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The difference between an adn and a bsn degree with rasmussen university: Season 3, Episode 19

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MORE FROM OUR EPISODE With Rasmussen university on the difference between adn and bsn degrees


Joining us on this episode is JOAN RICH, Vice president of nursing AT rasmussen university.

Rasmussen University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to global enrichment and meeting the evolving needs of their diverse communities.

With an emphasis on innovative programs, dynamic curriculum, and general education skills, they are committed to being a pioneer in the field of career-focused education.

they empower their students, faculty, and staff to exceed the expectations of society through academic excellence, community enrichment and service to the public good.

Don't have time to listen? Read the transcript!

Lee Doubleday: Hello and welcome to our first episode of our nursing career series. Joining us today is Dr. Joan Rich, vice president of nursing at Rasmussen University. For those of you who don’t know, Rasmussen University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to global enrichment and meeting the evolving needs of their diverse communities. With an emphasis on innovative programs, dynamic curriculum, and general education skills, they’re committed to being a pioneer in the field of career-focused education. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and Rasmussen University trains its students to enter the workforce in nursing, business, design, education, health sciences, justice studies, and technology career fields. Joan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Joan Rich: Well, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Lee: All right. Now, today we want to discuss nursing careers and specifically, we want to talk about the difference between an ADN and a BSN degree. As I understand it, there are many similarities between the two programs—similar career outlooks and demand—but also some key differences. For the benefit of our listeners, can you briefly describe what an ADN program entails—and what it is?

Joan: I’d be happy to. Thank you. As you mentioned, both the associate degree—that’s the ADN—and the BSN do have similarities. Both take the same national exam at the end of their successful educational experience; that is called the NCLEX. However, the timeframe and the content of the curriculum is slightly different. Additionally, the ADN student is awarded their associate degree after successfully completing a program, while the BSN student is awarded the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. So, they get two different credentials after the completion of their programs. And if I can just say, Lee—I want to be really clear that I love nursing. I think it’s the best career in the world. But nursing is truly not for everyone. I think sometimes students hear, “Oh wow, look what an RN is making,” and they’re going to jump into that career. But if they’re not really ready to put the time in to learning the science behind taking care of all the patients that are counting on them, as well as having a caring and empathetic personality, it’s really not the right career for them. Not to tell people not to do it, but I want to make that clear because sometimes students go into nursing for the wrong reason. So, now I’ve made that declaration for everybody. But you really have to have that passion to go through. The ADN or the associate degree nursing typically—in other schools, it’s about a two-year program. We’re on the quarter system. So, if we have a student that comes to us with no college experience, they can come in and out of our program in seven quarters. If they have some college experience, some general ed sciences that they may need, they can do it in six. And if they have a licensed practical nurse—or an LVN, as some states call it—they can come in and out and earn their associate degree in as little as five quarters. The ADN curriculum have some general skills that we require such as math skills that they would take in their general education courses, basic sciences such as anatomy, physiology. And then they take their nursing core courses, which include things like pharmacology and all other nursing education courses, so they can successfully care for people across the lifespan. Typically, an ADN student can often work in a hospital setting, clinic setting, long-term care, or occupational settings. The pay differential for starting as an RN—or starting as a new BSN honestly—really isn’t that much different when you start. The pay right now is somewhere, depending what stage you’re in, between $70,000 and $80,000 annually. It depends on where you are, though, again. The pay difference will occur later between that ADN and BSN, as one decides they want to go in various leadership tracks, etc.

Lee: So, tell me. Is the discrepancy between an ADN and a BSN later down the road as they’re looking for a leadership track—in order to be considered for the leadership track—is that the BSN as a higher probability of being selected to further their career?

Joan: That’s a great question, Lee. And truly, it depends where you live in the United States. Our rural areas have more opportunities for ADN in leadership positions than perhaps our metro or urban communities. We also need to look at where they’re going to be working. As an example, if they’re working in a magnet hospital—magnet is kind of a quality symbol, if you will. When you have a magnet status, that tells you that at least 80% of your RNs are BSN graduates. So yeah, you’ll find more floor managers, etc., will have BSN in those situations.

Lee: I mean, you say it’s a magnet hospital?

Joan: Yes. It’s a quality assurance stamp of approval. And several hospitals across the nation try very hard to earn that magnet status and keep that magnet status. What they have found is the more BSNs you have, the less likely you are to have what we call sentinel events. So, in other words, the BSN nurse may be able to ascertain and address potential areas of concern faster than an ADN. The examples we’re given were less medical injuries, like falls, if we have a BSN caring for a patient versus ADN. And medication errors is another one they cited, that BSNs may be able to pick up on that more quickly than an ADN because of some of their additional training.

Lee: Got it. Okay. Wow, that’s really interesting. The other thing I found interesting—well, first of all, I didn’t know about magnet hospitals. Maybe that just speaks to my own ignorance, but I did not know that that was the thing. But the other thing that I found interesting in what you said was that ADNs may have an increased probability—I guess, if you will—of going into a little more of a leadership role in rural areas because of scarcity or just demand for nurses. Now, due to COVID, it’s sort of an interesting time because there are probably more opportunities in this field than in the recent history. Can you speak to it? I mean, I wasn’t prepared to talk about this. But can you speak to that a little bit about how COVID-19 has kind of impacted—? If I’m thinking about going into nursing, I may consider an ADN program—especially now more than ever, because I could get into the field faster, and I may have opportunities available to me that wouldn’t have been available to me in the past, without the demand that we have now. So, what’s kind of going on? Give me your take.

Joan: Yeah. It’s really an interesting time to be in nursing, interesting being the key word. I don’t know if that’s really what I’d call it, but for this podcast I’ll call it interesting. We are seeing nurses leaving our profession by the drove. COVID has been so taxing to everyone. And so currently, there’s about 3.9 million RNs in our nation—in the United States—and in 2018 we were seeing up through now about 60,000 RNs leaving per year. So, we knew we needed more and more. Now we look at COVID. We’re seeing our nurses retiring faster—on a fast track, if you will. They maybe had five more years to go, and they said, “I’m hanging it up. I’m burnt out. I’m spent, and I’m done.”

Lee: Wow, wow. So, the demand is just huge right now, and it’s a great thing that we have schools like Rasmussen University that can train individuals to quickly enter the field to supplement the demand that we have in this country because, as we all know, nurses are needed. And so, I think it’s great what you guys are doing, and I commend Rasmussen University for everything that you all are doing. And I just think it’s such a great opportunity for someone who is thinking about getting into this field because, as you mentioned, if I were interested in becoming a nurse, I could become a nurse with Rasmussen University. I could be in and out quicker than maybe some of the alternative options and be working in the field. I could even work for a couple of years and then decide, “Hey, you know what? I want to teach also, go back and give back to the community by teaching what I’ve learned,” and there may be additional opportunities there, like you mentioned, where it’s hard to find that help right now. So interesting is maybe not the right word to use, but there’s a lot of opportunity, which I think is—

Joan: Very true.

Lee: —maybe a positive spin on the current state.

Joan: I think so, too. And one of the things that you mentioned, I do think is so important. And I’m starting my tenth year here with Rasmussen, and I’ve always said we want to meet the student where they are in life. And that’s why we have the full credentials, from LPN, ADN, BSN, MSN, and DNP and nurse practitioner. So, wherever you are in this spectrum and what you can do with your family situation, etc., is where we want to meet you. But no matter what program you go into, it’s rigorous—and it should be rigorous because you have someone’s life in your hands.

Lee: Yeah, no. You’re right. You’re right. Well, this is great. It sounds like a BSN would obviously open more doors for you maybe down the road, but an—

Joan: Correct.

Lee: —ADN program may be a great way for you to get your foot in the industry and jump sort of right into the career. Do you find that students are more inclined to jump into the ADN program to see if it’s right for them before deciding to go into a BSN program, or do students—? Yeah. There’s probably two different types of students. There’s probably students that are interested in an ADN program to see if it’s right for them, but there are probably some students that say, “Hey, I know I want to be a nurse. I want to get as much training as I can, as fast as I can,” and a fast-tracked BSN program might be perfect for them. So, what are you seeing as someone who educates?

Joan: Right. You’ve hit it on the head, Lee, and if you need to work—all the programs are rigorous. But if you need to work a little bit, the ADN program is more forgiving than the BSN. The BSN is a higher credit load, and it is a more rigorous program. The ADN and BSN, like we said, you take the same NCLEX. However, the BSN program includes additional components such as community and public health, research and theory, and a different leadership course. So, it’s really prepping that particular student for the next level up. Also, as you go across the nation—and certainly true with our program—there’s a different level of accepting as far as, many schools have a TEAS test or a HESI exam, whatever their entrance exam is. And so, the ADN for us is slightly lower than our BSN because our BSN is a more rigorous program.

To your specific question about the ADN, what they could do—many of our ADN students come in and go to work, and then their employer will give them a stipend for education, and they’ll come back to us and take our RN-to-BSN CBE—competency-based education—completer program, which is fully online. So, they can work full time. They can do their RN to BSN in the evenings or in the morning or whenever they want. And there’s only two clinical components with that, and they can do that in their community, so that works well for them. If you automatically know, “I want to be a public health nurse in Minnesota. I want to be a licensed school nurse. I want to work in the ER or trauma unit,” then we have those students that go right to the BSN. And that’s an example. There’s many reasons why. If you know you want to do a BSN and you have those opportunities, we want to do that. Our BSN can be completed if you have no experience at all—no gen ed—in as little as 33 months. And if you have some gen ed experience or you’re a second degree—like you’ve got an English degree or something like that and you’re coming back, that’s what we call our second degree. You can complete our BSN program in as little as 18 months. So that works well for others as well.

Lee: Yeah, yeah. No kidding. That sounds great. We sort of touched on this a little bit earlier, but a lot of our listeners are guidance counselors, and they’re helping students figure out what it is that they want to do. But a lot of our listeners are also individuals who may be considering this career path for themselves. What would you say are two to three characteristics or traits that someone would have—or would have to have—to be successful in the nursing career path? I know you had touched on, obviously, feeling the need to help others and to have a passion for it—but what are some others that you can think of that may help a guidance counselor guide someone to the right path? Or a listener may be thinking, “Yeah, you know what, I am like that. I think this would be a good path for me.” What would you say?

Joan: Perfect. Outside of compassion and passion, I would say that a student needs to be organized because you’re doing multiple things as a nurse. You’re multitasking all the time. You also need to be a very good listener. And if I was a guidance counselor and they’ve done particularly well in science and math, nursing is a great career for them.

Lee: Oh, that’s a good, interesting tidbit there—the science and math. Okay, great. Okay, now let’s assume that I’m someone and I’m listening to this and I’m thinking, “Wow, this nursing could be for me.” What is something that I should look for in a school that offers a nursing program? Can you sort of run through a checklist, if you will, of things that I need to make sure that the school has? I’m assuming both the school and the program to be accredited. I’d like to see relationship with employers. What are some things that I should be looking for as a student in a nursing school?

Joan: I would look at—I would ask to see their curriculum. It’s available online. You can look at the catalog. Look at the descriptions of the course. Are they innovative? Does it truly meet the needs within their community? I know we—for example, we have advisory boards all over. And we’ve really listened to what they’re needing in the community. We have a separate course just for the aging adults, because every day 10,000 people are turning 65 from now till 2020. We’re going to have the rate population is going to be the older adult. Our goal is not just to care for that older adult, but to keep them healthy. How do we do health promotion, etc. and take care of grandma and grandpa until they’re 100? And so, we listened to our advisory team—our advisory experts—and professionals where they are. So, I would say really look at the curriculum, also look at your community, look at your clinical sites. Are they innovative? Do they cross the life span? Do you have some amazing partnerships? Does that school have, so? And, also, the faculty. Faculty—what’s their credentials? What do they bring to the table? What’s their experience? We’re very proud of that.

Lee: Yeah, yeah. One thing that I would just piggyback on that is probably also taking a look at the flexibility of the schedule, the class schedule. Because if I’m a working adult or maybe a single mom or dad, the flexibility as far as when classes are offered would be important to me too, I think.

Joan: For those ADNs that are going on for their RN-to-BSN—the RN-to-BSN program is extremely flexible. But you also have to know that clinicals are clinical and one needs to go there. The other piece I would say they can look at as they go across is innovation as far as technology. We have a national simulation director, and all of our sites that we offer that—our School of Nursing have a simulation center. And so, it’s very important now that simulation is a great way to prepare students in a safe environment before we send them out to a clinical.

Lee: Yeah, very interesting. And I agree with you on that point—is that you need to make sure the school is using the best technology because once you get out in the field, that’s what you’re going to have to be accustomed to. So good point.

Joan: Correct.

Lee: Well, Dr. Rich, it’s been a great episode, and thank you so much for joining the podcast. I think we talked about a lot here. We kind of talked about the difference between an ADN and a BSN program. We talked about the demand for nurses right now and how COVID-19 has maybe placed a little bit more pressure on that demand. And we talked about what to look for in a nursing program and what characteristics kind of make up a great nurse. Can you tell me a little bit about—talk to me about Rasmussen University. Where would I go to learn more about your school? That website? Give me the website, give me just where I should go to learn more about you guys.

Joan: Thank you. Yes, you could certainly go to our website,, and look for the School of Nursing. It will give you all of our locations, all the programs offered. And we offer everything from that PN, Practical Nursing, Associate Degree, Bachelor of Science, Master’s in nursing with various tracks, which includes—one is a master’s in education. So, for those of you listening that have your bachelor’s out there, come on back—let’s get you on our MSN program, which is flexible, and get you out there teaching our future nurses of America. And then our DNP, which is also a CBE and online. So, we’re very excited that we offer the full suite to truly meet that student where they are in life.

Lee: Okay, cool. Well, Dr. Rich, it’s been a pleasure having you.

Joan: Thank you very much, and I look forward to seeing you again.

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