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Advanced Nursing Degrees


There is a general feeling that nursing as a profession needs more of hands-on experience than pure academic knowledge. There is a reason or two there. We are known to laud the role of nurses who have excellent practical abilities and management supervision skills.

But apart from the too-obvious hospital care jobs, nurses have definitive roles to play in many other healthcare functions, and even in stellar roles in healthcare industry. It needs no telling that higher education in nursing is imperative for nurses to work in senior positions, many of which are suitable for none else than nurses themselves.

In practice however, there is lukewarm response among nursing students to pursue higher degrees, perhaps for reasons of convenience and cost. For example, though numbers of nurses having a BSN degree has increased during the last four decades, yet only about 44% of 2.7 million nurses currently hold a bachelorís degree or higher.

Given the advent of advanced medical treatment and progressively longer lifespan of people, there is no denying that the nursing practice is set to undergo many changes in sync with technology and need. Keeping this in perspective, in October 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) agreed in a resolution to support the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) as a terminal practice degree. The DNP will be different from the PhD in that while the PhD has wider acceptance as being research-focused to supplant the masterís degree, the DNP is proposed to be for those nurses who want an advanced practice role, such as nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist. However, perhaps very few schools like University of Kentucky have embarked on this new educational path to offer the DNP degree.

A brief round-up of various advanced nursing degrees is provided below:

1. RN to BSN If you commenced your career in nursing with an associate degree or a diploma, you may consider attaining your bachelorís degree. Many advanced nursing positions today are increasingly looking for a minimum of bachelorís degree. The good news is that a number of distance learning courses has made this a viable option for quite a few of you who are working professionals. Besides, there are flexible programs in addition to distance learning that can be suitably timed around your work schedule. In some cases, universities are known to consider your work experience toward academic credit, which means your cost and time to complete your degree reduce substantially.

2. RN to MSN and beyond Positions in higher management, clinical positions and educational institutes require a masterís degree. When you pursue a masterís degree, you typically learn to focus on management and / or clinical specialties and if you so choose, you may prepare to teach nursing courses upon completion. Nursing educators are much sought-after in US, so teaching can very well enhance your career to help shape the future of nursing.

3. Nurses as ďdoctorsĒ As discussed above, the top echelon in advanced nursing degrees belongs to PhD and now the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). In recent years, more nurses are proceeding to go for a doctorate degree in nursing, and accordingly, many institutions too are expanding their basket of course offerings to appeal to more students and also to meet this growing demand. In fact, about a dozen institutes have added a DNP program in their curriculum, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and more plan to start in near future. A doctorate degree in nursing is helpful to teach at university level, conduct research, and even work in clinical settings or hospital management.

4. Other options Among other careers pursuable for advanced nursing degree holders while remaining in a nursing discipline, nurse practitioner and nurse anesthetist must come first. In case of nurse practitioner, it is usually an offering of masterís degree, whereupon you will qualify to take the national nurse practitioner certification exam. A qualified nurse practitioner is able to diagnose and treat many common illnesses as well as to prescribe medications.

On the other hand, after attaining a masterís degree, if you are interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist, you need to pass a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists) certification program. A qualified CRNA can be expected to work independently or in association with other anesthesiologists to provide anesthesia services in case of both surgical and obstetrical patients. A CRNAís work may be patient-intensive during preoperative, intra-operative and postoperative periods.

As can be seen from above discussions, there is no dearth of career opportunities for advanced nursing degree holders. In fact, as experts opine, the advancement of medical technology will continue to enrich and enhance the requirement of nursing personnel who are equipped with one or more advanced nursing degrees.

Copyright 2006 Linda Raye

Submitted by:

Linda Raye

Linda Raye is an accomplished writer and editor of NursingChoice.com website. Her main interest lies in the healthcare field with one of her passions being nursing. Contact her at: LRaye@cinci.rr.com.

Visit the website: http://www.NursingChoice.com





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