The concept of Associate Degree nursing was developed out of innovative research done across the United States in the 1950′s which showed that individuals could be prepared in two years to be competent and caring registered nurses (RNs) who would become “the heart of bedside nursing care.” Hesston College still connects to this original mission of Associate Degree nursing by continuing an emphasis on “touching lives.” The current purpose of the nursing program is “to prepare entry-level practitioners who view nursing as a service and are equipped to deliver direct, quality client care through nurturing the body, mind and spirit.”
Over time, Associate Degree nursing has proven its merit. Each year, more AD-prepared graduates take the licensure exam than those prepared by either the diploma or four-year BSN educational routes. From 2007 through 2009, 58 percent of the U.S. candidates taking the NCLEX-RN licensure exam were graduates of Associate Degree nursing programs. First-attempt pass rates of Associate Degree graduates on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam are typically comparable to the rates for graduates from other educational routes, according to National Council of State Boards of Nursing NCLEX pass rates . In the clinical setting, Associate Degree nurses perform a variety of nursing roles with competency and caring.
Advantages of the Associate Degree in Nursing
Students who choose the two-year Associate Degree for their nursing education experience the following advantages:
- An early opportunity to affirm career choice by beginning nursing experience already in the first semester of college
- Savings of time for those eager to enter the workplace
- Significant financial savings since programs typically only take four semesters to complete
- Access to exciting employment opportunities in a wide variety of roles and settings
- An opportunity to continue education while working at an RN wage
- Financial assistance with tuition costs (once in the workplace as an RN, many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement for RNs choosing to continue their education for a bachelor’s degree in nursing)
- Flexible options for RN-to-BSN study (many programs offer evening or weekend classes, on-line courses, and advanced placement for RNs who want to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing)
- An opportunity to bring actual employment experience to upper-level nursing college courses, resulting in 3-4 years of combined clinical experience in an academic setting
Job Outlook and Employment Opportunities
Hesston College Associate Degree graduates have a wide range of position opportunities open to them immediately upon graduation and licensure. Alumni typically are employed as staff nurses and charge nurses in hospitals, medical centers, extended-care facilities, home health care, clinics, and community health. Graduates can enter a wide range of nursing areas including medical nursing, surgical nursing, maternity care, pediatrics, mental health care, operative nursing, urgent care, home health/hospice care, hospital out-patient services and long-term care.
The current and projected job market for RNs across the United States is very strong. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 edition , “Overall job opportunities for registered nurses are expected to be excellent, but may vary by employment and geographic setting. Employment of RNs is expected to grow much faster than the average and, because the occupation is very large, 581,500 new jobs will result, among the largest number of new jobs for any occupation. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of job openings will result from the need to replace experienced nurses who leave the occupation.”
How much growth might the industry experience? Again, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that “Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by technological advances in patient care, which permit a greater number of health problems to be treated, and by an increasing emphasis on preventive care. In addition, the number of older people, who are much more likely than younger people to need nursing care, is projected to grow rapidly.”
Median annual wages of registered nurses were $62,450 in May 2008. Many employers offer flexible work schedules, child care, educational benefits, and bonuses (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Recent nursing graduates from Hesston College have found employment in nursing positions locally, throughout Kansas, and in other states. They are successfully employed in a wide range of care settings.