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Differences between the ADN and BSN




The importance of the healthcare sector in any country can never be underestimated as far as the overall well being of the economy is concerned. Indeed, it has a direct impact on how good an economy is especially considering that it determines how productive individuals in that economy would be. Needless to say, the healthcare sector has numerous categories of professionals, each of whom undertake crucial duties and responsibilities in an effort to ensure the smooth running of the healthcare sector, as well as its sustainability and profitability both in the long-term and short-term (Sackett et al, 2000). While these professions may have varying degrees of importance in the healthcare sector, nursing comes as one of the most fundamental professions. Nurses are responsible for the development of patient plan of care in collaboration with the patient, therapists and physicians, diagnose health problems, as well as prescribe medications or treatments for the same. In addition, nurses may assist in the coordination of patient care carried out by other healthcare professionals such as dieticians, medical practitioners and therapists and can offer care autonomously as healthcare professionals or interdependently with other healthcare professionals (Sackett et al, 2000). Their importance is underlined by the fact that they spend more time with the patients than possibly any other healthcare professional does, in which case the experience of the patients in any healthcare facility would be highly influenced by the kind of care that they offer in the long-term and short-term. Given its importance in the healthcare sector, it is not surprising that nursing requires years of intense and specialized education and experience. Indeed, nurses are differentiated not only by the fields in which they work but also in their level of education. Two of the fundamentally crucial types of nurses are Associate Degree/Diploma nurse and the Baccalaureate prepared nurse. Their academic credentials come with different competencies that are applicable in the healthcare sector.

One of the key differences between Associate Degree/Diploma nurses and Baccalaureate prepared nurses revolves around the scope of their roles. Associate degree/diploma nurses have the primary role of offering direct nursing care or coordinated care to a limited number and group of clients in varied healthcare settings (Sackett et al, 2000). The clients may come with unpredictable or predictable healthcare needs are recognized as individuals or members of families. This is quite different from baccalaureate prepared nurses as they are trained to offer, as well as direct care to families, individuals and groups with unpredictable and complicated healthcare needs in both unstructured and structured settings (Staiger et al, 2012). Baccalaureate nursing program-qualified graduates obtain a temporary permit allowing them to practice under a registered professional nurse’s direct supervision for a period of 60-days while waiting for testing and licensure (Sackett et al, 2000). The graduates routinely start their professional journeys or careers in structured settings and rapidly move to leadership and/or community-based roles.

In addition, there exists a difference in the competencies of the Associate Degree Nurses and Baccalaureate Degree Nurses with regard to the amount of time that they spend in the process of obtaining formal education. Associate Degree nurses can obtain their degree from junior college or even community college, while Baccalaureate prepare nurses are required to attend a minimum of 4 years in a college or university. Indeed, researchers have underlined the fact that there exists a distinct or clear difference between the 72 credits that an Associate Degree Nurse would require and the 125 credits that individuals in Baccalaureate nursing Degree programs have to acquire so as to practice (Staiger et al, 2012). The baccalaureate curriculum lays emphasis and focus on evidence-based clinical leadership and practice, with extra courses such as critical thinking, statistics, research, and community health/public health being offered. These additional courses prepare these nurses in pursuit of graduate study resulting in advanced nursing degree. Associate degree nursing programs, on the other hand, concentrate on technical aspects pertaining to nursing appropriate in the provision of direct care to families and patients especially in acute care settings (Marquis & Huston, 2009). Associate degree nurses obtain skills and knowledge necessary for the care of families and individuals in illness and restoration after obtaining medical treatment and often practice a considerably limited nursing care level. Scholars note that nursing competencies and knowledge of associate degree nurses is restricted to hands-on patient care in community health facilities and hospitals, with the few units in the programs providing the basics pertaining to leadership necessary for Registered Nurse supervision in other healthcare providers (Sackett et al, 2000). On the same note, associate degree nurses are yet to be prepared for graduate study.

Moreover, there exists a difference in the expansiveness of their roles. Baccalaureate prepared nurses, in general, are seen as considerably better prepared for a significantly wider range of nursing roles, as well as carrying out duties in the professional roles in which they have undergone training (Staiger et al, 2012). Baccalaureate prepared nurses have critical skills and the appropriate capacity for making serious and critical decisions at the appropriate time. The degree provides nurses a chance to examine issues pertaining to public health, while allowing them to comprehend problems of the same (Sackett et al, 2000). Indeed, the degree is particularly focused on offering nurse management training thereby allowing them to manage patients with varied needs. BSN nurses have considerably more work opportunities in varied healthcare settings providing extensive array of opportunities for professional growth (Marquis & Huston, 2009). They may be educators, discharge planners, case managers, administrators, bedside nurses and even work in community clinics, public health and home health. Indeed, they also stand excellent chances in the military. Associate degree nurses, on the other hand, are limited to the provision of hands-on direct patient care in a considerably more limited type of healthcare setting including hospitals, physician offices, long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities and clinics. In addition, Associate degree nurses are seen as having the capacity to perform well in the technical roles for which they have obtained training, as well as in leadership roles for which they may not have been originally prepared.

As a baccalaureate prepared nurse, it is evident that an individual would have the capacity to make a difference in the quality of healthcare services that is offered to patients. This is especially considering the fact that baccalaureate nurses have the capacity to practice in a wider range of settings and with considerably more extensive range of patients (Marquis & Huston, 2009). In addition, they have considerably higher chances of advancing their level of study and practice, in which case they would eventually have the capacity to make fundamental decisions affecting the healthcare sector both in the long-term and the short-term. Of particular note is the fact that they are considerably less restricted in their practice compared to their associate degree prepared counterparts.


Sackett, D.L, Straus, S.E, Richardson, W.S., Rosenberg, W., & Haynes, R.B. (2000). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach EBM. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Staiger, D. O., Auerbach, D., & Buerhaus, P. (2012). Registered nurse labor supply and the recession – are we in a bubble? New England Journal of Medicine, 366(16), 1463-1465.

Marquis, B. L., & Huston, C. J. (2009). Leadership roles and management functions in nursing: Theory and application. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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