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Arkansas State University

Is the BSN the New ADN?

Traditionally, most nurses complete an associate degree program as a path to a nursing career. While it is acceptable to have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is becoming the common choice. This is because healthcare is more complex due in part to a large portion of the population aging and the chronic medical conditions that come with age. Thus, nurses need substantial preparation to provide optimal patient care.

What Is the Difference Between an ADN and a BSN?

To obtain an ADN, students enroll in a two-year program. A BSN program typically takes four years to complete. Regardless of which degree program nurses complete, they still have to pass the National Council of Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse (RN).

Why Should Nurses Consider a BSN?

One of the main reasons nurses should think about earning a BSN is the 2010 report The Future of Nursing:  Leading Change, Advancing Health published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which was renamed the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015. The IOM recommends an increase in the number of nurses with a BSN to 80 percent by 2020. Since the IOM published its report, numerous hospitals have followed the recommendation by preferring, or even requiring, BSN-prepared nurses.

The income for a BSN-prepared nurse is higher than the salary of a nurse with an ADN. According to from March 2018, the average annual salary for an ADN nurse is $57,282, while a BSN-prepared nurse earns $61,713. BSN-prepared nurses also have more job opportunities because some nursing positions require at least a baccalaureate degree. In addition, nurses with a BSN are eligible to move forward into leadership roles. And they are prepared to continue on to graduate degree programs.

Why Is There a Need for BSN-Prepared Nurses?

A survey conducted by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) concluded that there is a preference for BSN-prepared nurses. The survey included 582 responses from deans of nursing schools. The results indicated that 47.4 percent of hospitals require new hires to have a bachelor’s degree with 83.5 percent of employers preferring graduates of BSN programs.

Research shows that BSN-prepared nurses may improve the quality of patient care. In the study Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes, researchers found that hospitals with a higher ratio of BSN-prepared nurses “had lower congestive heart failure mortality, decubitus ulcers, failure to rescue, and postoperative deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism and shorter length of stay.” The findings from the Nurse staffing and education and hospital mortality in nine European countries: a retrospective observational study determined that an increase in the number of BSN-prepared nurses on staff reduces the patient mortality rate in hospitals.

An RN to BSN program is a great option for nurses who hold an ADN but want to earn a BSN. Many nursing schools offer online RN to BSN programs. Generally, ADN-prepared nurses can complete an RN to BSN program in as few as 12 months. Online programs are convenient and affordable for working nurses who seek job security or career advancement.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online RN to BSN degree program.


Nursing Explorer: ADN vs. BSN – The Big Debate

Nursing Link: ADN vs. BSN: Which Should You Choose?

NCBI: Nurse Staffing and Education and Hospital Mortality in Nine European Countries: A Retrospective Observational Study

PayScale: Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Average Salary

PayScale: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree Average Salary

NCBI: Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes

The National Academies: Report Recommendations

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses

Nurse Journal: BSN Degree vs RN Differences New York’s ‘BSN in 10’ Law and the Push for 80% of Nurses to Hold BSN by 2020 The Future of the Associate Degree in Nursing Program

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