Help Solve the Nursing Shortage: Second Degree BSN Nursing Programs
The changing U.S. economy and the desire of many working people to ‘make a difference’ after the events of September 11 have contributed to a growing interest in nursing as a career. Additionally, over one million new and replacement RNs will be needed in the United States by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In response to these factors, nursing schools are offering new ways to attract and quickly train more nurses while maintaining the quality and integrity of nursing education overall.
A popular approach is the second degree nursing program. Sometimes called accelerated nursing programs, they allow individuals who already have a baccalaureate degree (BA) from an accredited university or college in an area other than nursing to obtain the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in under four years. These programs are offered at both baccalaureate and master’s degree (MA) levels.
Second degree programs accept all course units successfully completed by students in their first degree. This effectively fulfills the prerequisites of a BSN plan. Many second degree BSN programs can be finished in 12 to 18 months, while MSN programs designed for non-nursing graduates usually take three years to complete. The accelerated nature of these programs makes them especially appropriate for people who are looking to make a career change, but the pace of the programs can be challenging. They usually involve intense instruction periods and include the same number of clinical hours as those given to students in traditional programs.
Typical second degree nursing students tend to be older and more motivated, with higher academic expectations than students who enter traditional nursing programs right out of high school. Students in second degree nursing programs generally have high grade-point averages and nearly always pass their licensing exams on the first try.
Admission standards for second degree nursing programs are high and usually require a 3.0 GPA at minimum. Persons interested in such programs must make a formal application to the educational institution of their choice and meet all of its admission requirements. College transcripts are reviewed to ensure that all prerequisites for a second degree nursing program are met.
According to second degree program educators, most applicants meet the arts and social science prerequisites of their programs, while some do not meet the natural sciences requirements. To help these students, most second degree nursing programs offer these prerequisites just before the start of the accelerated program. Personal interviews with representatives of the Department of Nursing at the given educational institution are usually required as well.
Upon completion of an accelerated or second degree program, students are eligible to take the licensing exam for RNs, the NCLEX-RN, which is required by the Boards of Nursing in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
In 1990, there were 31 second degree BSN programs and just a dozen accelerated MSN programs in existence in the U.S. Today there are 205 BSN programs and 56 MSN programs.
Jeff Morrow writes about employment issues for nurses.