Nurse Prepared at the Associate Degree Level vs. Nurse Baccalaureate Level
Quality patient care depends on how nurses are prepared to take their responsibilities at the health care facilities. Nursing is among the few professions that consist of multiple educational paths for qualification. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), several researches have proved that lower mortality rates, positive results, and minimum medical errors are associated with baccalaureate degree nursing (“AACN Fact Sheet,” 2015). This is because nurse baccalaureate level involves a longer exposure to education than an associate degree level nursing. Thus, educational level in nursing profession is fundamental in offering safe, high quality patient care since it incorporates recognition of cultural, psychological, as well as spiritual traits in patients for appropriate decision-making.
Differences in Competencies
AACN acknowledges the level of education as the core factor in differentiating between an associate-degree level nurse and a baccalaureate degree level nurse. An associate-degree nurse usually takes approximately two to three years in college (Bickerstaff, 2015). Their preparation incorporates limited skills in therapeutic communication, case management, and adult teaching and learning. According to Talley and Travis (2014), preparation of associate-degree nurses involves instilling basic knowledge and skills necessary to attend to individuals, families, and communities. Some of the skills in this level include identifying disease conditions, familiarization in clinical settings, handling bedside issues, and conducting a few research studies.
While associate-degree nurses are necessary in offering quality patient care, highly developed skills that include critical thinking, leadership skills, as well as professionalism in nursing, are prerequisite for patient satisfaction and overall outcomes (Lane & Kohlenberg, 2010). The current nursing profession has continued to advance to enhance holistic patient care and to meet the high demands of health care, hence, some hospitals have volunteered to raise their associate-degree nurses to an advance level through training to compete with other professionals within the healthcare system.
On the other hand, baccalaureate nurse level involves receiving the same education as the associate-degree level, in addition to education relating to families and group dynamics, research, teaching, learning, leadership, comprehensive care, and case management (Talley & Travis, 2014). Some of the baccalaureate nurses have been trained in basic support and counseling techniques while those who have advanced their studies with master’s degree or doctorate degree have the capacity to offer individual and group therapy, undertake nursing research, as well as evaluating sophisticated intervention programs.
The role of nursing has continued to change as with the change in health care demands, but the level of education has remained intact. The profession of nursing must focus on transforming the health care, research, development of theory-based care, meeting technological demands, and handling of emergencies. Baccalaureate nurses are expected to be competent in handling socio-cultural issues, economic problems among patients, as well as community health issues. They can also handle management and administrative duties, humanities, and extensive patient care. Their services should be evidence-based, with high proficiency in technology.
Differences in Patient Care Approach
Patients prefer nurses who understand their needs effectively so that they can be assured of their safety. When patents fail to communicate effectively concerning their needs, they may refuse to take medication, and their situation may become worse. For instance, in palliative care, associate-degree nurses may fail to evaluate all the patients’ needs because such nurses are only trained to check major signs of diseases, prescribe medication, feed the patients, and direct patients in their wards. Palliative care nursing involves patient care that emphasizes on preventing and relieving suffering from patients and their families without considering the level of suffering or the requirement for other therapies (Olin, 2012).
Contrariwise, baccalaureate nurses have extensive medical skills that acknowledge social, cultural, economic, psychological and spiritual aspects of patients; hence, they stand a better position to offer overall needs of patients. Working in palliative nursing care require registered nurses who have trained in acute care, excellent communication skills, outstanding assessment skills and proper decision-making skills (Olin, 2012). Baccalaureate nurses understand physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients, as well as their families, hence, are capable of offering the appropriate form of care, which enhance their relationship with the patients.
I came to realize that baccalaureate nurses handle patients better than associate-degree nurses when I took my aunt to a hospital after complaining of nausea, frequent urination, stomach pain, and rapid breathing. The nurse only asked for symptoms and after some few minutes, he directed us to the laboratory, where several tests were carried out. It was only after bringing him the results that he directed us to another doctor, who was quite welcoming and was eager to know where we came from. After assessing the results, the doctor asked whether we normally do exercises, or engage in sports. He was also interested to know whether any of our family members has ever suffered from cancer. Although we were shocked by such questions, the doctor assured my aunt that she was lucky that she was suffering from Stage 1 Diabetes, which was curable if handle on time. That was when I recognized the difference between the first caregiver and the second one. The former did not connect well with our need, but the latter was accommodating and assuring. He was keen to involve the family members on the patient’s situation to understand patients’ culture, lifestyle, and beliefs.
The nursing profession has encountered gradual transformation to meet the requirement of health care, as well as the nursing shortage through the associate degree programs. However, the nursing profession needs a baccalaureate degree qualification to incorporate critical thinking, leadership and management skills, and professional mobility (Lane & Kohlenberg, 2010). Apart from handling minor clinical issues and physical needs of patients, nursing professions require to handle emotional, psychological, and cultural issues of patients. Hospitals are assisting their nurses to advance their skills through training so that they can offer holistic patient care. Baccalaureate nurses have become fashionable in offering evidence-based care, hence assuring patients of their survival.
AACN Fact Sheet (2015). American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved on 21 Nov. 2015 from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/aacn-fact-sheet
Bickerstaff, L. (2015). What degree do I need to pursue a career in nursing? New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
Lane, S. H., & Kohlenberg, E. (2010). The Future of Baccalaureate Degrees for Nurses Susan H. Lane, and Eileen Kohlenberg The Future of Baccalaureate Degrees for Nurses. Nursing Forum, 45(4), 218-227. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6198.2010.00194.x
Olin, J. (2012, Jan. 26). Is a Career in Palliative Care and Hospice for You? RN Central. Retrieved on 21 Nov. 2015 from http://www.rncentral.com/blog/2012/is-a-career-in-palliative-care-and-hospice-for-you/
Talley, R. C., Travis, S. S., & Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (2014).Multidisciplinary coordinated caregiving: Research, practice, policy. New York, NY: Springer.