Earning Your Next Degree: Heading Back to School in 2019

By: Suzan Miller-Hoover DNP, RN, CCNS, CCRN-K

Advanced Degree

During an annual performance evaluation, your nurse manager asked if you were considering going back to school to earn your next degree. How do you respond? Hopefully you have given thought to the idea of advancing your education.

In this ever-changing healthcare environment, the nurse’s role is expanding and becoming more complex (Nursejournal.org, 2018). According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), reasons for pursuing an advanced degree include:
  1.   The change in hiring practices
  2.   Magnet designation requirements
  3.   The Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that 80% of all nurses should have their BSN by 2020
  4.   Many of your college credits may count towards the advanced degree
  5.   Nurses with a master’s or doctorate degree can:
    a.   Teach in nursing schools
    b.   Become Advanced Practice Nurses
    c.   Enter advanced leadership positions
    d.   Enter the world of nursing research
(Schneider, 2016; Nursejournal.org, 2018 and 2018a)

While many think pursuing an advanced degree is too time consuming and costly; this is not necessarily true. For example:
  •   Many healthcare facilities offer incentives such as tuition reimbursement to help defray the cost
  •   There are grants, scholarships, and student loans to help defray the cost
  •   There are more RN to BSN and RN to MSN programs available that may reduce the amount of time to completion to 1.5 to 2 years
  •   Many programs are now on-line allowing more freedom to study on your terms
  •   There is less time spent in clinical areas as you already hold the RN license
(Nursejournal.org, 2018 & 2018a)

It is important to recognize that as the profession of nursing continues to evolve, entry level degree requirements may change and healthcare facility hiring requirements may include higher degrees. If you are just starting out, consider that most facilities are now looking for BSN prepared new graduates. There are some facilities that will hire nurses with an associate’s degree but require BSN completion within a specified timeframe.

The world of Advanced Practice Nursing is changing. Facilities are hiring:
  •   Clinical Nurse Specialists because they bring advanced knowledge regarding system level processes and change; expert patient care knowledge, and evidence-based practice and research
  •   Nurse Practitioners, Midwives, and Nurse Anesthetists can help offset the cost of medical care in the hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing homes, and physician offices. These nurses also bring a history of nursing care to their practice

These roles are every changing and adapting to the new world of nursing practice.

Are you satisfied with your career? Are you looking for more variety and increased responsibility? Do you want to expand your knowledge? Think you are too old to go back to school? You are never too old to advance your career and knowledge. Pursuing an advanced degree may open doors for you in ways you have never imagined!

To get a jump start on your next degree, you can find a list of nursing schools per the following web sites:



Nursejournal.org. (2018). 10 reasons why RN’s should pursue their BSN degree. Retrieved from: https://nursejournal.org/nursing-practice/10-reasons-why-rns-should-pursue-their-bsn-degree/

Nursejournal.org. (2018a). 25 reasons why to get a masters in nursing. Retrieved from: https://nursejournal.org/msn-degree/25-best-reasons-why-to-get-a-msn-degree/

Schneider, A. (2016). Driving factors behind the 80% BSN by 2020 initiative. Retrieved from: https://www.rn.com/headlines-in-health/driving-factors-behind-the-80-percent-bsn-by-2020-initiative/

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