There are many differences in the competencies of Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduates. To start, I think it is best to look at the through the perspective student’s eyes when they are deciding which type of program to attend. The first question one may ask is “How long is this going to take?” On average, an ADN program takes 3 years to complete, the BSN requires a minimum of 4 yeas. The difference in the length of programs is first based on the amount of prerequisites required. “While Associate Degree in Nursing students do need to take science prerequisites and some liberal arts classes, they don’t have to earn nearly as many credits in this area as BSN students do.” (ADN vs BSN Debate I Difference in Competencies, Salary & Education.2013)
“Instead of the sixty-six nursing credits that a BSN student must complete, the student in the associate degree program needs forty-nine nursing credits” (ADN vs BSN Debate I Difference in Competencies, Salary & Education.2013) Therefore, the ADN program takes less time to complete, is more condensed, and is more focuses on clinical skills. BSN programs have a direct goal of not only graduating clinically competent nurses, but nurses that understand that this profession is deeply rooted in science and theory. The differences in competencies between the ADN and BSN nurse is based on this understanding of science.
If you had to explain what science is in one word that word would be “why”. BSN programs are typically centered around critical thinking and evidence based practice – they “why” of nursing. “Numerous research studies have demonstrated that the ADN and BSN nurses are not different in skill competency when they graduate, but within a year, the BSN nurses show greater critical thinking skills, better problem solving, and the development of clinical judgment; three skills of increasing importance for the increase in acuity of patients in hospitals and other health care settings.” (West Coast University: Dean’s Corner – The Differences Between Associate Degree Nurses and the Baccalaureate Degree Nurses.2009)
The ability to use critical thinking when caring for a patient is what defines all other competencies. Competencies aren’t based on just the task the nurse is about to complete, but knowing why she is working towards completing this task. Without that training in understanding the “why”, her competencies are limited to just tasks.
A fast growing trend in nursing today is complex technology used in patient care. Often times the nurse finds herself faced with not only caring for the patient, but managing high-tech equipment involved in that patient care. Being a resourceful nurse is not just beneficial, but crucial to patient care. BSN prepared graduates are experts in research due to the expectations in the BSN curriculum. “A major concern in an era of evidence-based practice is that the majority of practicing nurses have not experienced a formal research course. These classes are generally lacking outside of the baccalaureate curriculum. It would seem that an understanding of the research process would be necessary to deliver optimal patient care” (Ayers & Coeling, 2006; Thorpe & Smutko, 1998). The ability to conduct research appropriately is a skill that is taught. We live in an age where information is just a click away. If a nurse isn’t using the correct resources, the patient is the one that suffers.
The push for continuing education in nursing is one of the many forces that shaped what nursing is today. The BSN prepared nurse encompasses the ability to be resourceful, a bold and capable critical thinker, and one that will lead the profession into a strong future. As a nurse, we should never settle for just the standards put in front of us. We should always be looking for a way to improve patient care for the individual patient, as well as the practice of nursing as a whole. To settle for just the minimal requirements and standards of nursing is to just complete the tasks assigned to us.
Developing critical thinking is what brings us to better patient outcomes. Learning to think ahead – planning for the worst, expecting the best is what restores patient health. The human body is a dynamic, complex integration of systems working in unison to maintain life. If one of those systems is not working correctly the nurse is cued in because of our critical thinking skills. It is what keeps the nurse’s brain “on”, assessing at a constant. It’s not always the system we’re “caring for” that tells us what is wrong. This is where the critical thinking comes in. We should always be asking “why” as a nurse.
ADN vs BSN Debate I Difference in Competencies, Salary & Education. (2013). Best
Nursing Schools, Degrees & Online Nursing Programs. Retrieved January 13, 2013,
Ayers, D., & Coeling, H. (2006). Incorporating research into associate degree nursing
curricula. Journal of Nursing Education, 44(11), 515-518.
West Coast University: Dean’s Corner – The Differences Between Associate Degree
Nurses and the Baccalaureate Degree Nurses. (2009, February). West Coast University –
Nursing Programs – Los Angeles, Orange County, Inland Empire. Retrieved January 13,
2013, from http://www.westcoastuniversity.net/deanscorner/print.php?article=22