Nursing is a profession that is dealing with life and death situations occurring every day. A nursing professional requires a high level of education regarding a variety of subjects such as anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, etc. It is often stated that nursing professionals that acquired a higher level of education tend to be more respected and valued in the sphere of their practice. Therefore, there is a need to differentiate between competencies nurses receive at various levels of acquired degrees. This paper is aimed to conduct research on differences in competencies between nurses prepared at the associate-degree level versus the baccalaureate-degree level and identify the differences in decision-making approaches based on the preparation of the nurse.
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Difference in Competencies
While it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the competencies of an associate degree nurse and a baccalaureate degree nurse, there are still some important differences that may subsequently impact the process of decision-making. The two key differences include the actual educational curriculum and the level of health care provided to patients. For instance, the associate degree program takes less time than baccalaureate (two years) and only focuses on the application of technical and clinical skills students required to have at the end of a course. On the other hand, the baccalaureate degree curriculum takes four years and adds knowledge and skills to the top of those acquired during the associate-degree program. The baccalaureate curriculum implies the incorporation of the legal, ethical, and psychological evidence into the process of learning (Erstad, 2015).
According to the American Association of College of Nursing (2015), the increase in the proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in healthcare facilities contributes to lowering the chances of patient mortality by approximately eleven percent. Therefore, there is a direct link between the level of education acquired by nurses and the consequent health outcomes among patients in a healthcare facility. Such positive outcomes subsequently turn into the costs saved for the facilities that may be targeted at funding the preparation of baccalaureate nurses.
As mentioned by the American Association of College of Nursing (2015), the bulk of research conducted on the topic of correlation between the level of education and patient outcomes suggested that nurses who received baccalaureate education positively influenced the mortality rates among patients and contributed to the improvement of the provided health care services. Such a beneficial impact of baccalaureate-prepared nurses on the provision of care can be explained by the number of educational subjects included in the curriculum. While associate-prepared nurses only possess clinical and technical skills, baccalaureate-prepared nurses have extensive knowledge about legal, ethical, and socioeconomic implications of healthcare, which significantly increases the level of their competence. Despite the fact that many states that technical and clinical skills are enough to provide decent levels of healthcare, it is the competence in the legal and ethical questions that can set a nursing professional apart from others.
Differences With Regards to Specific Care Situations
To effectively illustrate the differentiation between the decision-making skills of associate- and baccalaureate-prepared nurses, it is important to apply it to a specific patient care situation. Since baccalaureate-prepared nurses are also taught how to be effective managers, the decision-making process can differ in the following scenario: there are two patients in critical conditions admitted to the hospital at the same, but the workload is so high that all the staff is unable to take care of everyone. While a nurse trained only in technical and clinical skills will start providing care to the patient that requires it the most, a baccalaureate-prepared nurse will apply critical management skills to determine how both patients can be cared for under the circumstances of extreme pressure. Moreover, a nurse with leadership skills can conduct a quick survey and ask the staff about the most effective solution to this problem. Another patient care scenario can include post-care that requires psychological support for a patient. If, for example, a patient that got into a car accident lost a loved person in the aftermath, a skilled nursing professional will try to assess the patient’s mental state and refer him or her to a psychologist for further evaluation if necessary. A nurse with a technically-oriented mindset is more likely to pay attention only to the patient’s physical well-being despite the fact that psychological health is as important (Kutcher & Venn, 2008).
It can be concluded that nurses that received a baccalaureate degree are much more likely to positively impact patient outcomes and contribute to the process of effective decision-making. Because the baccalaureate curriculum builds knowledge on the top of technical and clinical skills, BSN-certified nurses possess a broader range of practical information that can be applied in a variety of patient care contexts. However, it would be wrong to assert that only baccalaureate-prepared nurses are good nurses, because the majority of the leadership, communication, and decision-making skills stem from medical experience and not the specific level of education. Since the research has shown that baccalaureate-prepared nursing professionals directly impact the provision of high-quality health care and the reduction of costs, it is important to put the saved funds towards the further education of the nursing staff.
American Association of College of Nursing. (2015). Creating a more highly qualified nursing workforce. Web.
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Erstad, W. (2015). RN vs. BSN: What you should know. Web.
Kutcher, S., & Venn, D. (2008). Why your mental health is important. Medscape J Med, 10(12), 275-283.