A Closer Look at the URI Online RN to BS in Nursing Program

The University of Rhode Island offers an online bridge program for working nurses who wish to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. The term "RN to BSN" has become common, but what does that really mean? And what is the difference between an RN to BSN and an RN to BS in Nursing? Dr. Mary Leveilee, the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs at URI, helps clear things up.

What Is the Difference Between a BS in Nursing and a BSN?

There isn't actually a difference in the core requirements. It's about which organization is granting the degree -- the school or a college of nursing. A School of Nursing typically grants a BSN while a College of Nursing grants a BS with a concentration in nursing. So, here we have a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in nursing. It just depends on where you're getting your degree and how it's awarded.

What Makes the URI Program Different?

The University of Rhode Island is a flagship research institution. Many states have what we call a three-tier system: community college, college, and university. With this approach, people have options in education. Within the university, one of the major initiatives is research. And here in the URI College of Nursing, we absolutely have that commitment.

In fact, we have a statue of Florence Nightingale on our campus. She was the founder of modern nursing and our profession's first researcher. She very much practiced in a way that allowed her to determine "is this method better or that method" when delivering care. We value nursing research at URI.

Why Is Nursing Research Important?

Many of our faculty are conducting research in a multitude of areas. We have maternal childcare. We have pediatrics. So there's a lot going on here to forward nursing knowledge and impact practice.

All BS students take the nursing research course, which is a foundational class within the RN to BS program. The people who are teaching that course are informed by the work that's going on here and in the nursing profession. Even if it isn't one of our research faculty teaching the course, all of the instructors can give real-life situations, and bring current research knowledge to the table so that students are understanding at the baccalaureate level what research means to their practice.

There's a large gap between a research finding being published and disseminated and actually trickling down to practice.

We're trying to really help our baccalaureate students understand that practice is evidence-based. We have an ownership to ourselves and to our patients to be able to discern the current literature and research that's being disseminated. Ideally, we want to forward quality-improvement projects in the hospitals or organizations that they're working in.

What Is the Value of a BS in Nursing for a Working Nurse?

It's interesting because I, from my own practice, have certainly always encouraged people to get their bachelor's degree. Some, if they feel forced into it, are really not going to change, but those who really embrace the opportunity have said, "I think about patient care in such a different way," where it's not just "I'm here in this moment."

They start to think about the patient in the context of their life. It's a much broader perspective. BSN nurses start to think about societal issues and patient education, as well. As an example, I have a background in psychiatric nursing, and have known students who have done projects  with the local fire department. Fire fighters are first-responders to a lot of situations that involve mental health.

So, these students were able to gain education around being a first-responder to a call regarding psychiatrically-driven behavior. They have seen themselves be able to not only think about the patient in front of them, but then to think in a more global and sustainable way. And the quality-improvement piece -- they start to think about systems where patients are cared for, rather than just the patient they're caring for.

Another example is understanding resources for the community from a nursing perspective. How far away is the grocery store? Do they have to get food from a convenience story? Are they in a food desert? It's looking at things that affect patient health, looking at area data. It's much more than just reading a book; they're having to now look at a community and look at data as well as that boots-on-the-ground view of what they're observing. Students think about how they're going to impact change within a community.

Why Should ADN RNs Consider the Online Program?

It's an accelerated online program that is set up to teach people the material quite quickly so that they can achieve their goals, advance in their career, advance in their professional practice, and hopefully be able to pursue other opportunities in their nursing career because they have achieved this level of education.

Finally, many healthcare organizations have made the decision to require a baccalaureate degree for nurses, and so it may actually impact their ability to work in the organization that they desire. Earning a bachelor's degree can help nurses forward their careers by being able to choose where to work and have more career opportunities. There isn't a global statement that can apply to all, but in many organizations, you won't have opportunities for career advancement if you don't have your baccalaureate degree.

Learn more about URI's online RN to BS in Nursing program.

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