As the demand for registered nurses (RN) and health service managers increases, there is a growing need for RNs with leadership skills and specializations. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree can help meet this rising demand, while also advancing your nursing career to include leadership positions, and specialized nursing roles.
BSN Advantages: Specializations and Leadership Roles
Earning your BSN may extend the range of career opportunities available to you, including specializations and leadership roles. It is important as a current or future nurse to consider your individual career goals when determining if a BSN will have an impact on your career.
When considering how a BSN would affect your career, it is important to understand nurse specializations. Specializations require certifications that each have their own unique requirements. You might need to accumulate a certain number of direct-care hours in your specialized area or pursue an advanced RN degree like a Master’s of Science in Nursing.
To obtain a certification, you’ll need to pay a fee and successfully complete a certification exam. To maintain your certification, you will often have to go through certification renewals and continuing education credits or hours. If you’re aiming to become a nurse educator, you’ll work towards obtaining a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) certificate by continuing your BSN education with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.
“The academic nurse educator certification was created to establish nursing education as a specialty area of practice and create a means for faculty to demonstrate their expertise in this role,” said Dr. Lisa Bechok from Southern New Hampshire’s online BSN program.
If choosing a specialization is not a direction you want to pursue, a BSN program offers courses in management and leadership that prepares you for leadership roles.
“Every nurse is a leader regardless if they are in a management position, because we lead our patients and our colleagues by our actions and attitude. . . having integrity, being positive, motivating others and being kind and altruistic are all leadership qualities,” Bechok said. Leadership roles nurses with a BSN can qualify for, according to Bechok, include:
- Charge nurse
- Clinical nurse leader
- Patient care director
- Clinical nurse manager
- Nurse educator
- Healthcare administrator
- Assistant nurse manager
Transitioning from Associate to Bachelor’s in Nursing
If you have an associate’s degree in nursing and are seeking a BSN, some colleges can offer a streamlined process. These programs accept transferable credits and recognize prior nurse experience through PLAs – prior learning assessments. Nurse Journal suggests talking to a college admission counselor about any relevant experiences you have, such as:
- Military experience
- Full-time or part-time work
- Volunteer work
Technical nursing skills are the focus of ADN programs, laying the groundwork for clinical practice, patient care and nursing philosophy. Courses cover anatomy, physiology, nursing fundamentals and pharmacology, Bechok said. The BSN aims to build upon these courses, helping you grow in critical thinking and evidence-based practice.
Outside traditional in-person classrooms, an online BSN program can offer an alternative path.
“Nursing work schedules can be sporadic, and sometimes it may be impossible to know when you’ll be free,” Bechok said. Online classes can also provide flexibility for you to complete assignments, readings and projects on your own time.
Career Advancement and Earnings
In 2022, registered nurses with a BSN made a median salary of $81,220, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while medical and health services managers in 2022, had a median salary of $104,830.
The 2022-2032 job outlook for registered nurses and medical and health services managers both show faster than average job growth with registered nurses at 6%, and medical and health services managers at 28%, according to BLS.
BSN Curriculum and Specializations
While studying for your BSN, you will have opportunities to explore areas of interests and specializations by learning from and interacting with professionals from their desired specializations, Bechok said.
“Every course you take, every paper you write, every project you complete is an opportunity for you to seek out new knowledge and network with professionals,” she said.
Although nursing certifications are not earned during your BSN, by connecting with so many nurse educators throughout your time studying, you can use their expertise to help choose the specialization that’s right for you. Specialties give nurses the ability to deliver specialized care in a field of their choosing, Bechok said. Here are the top 5 types of specialized nursing roles Nurse Journal has ranked based on salary.
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Midwife
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
Balancing School and Work
Balancing school, work and everyday life can be a challenge. Adult learners wear many hats and are often juggling many responsibilities, and it is important to give yourself time to acclimate to your new studies.
“Start with one class and see how that feels. If that feels good, give yourself some time to get into the rhythm of balancing your life and your schoolwork and then decide if you can add another course,” Bechok said.
She also suggested joining your local nurses association and the American Nurses Association to access resources, information and networking opportunities. Other nursing resources and associations, according to BLS, include:
- American Society of Registered Nurses
- Johnson & Johnson, Discover Nursing
- National League for Nursing
- National Student Nurses’ Association
As healthcare demands continue to grow, so does the need for nurse leaders and specialized roles. A BSN can provide you with networking opportunities and critical skills to further your career. Whether you are transitioning from an associate degree or already are an RN, balancing education and work can be challenging for anyone, and you will need to decide if a BSN is right for your career.
Ollie Burkett is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
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