RN to BSN – A Sustainable Path to the BSN via Collaboration

The Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing (IACN) believes that the best path from the Associate’s-prepared RN (ADN) to a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) is through thoughtful and strategic collaboration that allows for academic progression between community colleges and four-year universities, including:

  • Pathways Programs
  • Dual-Enrollment Programs

Myth vs. Truth

Myth: There are not enough available seats at four-year universities to service the demand by potential RN to BSN students.

Truth: Taking into account all available programs allowing students with an RN to go on to complete their BSN, in 2017 there were 1, 576 unfilled seats across Illinois RN to BSN programs. This number accounted for 55% of the total available seats. In 2018, we expect there will be 2,769 available seats – more than double the number of students admitted into RN to BSN programs in 2017.

Myth: Most students in RN to BSN completion programs are working adults and four-year institutions are not able to meet their flexibility needs.

Truth: Four-year institutions recognize the unique challenges navigated by today’s working adult student, and have designed RN to BSN completion programs that cater specifically to them. Many of these programs use the latest in technology and are offered partially or completely online, or in the evening.

RN to BSN completion programs offered by four-year institutions provide diverse populations of returning-adult students with flexible options to earning a quality BSN education on a schedule that works for them.

Myth: RN to BSN students are place bound due to jobs and families, making it difficult to study at a four-year institution.

Truth: Advances in online education and the creation of fully-online and hybrid-online programs remove the location barrier to earning one’s BSN from a four-year institution.

Myth: Four-year institutions are too expensive for many RN to BSN students.

Truth: It is our firm belief that a path to an affordable BSN can be created through strategic partnerships that allow for academic progression between community colleges and four-year institutions. Pathway programs and dual-enrollment programs allow cost conscious students to take advantage of savings by completing their first two-three years at a community college, and then progressing to a four-year university to earn their BSN. Many colleges offer scholarships and tuition discounts to help increase affordability.

With the extra clinical fees and other costs associated with BSN, offering these programs at the community college would likely take an additional invest by community colleges which are largely funded by taxpayer dollars. With Illinois still overcoming its budgetary obstacles, this is not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars, especially as other options exist.

Myth: There is no difference between the BSN offered by a community college and one offered at a four-year institution.

Truth: Though the license ultimately received by the individual may not differ, there are distinct differences in the mission of nursing programs at the community college level. Community colleges specialize in providing students the technical skills necessary to be successful in their chosen career. Four-year institutions specialize in the training of thought leaders and change agents, ready to step into leadership positions.

In light of the shifting healthcare environment, it is critical that Bachelor’s level education of nurses remains at the four-year institution in order to foster those opportunities for next generation of healthcare leaders and innovators.

Benefits of a four-year institution:

  • Degree granted from an established provider of bachelor’s level education
  • Opportunities to participate in research; access to discoveries as they happen
  • Access to doctorally-prepared faculty
  • Access to student organizations, study abroad, and leadership development opportunities
  • Opportunities to collaborate with students from a variety of professions and disciplines
  • Access to a wide range of intercollegiate experiences to complement learning outside of nursing courses
  • Deep expertise in liberal arts education
  • Preparation for graduate education

A Final Thought:

Nursing is a respected profession, like law and medicine. A hallmark of a profession is that the profession directs the education of its practitioners. As such, Nursing must be in charge of defining and leading any change in the education or scope of practice of nurses. The IACN stands in solidarity with the Illinois Nurses Association in the opposition of any legislation referring to the education or scope of practice of nurses not led by nursing.

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