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The Competence of Nurses: Educational Preparation

Of late, the nursing profession has faced various challenges. People have been questioning the competence of nurses that are prepared at the associate-degree level and those prepared in the baccalaureate-degree level. Few people understand their differences in competence.

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Basically, there is no doubt that both degrees have produced the best professionals (Pepper, 2012). In fact, none of the two programs will make a person better. However, there are a few differences in competencies which make the difference between the two.

The Differences in Competencies

It is a common experience to find people arguing that there is no need to enroll for a baccalaureate degree in nursing. They argue that a lot of regulations and requirements are emphasized in this type of degree yet it has no significant impacts as compared to associate degrees in nursing (Zerwekh & Garneau, 2011). It is also a common experience to find people arguing that they can enroll for associate degrees in nursing and still obtain licenses with those who enrolled for the baccalaureate degrees.

Individuals who argue on that perspective, lack a simple understanding of the key differences in competencies between the two types of degrees. The following are the key areas where competencies differ between these degrees:

The Duration of Formal Education

The basic difference in competencies is the amount of time that is spent in training. Basically, associate degree nurses can obtain their certificate from junior level colleges and community institutions. On the other hand, before a person is awarded a Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing, he/she must enroll in a recognized university for a duration of up to four years. That makes the difference. As at 2008, 72 credits and 125 credits were required for the associate and baccalaureate nursing programs respectively.

Educational Competencies

The two degrees also differ in terms of educational competencies. According to the Nursing guideline that was prepared by a task force in 2000, associate degree nurses the practical framework for the two types of nurses are not similar. Associate degree nurses are trained to work and handle specific issues. The report of the task force indicates that there are more opportunities for the BSN nurses. The nurses are trained to offer their services in various settings. The following list indicates various settings that a baccalaureate nurse can work in (Molinari & Bushy, 2011):

  • Education
  • Administration
  • Community clinics
  • Bedside nursing
  • Case administration

There are also several other areas which demand the services of baccalaureate nurses. For instance, a BCN nurse has a better chance of joining the military than an associate degree-level nurse. An associate degree nurse is restricted to provide specific services and assistance. Their span of operation is restricted to hospitals, clinics and a few other healthcare facilities (Molinari & Bushy, 2011).

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Focus On Service Delivery

This is another area that should be studied when analyzing the differences in competencies between the two nursing degrees. They both have different focuses. For example, the baccalaureate training emphasizes on clinical practices that are based on evidence. Leadership is also an essential component of this training. Even though nursing is a discipline that concerns itself with human health, it should be understood that different subjects are offered in the baccalaureate program. For instance, trainees are taken through statistics and research (Zerwekh & Garneau, 2011). These units are essential in equipping the trainees with knowledge that will be useful in handling various issues during their practice. The extra units are also beneficial to those who wish to pursue higher level degrees in the future.

An associate degree in nursing has a different focus too. The curriculum focuses on equipping the trainees with technical skills. Technical skills suit those who provide direct patient care. In that case, associate degree nurses are prepared to deal directly with patients.

A lot of objective research that try to explain the differences in competencies have been conducted. The researches have revealed that skill competencies are not a major difference when the trainees leave college (Pepper, 2012). However, major differences in skills will be noticed after some time. In fact, a recent research confirmed that nurses who went through the baccalaureate curriculum portrayed greater judgment and problem solving skills. Their ability is attributed to the settings that they were exposed to when they graduated.

From the findings of the research, it can be concluded that even though nurses go through similar programs, the exposure that they get in their place of work will greatly affect their career advancement. BSN nurses are considered more professional than associate degree nurses. Various aspects can be used to explain this. Basically, professionalism is defined as the ability to make use of one’s skills in dealing with various issues that the society faces.

A Patient Care Situation That Explains the Differences in Nursing Care Approaches Used By the Nurses

A cancer-care case can be used to explain the differences. The approach taken by a baccalaureate degree nurse will be different from the one that an associate degree nurse will take. An associate degree nurse will offer direct patient services such as dressing wounds and provision of medications. On the other hand, a baccalaureate degree nurse will offer additional services. For instance, depending on the prevailing conditions of the patient, the nurse will be able to use his/her skills to better the life of the ailing patient instead of just providing the prescribed medication.


Molinari, D., & Bushy, A. (2011). The Rural Nurse Transition to Practice.. New York: Springer Pub. Co..

Pepper, G. A. (2012). Annual Review of Nursing Research genetics. New York: Springer Pub. Co..

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Zerwekh, J. G., & Garneau, A. Z. (2011). Nursing today: transition and trends (7th ed.). St. Louis: Saunders.

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