Moving On: What is the Best Degree to Complement a BSN?

Earning a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing is a path to a number of professional careers. Bedside nurses are always in high demand, and with the advent of universal health care in the United States, this is sure to be the case for many years to come. What’s more, the aging U.S. population foretells a large increase in health care utilization over the next 20 to 30 years. Nevertheless, as a BSN-prepared nurse, bedside care is not the only option open to you. With a bit more education, you have the ability to move in many different directions as your interests and your personal and professional goals change. Here are just a few options you may want to pursue.

Masters of Science in Nursing: Advanced Practice Nurse

Advanced practice nurses are highly qualified independent professionals. There are two broad categories of advanced practice nurse: Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner, both of which require a Master of Science Degree. While their scope of practice varies, nurses in advanced practice roles are typically experts in a specific nursing sub-specialty, such as psychiatry, pediatrics, or oncology. Nurse specialists generally act as educators and consultants to both patients and other health care professionals, while nurse practitioners work in collaboration with a physician providing direct patient care. Depending on the state in which they practice, Nurse Practitioners may also be required to pass a certification exam in the specialty of their choice. If you are considering this career path, this 2007 report from the Council of State Boards of Nursing is a very thorough overview of both roles.

Bachelor of Paralegal Studies

Many attorneys employ nurses as expert witnesses, forensic experts and medical researchers in medical malpractice, criminal and personal injury cases that require nursing expertise. Any nurse with 5 years or more of practice experience may apply for certification as a legal nurse consultant or forensic nurse (a nurse who collects evidence from victims and those accused of a crime.) However, adding a bachelor of science degree in paralegal studies allows a nurse to assume more complex legal duties, such as interviewing witnesses, preparing legal arguments and writing briefs. Several universities in the U.S. offer a bachelors degree in paralegal studies. Moreover, many of them allow you to complete your course work online.

Masters in Health Care Administration

Health Care Administration is a broad and ever-expanding field. As hospitals, insurers and the U.S. government all struggle with the challenges of providing comprehensive health care to an aging and increasingly less healthy America, more hospitals are using doctors and nurse’s in administrative roles. Whether you choose health care finance, patient care delivery, legislative compliance, or any number of equally challenging practice areas, a Masters degree in health care administration is a certain gateway to an exciting career. As of this writing only nine universities offer this degree. Make certain that whatever program you choose is accredited by Accreditation for Health Management Education (CAHME).

Nursing is an exciting and ever-expanding career path that no longer limits professionals to a bedside nursing career. Many practice areas are open to nurses, and many degree programs are available to help the BSN-prepared nurse move in the direction of her choice. Those mentioned here are just a few of the many exciting options available today.