The Bachelor of Science in nursing is not officially required, but it’s still highly favored over the associate’s degree in nursing. A significant number of registered nursing opportunities advertised in Montana require the bachelor’s degree for entry.
Staff nurses in hospitals face increasing challenges, such as sicker patients brought on by the aging population, heightened physical demands, and pressures to keep up with fast-evolving technologies. Moreover, fear of punitive actions for medical errors coupled with lower than anticipated wages create undue stress upon entry-level nurses. Numerous surveys reveal that increasing the nursing workforce education to a BSN at minimum will improve patient outcomes. The BSN degree completion program equips registered nurses with the added skills to cope with the increasingly complex healthcare environment.
The Montana University System plans to work with Regents and the State Board of Nursing to allow registered nurses with a two-year associate’s degree to earn the bachelor’s degree with just an additional three semesters of study. This initiative will create a tremendous opportunity for RNs to continue on and complete the requirements for the BSN to not only increase their earning potential but also confidence in their ability to meet whatever challenges come their way.
Recognizing the shortage of BSN nurses in the state and the need for registered nurses to keep working, schools within Montana’s university system partner to allow for the seamless continuation of nursing education. The state and employers rely heavily on the MUS to move ADN students to the BSN levels in the most efficient way possible. Through the proliferation of classes in online and hybrid learning formats, registered nurses can study while maintaining their current employment and earn their BSN after three semesters of committed study.
Benefits of Progressing to a BSN Degree
The controversy over the proper educational level for nurses has been around for decades. Since the 1940s, the Brown Report recommended that nurses get their education in a college setting and be awarded a BSN degree. Nurses must be fully contributing members of the patient care team in complex clinical situations. They must participate in the prevention of disease as much as they work in the recovery and rehabilitation of patients. The American Nurses Association reiterated the concerns in 1965, and other associations today express the same concerns. Time and time again, studies link higher nurse education to better patient outcomes. Yet, many nurses question the benefits of obtaining the BSN. Many believe that the BSN will not enhance their ability to practice and that the financial rewards are non-existent. The following outlines just a few of the benefits of completing the BSN degree.
If you’re thinking, even remotely, that you’ll probably want to pursue graduate study, then you need to complete your BSN degree. The nursing career path is full of possibilities, but you need to have a master’s of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice for advanced practice. The BSN degree is the ticket to getting out of basic clinical care and into teaching, management, and administration.
The RN-to-BSN provides opportunities to expand your skillset. You’ll learn the principles of effective communication, critical thinking, leadership, and advanced clinical skills, which will prepare you for greater responsibility in the workplace.
The AACN recognizes the BSN as the minimum educational requirement for entry into nursing. The Association bases its recommendation on the evolution of healthcare. Nurses today must be able to work in non-traditional settings, such as outpatient care, public health, critical care, and mental health. BSN RNs are better prepared to practice in these settings where demand is great. Patient education, leadership, community health, and scientific, clinical, humanistic, and decision making skills are some topics covered in the BSN curriculum that prepare graduates to make life-and-death decisions and develop a comprehensive plan of care when needed. The AACN provides results from extensive research that BSN preparation leads to better clinical outcomes and lower mortality rates.
The difference between associate RNs and baccalaureate RNs is increasingly obvious in hospitals nationwide. Employers, recognizing the differences, from the competency of BSNs to the limitation of associate RNs, are more likely to hire those with the advanced degree – even in a workforce deficient Montana. More than 42% of nurse-related job posts require the bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement – that percentage will increase in the coming years. Another compelling reason for employers to seek out the services of a baccalaureate RN is to qualify for Magnet designation. The designation is highly coveted by hospitals, and the education level of nursing staff is a key requirement for earning it.
There are three accredited BSN completion programs in Montana. Even with competitive enrollment, it is still easier than ever for RNs to advance their studies. Online classes facilitate learning at your own pace in the comfort of your home.
BSN RNs earn significantly more than ADN RNs in the long term. According to a Payscale.com report, the difference could be as much as $20,000 more. If you’re not convinced that your salary will go up after you complete the degree, consider that the BSN could be the requirement of the future. With recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the AACN for nurses to get their BSN within 5 years of earning an associate’s degree, enrolling in a program could be a matter of staying employed.
Requirements for Enrollment in an RN to BSN Program
The RN-to-BSN program is available to licensed, practicing Registered Nurses. Montana’s universities deliver the course content using distance technologies with minimal on-campus sessions, giving nurses the flexibility to balance work and studies.
The program prepares graduates for professional practice that is guided by theory and clinical principles grounded in evidence-based care. Programs are designed for completion in three to five consecutive semesters. Nursing courses include evidenced-based practice, health promotion and disease, introduction to nursing leadership, research methods and statistics, public health, global perspectives in healthcare, and advanced issues in nursing.
General requirements for admission include:
- An associate’s degree in nursing from a regionally accredited college
- Current, active RN license in Montana
- At least one year’s experience in the nursing field
- A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5
- Professional and academic references
- Transcripts of all college coursework
- Health requirements: CPR certification, immunization, TB clearance, physical exam, and drug screen
The RN-to-BSN program grants credit for past learning. However, there may be restrictions on the number of credits you can transfer in. If you completed the general education requirements for a BSN degree, you will be able to begin with the core nursing courses required to complete the program.
Tuition for the RN to BSN program is an estimated $1,150 per semester. Expenses for college fees, books, and supplies will apply.
Montana RN to BSN Programs:
Butte, MT RN-BSN Programs:
1300 W. Park Street, Butte, MT 59701
Havre, MT RN-BSN Programs:
Montana State University
P.O. Box 7751 300 13th St West Havre, MT 59501
Pablo, MT RN-BSN Programs:
Salish Kootenai College
58138 US Highway 93, Pablo, MT 59855