The Difference Between Associate-Degree and Baccalaureate-Degree Nurses

1 January 2017

The profession is growing and expanding rapidly. Due to this growth, continuing nursing education is necessary. To determine the nursing education level that produces the best patient outcomes, it must first be decided whether there are differences between Associate-Degree and Baccalaureate-Degree Nurses, and what those differences are. The nurse prepared at an Associates level that passes the NCLEX, is called a nurse. How is an Associates level nurse educated? The associate RN program is about 2 years in length and primarily focuses on preparing to pass the NCLEX.

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This program does not include classes in leadership, health promotion, advanced critical thinking, or case management. These nurses can hold a variety of position throughout the community, including staff nurse, clinical lead, manager, educator, etc. For the Associates RN, there is a lot of pressure to return to school for higher education. The Nurses that hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is armed with the education and confidence needed to be a safe and efficient nurse. The BSN program is 4 years in length and includes all competencies learned at an Associates level.

In addition, this program expands the nurse’s knowledge in areas of leadership, health promotion, advanced critical thinking, case management, research, social sciences, and humanities. “The additional course work enhances the student’s professional development, prepares the new nurse for a broader scope of practice, and provides the nurse with a better understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence health care delivery. ” (“Impact of education,” 2011, para. ) An array of studies have been conducted that focus on the differences between and Associates RN and a BSN. One study by Giddens (2006) assessed the differences in physical examination techniques. This study found that level of education did not influence the head-to-toes assessment techniques. However, this study did not assess clinical interpretation or decision making skills. Another study, by Giger and Davidhizar (1990) assessed of ability of BSN and associate RNs in make the nursing diagnosis, implementing the plan, and evaluating the nursing process.

The results showed that BSN nurses are more proficient in these areas than the Associate RN. “Baccalaureate-degree nurses, in the study, were more concerned with research methodology, teaching, and individual, group and community assessment” (Giger & Davidhizar 1990). This study goes on the state, a trait of the BSN nurse is being more process oriented, while a trait of the Associates nurse is being more content driven. Being able to recognize the psycho-sociological needs of the patient occurred more readily in the BSN nurse.

It is clear the bachelor degree is designed to prepares the nurse to be more self directed and autonomous. A patient care situation dealing with communication could be handled differently based on the educational preparation of the nurse. The BSN nurse had taken advanced classes in how to communicate effectively with a variety of people that have difference cultures, values, and spiritual beliefs. For example: There is a patient from India that is a practicing Hindu. This patient has specific times in which pray is required.

The Associate RN’s training will lead him/her to assessing the tasks needed to deliver safe and efficient nursing care. This might be at the expense of the patient’s cultural and spiritual needs. Without the training needed to accurately assessment these needs, this RN is might not even realize they have been overlooked. With the BSN nurse, the assessment of cultural values and spiritual beliefs are part of the head to toes assessment. With both nurses, the patient will received the same medical care, but the BSN might provide a more holistic service for the patient.

This is not to say that every BSN is a strong nurse than a nurse with their Associates, but the continuation of education can only add to the already wealth of knowledge the nurse has. From the time of birth, continuing to learn and grow is a basic human instinct. As adults, it is difficult to make that leap to continue ones education.

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