If you would have asked me a year ago if there was a difference in the competency level between a nurse who has their associate degree and a nurse that has their baccalaureate degree I would have said, “No”. That answer would not have been an honest one, but rather an answer born from frustration. When I was in my first year of nursing school, our instructors informed us that all across the nation Magnet hospitals were pledging that they were only going to hire entry-level nurses who had their baccalaureate degree moving forward.
That news was discouraging because I had just changed careers and was considered lucky to be in a two year associates degree program, especially since nursing schools everywhere were saturated with applicants. I did not expect to come out of school and have to jump right in to a BSN program to keep myself marketable. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing states that; “Quality patient care hinges on having a well-educated nursing workforce. (Rosseter, 2012, p. 1) Now as I look back at my three years of nursing experience, I must admit that a higher education in nursing would benefit not only my ability to find and keep a job, become a platform to continue my education but also it will benefit the way I approach planning for my patients care. I now feel that a higher education level brings with it the ability to not only understand how a patient came to be under my care, but also why.
If a patient comes to my hospital with a wound to his leg and that same patient has diabetes, as a nurse with an ADN degree, I may be inclined to dress the wound as ordered and treat the diabetes as ordered without thought to why or how this happened. With a higher degree in nursing practice, I will not only have a better understanding of how to help the wound heal quickly and properly ccompanied with the proper tools, but I will also have a better understanding of the patients underlying diagnosis of diabetes and how I can help the patient understand what type of care will be given at the hospital in addition to accessed care out in society to ensure that this particular problem will not arise again. I, most likely will have a better understanding of outside resources that I can pass on to the patient before discharge so that he may better manage his overall health at home.
I will hopefully be able to instill in this patient the need to educate himself on his disease so that the visits to the hospital are infrequent. The higher the education level, the more confident the nursing diagnoses are. In other words, as a nurse with a baccalaureate degree, I feel I will know how to articulate in a more productive way to ensure that the patient gets the best explanation of what interventions are being performed and why. With a higher education, I should feel more confident in my abilities to perform any and all tasks needed on a daily basis to help my patients.
I am very fortunate to have nurses in my work place that value education and think along the same lines as Grand Canyon University when it stated in its Nursing Philosophy, “Students are educated to provide, direct and evaluate client-centered care while focusing on the person as an integrated whole. ” (Grand Canyon University [GCU], 2011, 9). One huge advantage to becoming a highly educated nurse is that I will feel more comfortable when speaking to multidisciplinary teams about patient care.
Most colleagues that we come in contact with during these meetings “are educated at the master’s degree of higher level. ” (Rosseter, 2012, p. 2) Some examples are; case managers, social workers, speech pathologists and pharmacists to name a few. I am currently a charge nurse on the diabetic floor of my hospital and I work with these people every Tuesday to discuss patient flow. I can see the level of confidence they have in their roles having been educated at a higher level than myself and I cannot wait until I can feel that same level of confidence as my co-workers.
In conclusion, those of us that are continuing our education should encourage other nurses to advance their careers and education level as well. We all can benefit from higher education and many studies have been done to prove this theory. It makes sense that if we are left in charge of a patient’s well-being, we should know, with confidence that we are doing our job to the best of our ability. One thing that is constant in nursing is change and the way to keep up with change is through continued education.