How do I choose Between an ASN and BSN Program?

In the nursing field, professional licenses and job opportunities depend upon the level of education you receive. Registered nurses must obtain an ASN or a BSN degree. However, the different paths may affect your career trajectory, so choose wisely.

What is an ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing) Program?

An ASN program is a two-year Associate of Science in Nursing degree that provides an entry-level credential. This credential qualifies graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse.

Because regulatory agencies require that all RNs have similar knowledge and skills, ASN programs are streamlined, but they are not shortcuts.

What is a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) Program? 

A BSN program is a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. The BSN programs cover the same material as ASN but at greater depth. They also include more extensive courses designed to broaden your horizons as a person, and carry out more complex responsibilities as a professional.

How Do I Choose Between an ASN and BSN Program? 

The choice between pursuing an ASN and a BSN can be difficult. Here are some specific items to consider:

Program Length

If you have always wanted to be an RN, but you have too many responsibilities to leave the workforce to study for four years, an ASN program will get you out of the classroom and into the field in half the time it takes to complete a BSN program. Graduates are eligible for the same nursing license and most of the same entry-level positions. ASN programs are for students with a nursing dream and no time to waste.

Learning Focus

BSN programs not only provide knowledge and skills training, but they emphasize developing nurse leaders. Alternatively, ASN programs are skills-driven, training nurses for work in busy clinical environments.

In BSN programs, learning encompasses a broader range of topics that prepare students for higher-level nursing positions. Graduates are better equipped with the critical thinking skills and leadership qualities needed to advance their careers.

If providing hands-on bedside care is your primary goal, either program is a good option with ASN being the quickest option. However, if you see yourself as a unit manager, charge nurse, or a nursing director, you have greater chances of moving into those positions with a BSN. The extra clinical experiences a BSN provides will make you a more confident nurse.

Career Opportunities

While both ASN and BSN graduates can be registered nurses and work in various healthcare settings, BSN graduates have an edge in terms of career opportunities. Superior healthcare institutions, for example, prefer to hire BSNs for specialty positions. If your heart is set on being a maternity or dialysis nurse, a BSN degree is your best bet.

Professional Growth 

True professional growth in nursing happens only through education. No amount of experience, for example, allows a BSN to become a nurse practitioner (APRN) without additional degrees and certifications. If being an APRN or a nurse educator is your long-term goal, earning a BSN puts you closer to the finish line.

What do I Learn During an ASN Program? 

ASN programs teach all the skills required to succeed as a professional nurse. Core courses include:

Fundamentals of Nursing

This class is your introduction to the nursing field. It includes a broad overview of the nursing profession and the role of nurses in the healthcare system. Students explore:

The nursing process — you’ll learn about the five-step method nurses use to gather and analyze data, make nursing diagnoses, develop plans of care, implement nursing interventions, and evaluate patient progress.

Nursing law and ethics — the ethical principles, professional values and legal responsibilities that guide the nursing profession.

Cultural competency — how to provide patient-centered care among diverse populations by respecting others’ social, religious, and cultural beliefs and allowing patients to make decisions about their individualized health and treatment plans collaboratively with healthcare professionals.

Adult Health Assessment

Nurses gather valuable data through assessment. This course walks you through the first stage of a holistic nursing process. You will learn to perform:

Physical assessments — systematic physical examinations that assess overall physical health including the evaluation of objective anatomic findings through the use of observation, palpation, percussion and auscultation.

Functional assessments — evaluations of functional abilities that determine patients’ level of independence and identify limitations.

Nutritional assessment — assessing dietary habits, weight history, hydration status and compliance with doctor-recommended nutritional restrictions.

Psychosocial assessments — evaluating how patients’ mental health, emotional state and social support systems impact their health.

Pain assessment — acknowledging and assessing the patient’s pain at regular intervals, considering location, intensity, duration, aggravating and alleviating factors.

Adult Health Nursing I

In part one of this two-part, hands-on course; you will learn the basics of bedside care, such as:

Patient safety — fall and infection prevention measures.

Positioning — how to position patients with health concerns for optimal comfort and circulation.

Mobility — the proper use of assistive devices, such as canes, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Vital signs — how to measure the body’s most basic functions including pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respiratory rate.

Hygiene and personal care — bathing, grooming and skin care techniques for patients of all ages and abilities.

Pharmacology/Drug Administration

Administering medications is a large part of a RN’s job. Topics in this course include:

Drug categories — the classification of drugs based on their chemical structure, therapeutic uses, and mechanisms of action.

Pharmacokinetics — how drugs are absorbed, metabolized, and excreted by the body.

Medication administration — how to prepare and administer medications, including dosage calculation, through various routes.

Side effects and adverse reactions — the side effects, adverse reactions and medication interactions associated with different drugs.

Medication safety — a review of medication safety considerations and error prevention strategies.

Adult Health Nursing II

Building on the skills you learned in part one of this course, students learn about:

Wound care — how to assess and manage wounds, detect signs of infection, use proper techniques to promote wound healing, and apply appropriate dressing.

Urinary catheterization — inserting a catheter into the bladder, using sterile technique.

Tracheostomy and feeding tube care — cleaning and maintaining the patency of a tracheostomy or feeding tube.

Oxygen administration — the set-up, use and maintenance of oxygen equipment and other respiratory devices, such as CPAP machines and nebulizers.

Blood and IV medication administration — you learn how to safely administer blood products and IV drugs.

Analgesic pumps — how to load and set the parameters on patient-direct analgesic pumps.

Patient education — developing teaching plans that educate patients and families on health topics from proper food choices, medication adherence to disease prevention.

Maternal/Infant Nursing

Registered nurses learn about maternal and infant nursing as part of their training. You’ll learn about:

Prenatal care — how to provide comprehensive care for the expectant mother.

Labor and delivery — management of the labor and delivery process, including pain management techniques and fetal monitoring.

Postpartum care — providing support for breastfeeding mothers, assessing for postpartum complications, and educating women about newborn care.

Newborn care — caring for the newborn infant.

High-risk pregnancies and complications — the many complications that arise during pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum period, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and postpartum depression.

Pediatric Nursing

This course covers the care of children from infancy through adolescence. Topics include:

Growth and development — an overview of human growth and development.

Screenings and assessments — the use of screening assessments to identify developmental delays or diseases or health conditions before there are any signs and symptoms.

Preventive care — the nurse’s role in preventive care, including immunizations, nutrition, safety, and overall health promotion.

Illness management — a look at the broad range of childhood illnesses and nursing considerations.

Pediatric interventions — transitioning adult nursing skills to pediatric care setting to meet the medical and psychosocial needs of children.

Psychiatric Nursing

Psychiatric nursing focuses on supporting individuals with mental health disorders. Key concepts include:

Mental health assessment — how to evaluate individuals’ psychological, emotional, and cognitive well-being.

Psychiatric disorders — you’ll learn about the wide range of psychiatric, mood, and neurodevelopmental disorders affecting all age groups.

Crisis intervention — how to assess and defuse psychiatric crises with an emphasis on situational safety and preventing self-harm.

Medication management — a review of psychotropic medications, including their indications, potential side effects and nursing considerations for administration and monitoring.

Psychiatric nursing interventions — non-pharmacological interventions, such as talk therapy, behavior modification techniques, crisis counseling and self-care measures.

Therapeutic communication — communication techniques to establish rapport, build trust and facilitate open and non-judgmental communication with individuals experiencing mental health challenges.

Community Health Nursing

Community health, or public health nursing, involves caring for specific populations of patients or entire communities. Students investigate:

Community surveillance — assessing the needs of a community by conducting assessments, gathering epidemiological data, identifying disease trends, and using primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.

Health promotion — how to develop health education programs on topics such as nutrition, physical activity, and immunizations that promote positive habits.

Disease control — preventing the spread of communicable diseases through targeted health practices.

Disaster preparedness and response — educating communities about disaster preparedness while providing immediate relief.

Case management and coordination — collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive resources to those in need at the community level.

Professional Nursing Leadership Practicum

The nurse practicum is a supervised learning experience that allows you to apply your knowledge and skills in a real-world healthcare setting. It is a hands-on opportunity to gain clinical experience and demonstrate your nursing and leadership competencies. You will work under the guidance of a nurse-mentor and instructors, providing direct care in a healthcare facility.

Professional Nursing Review/Licensure Preparation

Graduating with an ASN is just the first step to becoming an RN. Next, you must pass the licensure exam. Schools provide a comprehensive, end-of-program review of what to expect on the NCLEX-RN. You will more about the exam, take practice tests and build effective test-taking strategies for the big day.

What Do I Learn in a BSN Program?

BSN programs cover the same core material as ASN programs but more in-depth. The BSN includes some additional coursework for greater competency and nursing leadership skills. Examples include:

Pathophysiology — the study of how disease evolves and affects the body. This gives BSN students a stronger foundation of knowledge upon which to make complex clinical decisions.

Review laboratory and diagnostic test results — understanding how normal and abnormal results affect patient care is important when implementing the nursing care plan and administering provider prescriptions.

Leadership and management skills — students learn about organizational structure, leadership theory, management styles, team building, professionalism, and collaboration. Graduates are better prepared for supervisory roles.

Healthcare regulation — healthcare is a highly regulated field, so future RN leaders get a primer on the legal and regulatory framework that governs nursing. Students learn the importance of promoting policies, protocols, and best practices to mitigate legal and financial risks while improving health outcomes.

Final Thoughts

There are two major pathways to achieve your career goal of becoming a nurse. Whether the ASN or the BSN fits better is your choice. The ASN is intensive requiring exceptional time management skills and the ability to learn quickly. The BSN, while lengthier, opens doors to additional job opportunities and leadership roles. Only you can define your finish line.

Want to Learn More?

Florida National University has you covered whether you are looking for an ASN or BSN program.

ASN Program

The purpose of the Associate of Science in Nursing program at Florida National University is to provide quality nursing education to a culturally, socially, and ethnically diverse community. The program achieves this mission by preparing the graduates for employment at entry-level registered nursing positions.

BSN Program

The purpose of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is to prepare the students to become professional nurses able to function in a variety of roles while providing a higher level of care. The students will be prepared in the areas of health assessment, nursing theories and concepts, research, leadership, informatics, and health promotion across various healthcare settings. The graduates will acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to safely practice patient care and take the NCLEX exam. FNU awards a Bachelor of Science degree upon completion.

Interested in nursing? Let Florida National University answer all of your questions. Contact us today to learn more about our ASN or BSN programs.