With a consistent change in modernizing medicine, along with the continuing advancement in technology, continuing education in nursing is essential for a variety of reasons. The nurse’s main concern is providing safe, efficient, and effective patient care with positive patient outcomes. This paper will examine the differences in competencies between nurses prepared at an associate-degree level versus a baccalaureate-degree level, in order to provide an evidenced-based understanding of the variation in the educational preparation of nurses.
An associate-degree nursing program usually takes place over the course of a two year period, providing the nurse with the confidence in skills and knowledge to be placed in an entry-level position upon graduation. These types of programs focus on preparing nurses for care settings including community hospitals and long-term care facilities—and were traditionally designed to compensate for the nursing shortage. A bachelor-degree nursing program typically takes place over a period of four academic years; and is intended to prepare its graduates to practice nursing in leadership and management positions in a number of care settings (Creasia & Friberg, 2011, pp 25-27). A bachelor-degree program in nursing provides a further understand of not only the scientific and clinical nursing education, but also a more in-depth overview of specialized skills including: critical thinking, decision-making, communication, leadership, case management, and health promotion (The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice, 2012, para. 1).
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing describes evidenced-based recommendations that explain that in order to “respond to the demands of an evolving health care system and meet the changing needs of patients, nurses must achieve higher levels of education (Fact Sheet: Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce, 2012, para. 5).” The professional nurse holding a baccalaureate-level degree is prepared for a broader role in patient care with a higher understanding of holistic treatment, community health, clinical research, and nursing leadership and management. The added course work provided in a baccalaureate program is designed to prepare the nurse for a broader scope of practice and a better understand of issues that affect patients and their health care, including: cultural, economic, political, and social issues. “Nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees are well-prepared to meet the demands placed on today’s nurse (The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice, 2012, para 1).” Patient outcome are the principal for continuing education.
The level of educational preparation required by a baccalaureate-degree nurse allows for more equip decision-making in approach to patient care situations. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, In the October 2012 edition of Medical Care researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that surgical patients in Magnet hospitals had 14% lower odds of inpatient death within 30 days and 12% lower odds of failure-to-rescue compared with patients cared for in non-Magnet hospitals. The study authors conclude that these better outcomes were attributed in large part to investments in highly qualified and educated nurses, including a higher proportion of baccalaureate prepared nurses. (Fact Sheet: Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce, 2012, para. 9)
With “Magnet” indicating a higher portion of baccalaureate nursing staff, it is determined that the nurse prepared at a bachelore-degree level is better prepared to approach a patient care situation with the capability of taking immediate action to provide better patient outcomes, than that of a nurse prepared at the associate-degree level. This goes to show that higher education has a strong impact on nursing practice. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a better educated nursing workforce will improve patient safety and enhance nursing care, decreasing mortality rate—as there is a significant correlation between nurses educated at a bachelor-degree level and lower patient death rates (Fact Sheet: Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce, 2012).
Through this research it is apparent that there is a significant connection between patient health care outcomes and the educational preparation of nurses. It is now established that the nurse prepared at a baccalaureate level is more readily capable of caring for critically ill patients; working in situations requiring critical thinking, leadership, and decision-making; and also taking roles in clinical aspects relevant to non-hospital settings. “Researchers have identified improved patient safety and lower rates of patient morbidity and mortality; lower levels of medication errors and procedural violations; and fewer disciplinary actions for BSNs (Altmann, 2012, para 4).”
The need to continue education in nursing is on-going in order to continue to keep up with the changes in technology, advances in medicine, and to provide the best patient care. The Grand Canyon University Philosophy for nursing education explains: Baccalaureate nursing practice incorporates the roles of assessing, critical thinking, communicating, providing care, teaching, and leading. The caring professional approach includes the values of autonomy, altruism, human dignity, integrity and social justice with unconditional regard for all people.
Nursing practice includes health promotion, disease prevention, early detection of health deviations, prompt and adequate treatment of the human response to acute and chronic illness, and compassionate care for those experiencing death. (Philosophy, n.d., para. 8) It is essential to maintain competency in nursing practice through the pursuit of continuing education. The difference between educational levels involves clinical competencies in a variety of settings, decision-making skills, leadership roles, job opportunities, and most importantly overall patient outcomes. In order to provide the best care for patients, a higher education, and continuing increase in knowledge is essential.
Altmann, T. K. (2012). Nurses’ attitudes toward continuing formal education: A comparison by level of education and geography. Nursing Education Perspectives, 33(2), 80-4. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1009642651?accountid=7374 Creasia, J. L., & Friberg, E. (2011). Conceptual Foundations: The Bridge to Professional Nursing Practice  (VitalSource Bookshelf), Retrieved from http://pageburstls.elsevier.com/books/978-0-323-06869-7/id/B9780323068697100029_p0150 Fact sheet: Creating a more highly qualified nursing workforce. (2012, October 24). Retrieved November 8, 2012, from American Association of Colleges of Nursing:
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