Educational Rivalry: A Closer Look at Nursing Education

More and more students are becoming interested in the nursing field. Each of these students has the choice of three different educational pathways. The question at hand, and that which has long been debated, is which nursing pathway provides the “best” education possible. Each of the pathways has both positive and negative aspects in which each nursing student must decide individually which pathway is correct for them. Also, due to the nursing shortage, some new nursing programs have been implemented, which allows additional pathways to be looked at by students. Educational Rivalry:

A Closer Look at Nursing Education Have you ever sat in a patient room with a nurse performing a normal checkup on you and wondered how exactly the nurse obtained their nursing degree? Have you ever questioned a nurse’s education? Would you feel more comfortable with a nurse who went to a community college or to a university? Patients, scholars, and many others have long debated the quality of nursing education. There are primarily three different pathways that can be taken to obtain a nursing degree.

The question at hand is which route of nursing education is the “best. Throughout the paper, I will explain the different types of programs that are offered to become a registered nurse (RN) as well as the advantages and disadvantages to each nursing route. I will also examine how the nursing shortage that our country is experiencing has brought about new pathways for obtaining a nursing degree to encourage the growth of nurses. Types of Nursing Education And Advantages and Disadvantages Types of nursing education. There are primarily three different routes taken to obtain a nursing degree as a registered nurse.

Each of these programs varies in the type of degree, the required classes, the amount of clinical hours, and the time it takes to complete the nursing program. These three different programs are as follows: a four-year Baccalaureate of Science Degree (BSN) from a college or university, a two-year Associates Degree (AD) from a community college, and a two-year diploma or certificate earned from a hospital school of nursing. Each of these pathways offers basically the same education, but each has its own positive and negative aspects. The pathway that a nursing student chooses depends completely on the individual.

Nursing students may need to make school decisions based on which schools the student was accepted to, their financial standpoint, or the length of time they wish to spend in nursing school. There are endless factors that could come into play and so each student needs to evaluate which nursing route is right for them. Nursing programs from a university or college take the longest time to complete. Typically a student needs to take two years of prerequisites in general studies (courses other than nursing) before they can actually enter nursing school, which is also two years long.

When the student does enter nursing school, they typically average 15-17 credits a quarter or semester. The students must also attend clinicals in which they gain hands-on experience with patients at various hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. At the clinicals, the nursing students provide care for the patients as if they were already registered nurses with supervision and direction from a licensed nurse. The nursing students perform tasks such as: taking vitals, providing shots, administering medication, and many other duties that nurses typically perform.

Usually clinicals will take place in nursing homes first because elderly people are typically more forgiving and patient with the nursing students than middle aged patients. The nursing students average 16-18 hours per week in clinicals. The student will graduate from nursing school with a Baccalaureates of Science Degree and will then proceed to take the RN licensure exam called the NCLEX (National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nurse). The graduate has up to three chances to pass the licensure exam in the state of Washington.

If the graduate does not successfully pass the exam after three attempts, they must take the test in a different state where more than three chances are permitted (Halter, 2001, p. 21). Another way to become a nurse would be to go through a community college nursing program. A nursing student will obtain the same RN status with virtually the same nursing classes as if they were to attend a university. They receive the same stature because both nursing students of community colleges and universities must take the NCLEX exam to become a licensed RN. The difference between the two education routes is the type of degree that would be earned.

A community college graduate would obtain an Associates Degree rather than a Baccalaureate of Science Degree. The nursing programs from a community college are the quickest way to obtain a nursing degree. Community colleges do not have two years of prerequisites such as universities or colleges do. There are a minimal amount of prerequisites that must be taken before starting nursing school that, in most cases, can be finished in a quarter or less. Some of the prerequisites may even be waived with high school classes or taken simultaneously with nursing classes, which allows the students to complete the nursing program in close to two years.

This helps to shorten the amount of time it takes for a student to finish nursing school, which could be an advantage for the student by allowing him or her to pursue their nursing career quickly. Community college students typically have 12-17 credits a quarter. They also spend an average of four to ten hours a week in clinicals. Often, community colleges are not able to make arrangements to work at large or well-known hospitals because the hospitals prefer to be associated with prestigious universities.

Therefore, sometimes community colleges are linked to smaller hospitals where the workload is less than that of larger hospitals. There are fewer tasks for the nursing students to perform so students do not gain as much experience as they would from a larger hospital (Pederson, 2003, p. 4). The education for receiving a diploma or certificate from a hospital school of nursing has a different setup than a university or community college. The course is usually two years long and the time is spent entirely in a hospital setting.

Nursing students are allowed to enter the hospital nursing school right after high school graduation as long as certain high school prerequisites are fulfilled. The curriculum is very similar to that of a university or community college providing actual classroom settings within the hospital and basic nursing knowledge. There are usually two levels (one level per year) for students in hospital schools of nursing. At level one, the student is able to have patient interaction and they are able to observe the procedures that take place, but the students cannot perform the procedures.

The same is true of level two, except the students are able to collaborate with hospital faculty and classmates to delegate patient care. During the last five months of the course completion, the nursing students spend all of their time in clinicals where they are able to specialize in certain areas of nursing. The amount of clinical hours averages out to be about the same as the university clinical hours (16-18). Once the student graduates from the hospital school of nursing, they are also required to take the NCLEX licensure exam.

Students from this pathway also obtain the same RN status as students from universities or community colleges (“Bridgeport Hospital,” 2003). Advantages and disadvantages. As said before, there are many advantages and disadvantages for becoming an RN in each of the three pathways. These advantages and disadvantages help to determine which schools provide the best nursing education. They also help students decide which pathway is best for them. Since each individual student has their own set of specific needs and circumstances, they each need to decide which nursing education route fits them the best.

Among some of the important influential factors associated with the different routes are the educational and clinical requirements, classroom setting, and the cost of the education. Educational and clinical wise, all three nursing programs are at an advantage. Universities have an advantage over the educational requirements compared to community colleges and hospital schools of nursing. Since universities require two years of general studies, it allows students to learn about more than just nursing. By obligating the students to take two years of general studies, it enables them to become educated in other areas.

Their knowledge in other areas can help them to become more culturally diverse, which is always a positive aspect in a hospital. Hospital nursing schools are also at an educational advantage because the students are all trained the same as the employees of the hospital. If the students decide to work at the same hospital that they were taught at, they’ll know how to follow the procedures exactly, where the different units of the hospital are located, and the equipment and medication that is provided at the hospital.

They will have a head start over people who transfer to the hospital to work. As far as clinical hours go, universities are tied with hospital nursing schools for the number of clinical hours provided. Community colleges, on the other hand, are lagging behind on clinical hours. By allowing more hours in the clinicals, it helps the students to gain more hands-on experience, which can be a very beneficial tool for learning. The more times a student practices procedures and is involved in medical situations, the more it helps them to learn all the aspects of nursing.

It prepares them for when they will be responsible for controlling and handling medical situations on their own. An advantage of both community colleges and hospital schools of nursing is the classroom setting. Both routes typically have smaller class sizes than universities, which allows for smaller student to teacher ratios. Students are able to learn in small class settings where it is easier for the teacher to focus their attention on the individual needs of the students. The hospital nursing schools also have an advantage over the two other schools because their classroom setting is in a hospital.

The students can observe situations first hand. All of the medical equipment and necessary medication can be shown and demonstrated to the students since they are in a hospital setting. They have easier access to viewing items or situations when they are constantly in a hospital setting as opposed to a school setting. The amount of money spent on school plays a large factor in determining where students wish to attend college. A major advantage of attending a community college is that it helps to save a lot of money.

By examining Shoreline’s Nursing Program, assuming the student is a Washington resident over the age of 18, the student will be paying about $3,840 for both years of nursing school (“Shoreline Community College,” 2004). Universities and hospital nursing schools, on the other hand are quite pricey. By examining the University of Washington’s Nursing Program, the cost of tuition for all four years for a Washington resident would add up to $21,140. The amount of money for the hospital school of nursing is very close to the amount that a university charges.

According to the Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing in Connecticut, the estimated tuition for both years of nursing school would be around $21,000 for in-state tuition. Universities and hospital schools of nursing can be quite expensive, especially for a college student. The amount of money needed to pay for community college is substantially less than the amount needed to pay for a university or a hospital nursing school. The educational route that a student uses depends greatly on monetary funding. Debate Over Nursing Education

There are claims that have been made to hurt certain educational aspects that are untrue. For many years there has been a debate over which educational route is the best for becoming an RN. It has been widely publicized that RN’s obtaining baccalaureate degrees have been held at a higher status than RN’s with associate degrees or diplomas. The claim was even made by Pederson (2003) saying, “A hospital’s employment of nurses who have earned an associate’s degree in nursing in lieu of a bachelor’s degree in nursing will significantly increase that hospital’s mortality rate for post-surgical patients” (p. ). This claim showed statistical data, but some upset researches investigated the statistical evidence further and found it to be inaccurate. Pederson had construed the evidence to make an opinionated claim. Statements like these are what give nursing education, other than from a university, a bad name. Nurses with BSN’s are suppose to be “better” than nurses with AD’s or diplomas because their education is at a higher level and because of the prestige of attending a university as opposed to a community college or hospital school of nursing.

The prestige of a school is a personal opinion, but as far as education level goes, it is basically the same curriculum for each nursing school pathway. The classes are each titled differently, but they hold the same educational content. Table 1 shows a chart comparing some of the nursing classes between the University of Washington, Shoreline Community College, and Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing. Not every university, community college, and hospital nursing school has the exact same curriculum, but other schools are very similar.

Harrison (2004) says, “Diploma and degree nursing students attend the same lectures. The only difference is that they are assessed at different levels. Diploma nurses are asked to discuss results, whereas degree students have to critically analyze the results” (p. 12). Learning to become a nurse is the core topic within nursing school so this would cause many curriculums to be similar to one another. True, there are some colleges that have more advanced technology and research, but those are just some bonuses added onto the basics of becoming a nurse.

Every nursing school will teach the students the necessary and basic information of nursing (Harrison, 2004, p. 12). One extremely important observation that should be pointed out is that all RN’s must take and past the NCLEX, which is the same for every nursing student. Nurses educated in universities, community colleges, and hospital diploma programs are all capable of passing the NCLEX and becoming the best RN possible. In the year 2000, 59. 8% of the first-time test takers entered the nursing field after taking the NCLEX had associate degrees.

Another 36. 5% of first-time test takers entered the nursing field had baccalaureates degrees and 3. 8% had hospital-based diplomas (Perez, 2003, p. 10). There were less nursing students that passed with baccalaureate degrees than there were students with associate degrees, even though students with baccalaureate degrees are suppose to have a “better” education. This goes to show that students who attend community colleges are quite capable of passing the NCLEX. These students did not need to go to an expensive university to obtain quality education.

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