Picture this scenario: You're a registered nurse (RN) working up the career ladder. You've found reasonable success thus far, but you know you could advance further if you had more education. Yet, the barrier holding you back is a perceived "opportunity cost." That is, knowing you'll earn less income and owe tuition while pursuing a higher level of education.
The truth is there are viable ways to overcome the opportunity cost obstacle. In fact, the return on investment (ROI) in earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is highly worthwhile — both from a career advancement perspective and the potential to earn significantly more income.
What Opportunities Await?
Nurses serve a crucial role in the healthcare industry. They are on the front lines of care, no matter the type of environment. However, there are always opportunities to elevate care excellence. For many years, there has been a push for RNs to pursue BSN or higher degrees.
Per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the additional coursework provided by BSN programs "enhances the student's professional development, prepares the new nurse for a broader scope of practice, and provides the nurse with a better understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence healthcare delivery. For more than a decade, policymakers, healthcare authorities, and practice leaders have recognized that education makes a difference when it comes to nursing practice."
Many specific and essential nursing roles require a BSN degree. For example, Magnet-designated hospitals place great value on BSN-prepared nurses. These institutions are considered the "gold standard" for nursing practice and innovation. In addition, many states mandate that school nurses need a BSN degree to practice.
Plus, there are many lucrative positions that BSN-prepared nurses can work towards with even greater advancement in experience and education. While RNs without a BSN earn an average of $77,836 per year, ZipRecruiter reports that BSN-prepared nurses' average annual salary is $98,686. So the question becomes, how can a working RN reach that level?
Mitigating the Time and Money Conundrum
Many RN to BSN programs offer achievable solutions for the time and money required to obtain a BSN. The online RN to BSN program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNCW) is just one example. This program allows for an accelerated pace, providing students the option to complete their coursework in as few as 12 months. However, a more relaxed pace is available to students as well. In both cases, nurses can continue to work throughout the program's duration, thus reducing the cost burden.
North Carolina residents have a distinct advantage, as in-state tuition is more affordable. Also, students can choose from multiple start dates throughout the year. That's helpful for nurses who may want to take on extra hours before starting program to add to their savings.
Given the continuing nursing shortage, several institutions have recognized the need to make it more enticing for nurses to pursue higher education. Many schools and other organizations offer scholarships, grants and fellowships. The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will pay up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for:
- Registered nurses
- Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)
- Nurse faculty (NF)
Potential students should consider these opportunities and not let the perceived cost keep them from elevating their careers in the nursing field. There are many strategic ways to mitigate various obstacles, including time and finances.
More Information on UNCW's RN to BSN Program
Addressing financial and time constraint considerations is a means to an end. Earning a BSN is an invaluable step in one's career. As AACN states, a BSN degree establishes a depth of knowledge that is difficult to attain with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).
This level of learning is represented in UNCW's RN to BSN online program. Coursework covers everything from the "logistical" aspects of nursing care (such as health assessments and end-of-life care) to more conceptual nursing practices of leadership and management, healthcare policy and addressing social determinants of health (SDOH). With this comprehensive-yet-intensive program, students will prepare for advancements toward roles in administration, research, consulting and teaching.
Learn more about UNCW's online RN to BSN program.
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