Quality patient care is an essential factor in the delivery of effective health care services. However, this can only be achieved if a well educated nursing force is available. In fact, research has indicated that fewer medication errors, reduced mortality rates, and positive outcomes are associated with the level of preparedness of nurses at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. To enhance highly qualified nursing workforce, American Association of College of Nursing is committed to working collaboratively because education enhances clinical competency and effective care delivery. This paper, therefore, looks at the nursing work force of today, highlights research that relates education to outcomes, and outlines the ability of four year colleges to enhance nursing education level in the United States.
Differences in Competences between Nurses Based on Degree Level
According to Dianne Moore (West Cost University, 2009), difference between baccalaureate degree in nursing and associate degree in nursing exists. A nurse with a baccalaureate degree in nursing has more opportunities to work in health care setting offering a variety of opportunities for professional growth. The Baccalaureate prepared nurses can also be bedside nurses, case managers, educators, administrators, discharge planners, and work in community clinics, public health, and home health. In fact, in the armed forces, the nurse officer in the nurse corps must have a baccalaureate degree in nursing. The associate degree nursing, on the other hand, is limited to providing a direct hand on patient care, which is more restricted to specific types of health care settings such as skilled care nursing and long term care facilities, hospitals, physician’s offices, and clinics.
Pertaining to the nursing programs, a difference also exists between baccalaureate degree nursing and associate degree nursing. In the baccalaureate program, 125 credits are required as opposed to the 72 credits that are required in the associate degree nursing program. The baccalaureate curriculum also has a different focus, whereby it emphasizes on evidence based nursing and leadership, and additional courses are offered in the curriculum, for example, statistics, research, public health, and critical thinking. Therefore, the additional units prepare baccalaureate nurses to pursue graduate study, which leads to an advanced degree in nursing.
Opposed to the baccalaureate students, students pursuing the program of associate degree in nursing are focused on learning the technical aspects of nursing that are appropriate to the provision of direct care to patients and the families, especially in acute care settings. Therefore, students who undertake associate degree program in nursing learn the knowledge and skills that are required to care for individuals and families during medical conditions restoration after treatment, and they usually practice a highly restricted level of nursing. Additionally, students in the associate nursing degree programs are known to have fewer units, and they are only taught on the basics of leadership as an additional since it is needed for supervision of other health providers. Therefore, the associate degree nursing do not prepare nursing students for graduate study.
Off course an individual may think that being a bedside nurse and not a manager is noble. However, the baccalaureate degree nurses do provide excellent direct patient care. This is because such nurses use research based practice, which enhance better patient outcome, as opposed to the associate degree nursing who are limited by their education to the practical skills. The baccalaureates nurses are, therefore, are excellently whole rounded individuals in the health care since they can effectively provide patient care, management, and even educational services. Indeed, the baccalaureate nursing program offers potentially high flexibility to pursue various types of nursing care within the health care setting.
The baccalaureate degree nursing graduates are today being preferred in many hospitals than the associate degree graduates. This idea has encouraged many nursing staffs in hospitals to go back to school and better their education to achieve baccalaureate degree in nursing so as to become effective in the delivery if the nursing services. Moreover, baccalaureate degree nurses are paid more than their colleagues with associate nursing degree.
It can be argued that baccalaureate degree nurses and associate degree nurses may not have a difference in their level of skill competency when they are graduating, however, within a year the baccalaureate degree nurses tend to show the development of clinical judgment, better problem solving, and greater critical thinking skills. These three skills are important for acute patient care in hospitals and other health care settings.
Perhaps, all nurses are professionals since they receive academic skills in their respective nursing schools and moreover certify the subject professional organization. American Association of College Nursing, therefore, is committed to enhancing competence education outcome s of nursing across all levels. Professional nursing implies participating in all aspects that pertain to effective health care. Therefore, a professional nurse regardless of the curriculum program must be actively involved in research, participate in politics that affect the profession of nursing, achieve effective education programs, and more so focus on delivery of effective health care (American Association College of Nursing, (2012). Adopting the baccalaureate degree nursing program, therefore, is important.
West Coast University, (2009). The Differences between Associate Degree Nurses and the Baccalaureate Degree Nurses. Dianne Moore: Author. Retrieved From, http://www.westcoastuniversity.net/deanscorner/print.php?article=22 On June 21, 2013.
American Association College of Nursing, (2012). Fact Sheet: Creating a More Qualified Nursing Workforce.