Congratulations if you are thinking about beginning or furthering your nursing education! How exciting for you!
It’s a life-changing decision that will affect you and your family for your entire career. It’s also a decision you won’t regret. I’ve yet to meet a nurse who said, “I really wish I’d never gotten that advanced degree.” No matter what track or specialty you choose, an advanced degree will open your career up to a world of options!
But education is not just about career opportunities. Education changes you. It forces you to explore different points of view. You learn to think more deeply about issues and articulate your own beliefs. It expands your world. I recall taking a class that included the art of Zen flower arranging to meet a cultural requirement. It really opened up my westernized mind to an ancient, wise culture.
In choosing to pursue an advanced degree, you live your belief that you value higher education. You influence and inspire those around you, and serve as a role model for other nurses.
The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think. Albert Einstein
All major nursing organizations and nursing leaders support higher education for nurses. At some point in the future, it is likely that a Bachelor’s degree will be mandatory for entry level into nursing. The Tri-Council for Nursing (AACN, ANA, AONE, and NLN), in a consenual policy statement, went so far as to say “without a more educated nursing workforce, the nation’s health will be further at risk.” (May, 2010).
When I was finishing my BSN, I had no thought of going on. I thought Master’s degrees were some lofty, unattainable educational goals for ivory tower type intellectuals. Certainly not for a down-to-earth, bedside nurse like myself. But on the last day of my last BSN class, my instructor, Sherri, said, “I hope you will consider getting your MSN. You’ve already done the hardest part, which was getting your BSN. The rest is easy.” Really? It’s not that hard? How could that be?
Her words inspired me, and all of a sudden, in that moment, getting an advanced degree seemed within my grasp.
“You’ve always had the power. You just had to see it for yourself.” Glenda, the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz
Of course, it had always been within my reach-but I didn’t know it. I was back in school the next semester, without missing a beat.
Sherri was right about it being no more difficult than what I’d already accomplished. Getting my MSN proved completely doable, in fact, I found it easier than passing Organic and Inorganic Chemistry!
Here are a couple of reasons to get your advanced degree:
All things being equal, the nurse with the advanced degree gets the job. Advanced degreed nurses are a desirable commodity for employers. Wise hospital administrators want nurses on staff with higher degrees. They’re aware that studies show improved patient outcomes when nurses have advanced degrees. Magnet hospitals require that nursing leaders have a degree in nursing.
Masters’ prepared nurses have more earning power. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top paying specialities now are Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners (in particular, Psychiatric Nurse Practioners). Nurses in these roles can expect to command upwards of ninety-five thousand dollars a year.
I see many older nurses with associate degrees who are still at the bedside, but who are worn-out. Physically worn-out. Feet, backs, knees…become sources of pain. Lifting patients, working in small, tight spaces, passing meds with only low lights to read the labels at night…these are things that you don’t think about at age twenty-five.
Being on your feet for twelve and a half hours is for the young and fit. But without at least a bachelor’s degree, the job market is limited. Some older RNs go to out-patient areas, such as Pre-Admit, hoping it will be easier, and it is, compared to floor nursing. But those jobs get snapped up, and retirement is not an option for most nurses before their mid-sixties if they need Medicare coverage.
With an advanced degree, those same older nurses could find office work in Education, Informatics, Infection Prevention, Case Management, and many more areas. An advanced degree buys you options and job security. Sadly, even if any of these older nurses would make excellent teachers, for example, their talents and skills will never make it to the classroom.
The writing for nurses is on the wall in terms of higher education. The best of luck to you as you choose your path!
Until next time friend,
- The Impact of Education on Nursing practice http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/impact-of-education (visited November 2,2014).
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm (visited October 30, 2014).
- ANNC Nurse Credentialing Magnet Hospitals http://www.nursecredentialing.org/DEO-FAQ#B1 (visited November 2, 2014).