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Higher nursing education necessary for today's nurse
Level of education could affect how much you make, where you work
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By Robert G. Hess Jr.
Going to college as an adult learner costs a lot, and not just money. It takes time, commitment and sacrifice.
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is the former executive vice president and chief clinical executive, and founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance. As an editor for, Hess penned several editorials on career topics. As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career.
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Whether for NP, DNP or PhD degrees, nurses are returning to organizations of higher education to seek degrees that will allow them to earn more money. In this resource guide, we explore how school rates as an investment, with the caveat that the longer you wait to return to school, the less time you will have in your career for a return on that investment. There are no inexpensive programs in higher education in America — just more options. For some older nurses, certification may be a more dollar friendly alternative to another degree. Beyond money, nurses as patient advocates rightfully want to know the effects, if any, of more schooling on patient care. Nurses who have been around know that when a shortage strikes, many well-intentioned educational requirements go out the window. With a new scarcity developing, we investigated what that might do to BSN-related mandates.
We also considered how to raise the faculty that is needed to educate all these new and returning students. When we think shortage, we should be thinking teachers along with students. And so, as nurses increasingly return to school, they might consider becoming a part of the same cohort that is educating them now. We will always need more teachers. I don’t regret a single day of the 15 years of formal education I had past high school. But if I had just one thing to change in my career, I would have gone back to school sooner.
Every evening, I switched my gold-colored nursing top for an orderly’s blue one and worked in the same hospital where I attended classes and clinicals during the day.”
Robert G. Hess Jr., RN
Most nurses don’t go back to school alone, 60% are married and they’re accompanied by a family that shares in the sacrifice. In my case, I had a family to look after from the start of my diploma school nursing education. Every evening, I switched my gold-colored nursing top for an orderly’s blue one and worked in the same hospital where I attended classes and clinicals during the day. I continued to work a full-time job through sporadic undergraduate and graduate work until I completed a PhD.
decided to produce a resource guide about higher education, we found a lot of our nurse planners also had spent many years going back to school. Some of the issues we encountered as adult learners were universal and timeless, while others differed with the time period each person was in school. Today, pressure is mounting to force nurses without BSNs to get the degree. Professional organizations and a few states are setting deadlines for nurses to obtain BSNs to practice. Magnet hospitals are changing the marketplace by preferentially hiring nurses with BSNs. No one really knows where this will go, but there certainly are a lot of
RN-to-BSN programs
for those of you who still need to earn this credential.