Should a Bachelor’s Degree Be the Minimum Level of Education For Nurses?

Few professions in the world carry as much admiration, respect, and prestige as nursing — simply put, nurses put in enormous amounts of care and time into helping others, and people the world over understand and respect this fact. Nurses, along with doctors, topped the list of most admired professions in the US, Canada, and Britain on a recent Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, for example.

Developing the minimum level of Education

A question many have is whether a bachelor’s degree in nursing should be set at the minimum level of education for the profession, or whether in-house training, or an associate’s in nursing should be an available option — particularly for those who have worked in the field sometimes for decades.The question of education in nursing has many implications. A recent New York Times article detailed policy changes in many hospitals that required nurses to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This change occurred even when a person had worked for years as a nurse, requiring them to return to school for a costly education that few had time for.

Downside for those who are already working

A downside is that many who pursued an associate’s degree and career in nursing may have already developed their personal lives according to past requirements for the profession. When one has a family, mortgage, and long-standing career placement already established, the prospect of returning as a student can seem like an unnecessary burden — particularly if one has already learned more than most incoming bachelor’s seekers in their interim career. The majority of nurses, for example, as of 2008, had completed their associate’s degree in nursing. A shift to a bachelor’s in nursing requirement would by these figures require further education for over 50 percent of the field.

The costs of education — particularly as interest rates for school loans skyrocket — are no laughing matter, and many long-standing members of the profession will find the impetus to return for a costly degree frustrating to say the least. Debt for college and university education is one of the major issues in contemporary life, with many wondering if education cost is creating a bubble akin to the housing crash of 2008.

On the other hand, stringent educational standards can also do much good, ensuring that nurses are updated on the most important protocols and advancements within their field, and by extension allowing them to better serve patients. Physicians and dentists often see the results of returning for educational improvement on a semi-regular basis, as the learning process in healthcare is a dynamic and constantly changing one.

A Rewarding Goal

For these reasons, the question of educational requirements for a career in nursing continues and will continue to be a contentious issue, albeit one that is important in establishing the values of the profession. Whether one is a practicing nurse, or is considering a career in one of the most demanding and well-respected fields the world over, understanding the costs and challenges awaiting one is important; often the most challenging jobs require the biggest financial risk for qualification, as well as the most clear idea of a path to completing what for many is a deeply rewarding goal.