureate Degree Level in Nursing
It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the associates degree nurse and the baccalaureate degree nurse. After all both levels of learning require passing the exact same exam in order to practice. However, there are some differences of learning between them. Two important differences are the educational curriculum and the quality of care given to patients. The associates degree nursing curriculum (AAS) is a two year program that prepares the nurse to apply technical and clinical skills upon graduation. The baccalaureate degree nursing (BSN) curriculum is a four year program that builds upon the technical and clinical skills of the AAS. Heights of learning is raised by incorporating psychosocial, ethical, legal, evidence based nursing into their curriculum. The first BSN program started out at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Annie Goodrich, director of the first privately operated baccalaureate program at Yale University, believed that certain concepts in nursing should be built on the foundation of technical and clinical skills (Creasia and Friberg. 2011) Goodrich believed that the BSN field of study should address psychosocial and public health issues (Creasia and Reid. 2011). Todays BSN programs takes the AAS nurse out of the closed minded dome of just applying technical and clinical skills and into the world of other plateaus and horizons of nursing. This greater arc of nursing consists of addressing ALL pertinent needs that influences the health of individuals, families and communities. BSN nurses learn about legal, ethical, psychological, social and economic issues that pertains to health and health care. Upon receiving my AAS degree in nursing after a challenging two and one half years, I told myself that I needed a break from studying.
After all I had completed the “ hardest” part of nursing ; applying clinical skills. In my mind, I had climbed one of the highest mountains of learning, I did not quite get to the top, but its view was in sight and I would get there some day. There were not any incentives that encouraged me to move forward because all the registered nurses in the hospital where I worked wore the same identical identification cards . Everyone had their name and the words staff nurse written. Another reason that discouraged me from pushing forth is that there was only a two thousand dollar yearly raise when you got the BSN. Many studies were done showing that the outcomes of the quality of care given by nurses that have BSN degrees and nurses with AAS degrees.
Two of these studies stand out. One such study is the finding that baccalaureate degree nurses provided better outcomes in health care facilities. According to a study done in 1999 by Aiken, Clarke, Sloane, Lake and Chaney, the mortality rate of hospital patients decreased when there was a patient ratio of four patients to one nurse, and when there was a sixty percent staffing of BSN nurses. Another important study is a study done by Estabrooks, Midodzi, Cummings, Ricker and Giovanetti in March 2005, it was found that hospitals with a higher ratio of baccalaureate degrees resulted in a lower thirty day mortality rate of patient (Estabrooks, Midodzi, Cummings, Ricker and Giovanetti. 2005) Nursing is a field of study that mandates that the whole person and all parts of the whole person be taken into consideration so that the nurse could give effective care to individuals. Nurses that hold AAS degrees in nursing have an incomplete “ un-whole “ education. This incompleteness shortens their nursing insight into the outerr stratospheres of nursing.
A while back, I remember applying for a position as a Nurse-Family Partnership Nurse. I was confident that I would get the job, because I had solid years of experience. The position entailed doing home visits to first time mothers and teaching them how to take care of their infants. The position also entailed connecting these first time mothers with support services like food stamps and living skills specialists that would empower them. There was a measurable positive difference in the quality of these first time mothers and their infants with the guidance and direction of the BSN nurse ( A Career You Can Feel Passionate About. Retrieved from www.nursefamily partnership.org). Needless to say, I did not get the position, because I did not have a BSN Degree.
This was a wake up call for me. Today with all the solid evidence based studies on the better nursing outcomes with a higher staffing of baccalaureate degree nurses, health care facilities especially hospitals are resorting to hiring only the nurses that have their BSN degrees. Therefore it is imperative that AAS nurses continue on with their nursing education to deliver a better quality of care to individuals and to be more viable for positions that require the leadership of a baccalaureate nurse.
References A Career You Can Feel Good Passionate About. (n.d.) Retrieved from www.NURSEFAMILYPARTNERSHIP.ORG. Aiken, L.H., Clarke, S.P., Sloane, D.M., Lake, E.T., & Cheney, T. (2008, May). Effects of Hospital Care environment on patient mortality and nurse outcomes. Journal of Nursing Administration, 38(5). 223-229. Creasia, L.J., & Friberg.E. (2011). Conceptual Foundations : The Bridge to Professional Nursing Practice. St. Louis, MO. Elsevier Mosby. Eastbrooks, C.A., MIdodzi, W.K., Cummings, G.C. Ricker, K.L. & Giovanetti, P. (2005, March/April). The Impact of Hospital Nursing Characteristics on 30-day Mortality. Journal of Nursing Administration. 4 (718),958-968.