Nursing is a profession that offers numerous opportunities for employment and career advancement. There are also many ways by which aspiring nurses could enter into the industry, including traditional education and training, as well as more innovative avenues that have been developed only over the past few years in response to the changing needs of the healthcare industry.
The more recently introduced entry points by which aspiring nurses could enter the profession are directly related to some of the most exciting new disciplines in the nursing arena. Along with the growth and diversification of the role of nursing–and healthcare in general–there has been a corresponding increase in the need for newer and more innovative education and training programs, many of which are meant to fill specific positions in the industry. Although traditional nursing programs remain a valid and effective entry point into nursing, aspiring nurses now have a lot more options than ever with regard to getting started in a nursing career.
Traditional nursing entry points
In the United States, as in most countries around the world, there are three avenues by which one may enter the nursing industry: hospital-based diploma programs, community college-based associate degree programs, and university-based baccalaureate programs. These remain the traditional pathways by which candidates may enter the nursing profession, although a number of alternative programs have since been introduced in order to address specific needs for more specialized personnel in the healthcare industry.
Hospital-based diploma programs
Hospital-based diploma programs typically adhere to the apprenticeship model. These programs generally prepare aspiring nurses for work in direct patient care in a broad variety of settings. Although many diploma programs are offered in affiliation with colleges and universities, aspiring nurses will have to undergo further education and training in order to earn a nursing degree. With the move of hospital-based programs into colleges and universities in the mid-1960s, there has been a significant decline in the number of diploma programs available.
Associate Degree programs
Associate Degree programs are typically offered in a community college setting. For those looking for a more efficient and more cost-effective entry point into the nursing profession, enrolling in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program is a good first step. Today, nearly 43% of the nursing workforce gets their start in the industry by way of ADN programs. In these programs, aspiring nurses are provided education and training in clinical and technical skills necessary for working in a number of different healthcare settings. Almost concurrent with the decline in hospital-based diploma programs, there has been a corresponding increase in associate degree programs as well.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are typically offered at colleges and universities as a 4-year educational program. These programs prepare aspiring nurses for a broader variety of roles in virtually every area of the healthcare industry. BSN programs typically cover all the course work provided in ADN and diploma programs. In addition, aspiring nurses receive more intensive education and training in physical and social sciences, as well as research, health concerns in public and community settings, management, and even humanities.