RN to BSN Curriculum: How to Earn a BSN as a Registered Nurse

By Craig Miller

03/25/2022



The RN to BSN curriculum is very rigorous, consisting of general education, electives, nursing courses, and clinical rotations designed to prepare students to enter a health setting with confidence.

In addition, there’s a heavy focus on biological, physical, and social sciences, equipping nursing students with the skills needed to enter the workforce.

Keep reading to learn more about the RN to BSN curriculum, including all required courses, how clinical rotations work, benefits of earning a BSN, and sample curriculums from leading schools.

Key Takeaways

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year program, allowing registered nurses to earn higher salaries and enter different areas of specialization.
  • The RN to BSN curriculum consists of general education courses, elective courses, nursing courses, and clinical rotations.
  • To participate in an RN to BSN program, you must have a nursing diploma, ADN or ASS, and pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX).

All About RN to BSN Programs

What Is an RN to BSN Program?

An RN to BSN program expands the scope for registered nurses to become more knowledgeable in the field.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a BSN helps strengthen clinical reasoning, analytical skills, and professional development by encouraging staying up to date on the latest healthcare trends.

Not to mention, RN to BSN programs allow registered nurses to earn higher salaries and specialize in different areas for a more fulfilling career.

Who Can Participate in an RN to Bsn Program?

To participate in an RN to BSN program, nursing students must have a nursing diploma, Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (ASS).

In addition, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), have a current RN license, pass criminal background checks, and meet the school’s admissions criteria.

The RN to BSN Curriculum

What Is the RN to BSN Curriculum?

The RN to BSN curriculum is a tough program consisting of general education courses, nursing courses, and clinical hours.

Here’s a sample of courses you can expect to take at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay for each semester.

Year 1 (Pre-Nursing)

Fall – BIOLOGY 201: Principles of Biology: Cellular and

Molecular Processes, MATH 101: Advanced Algebra, and CHEM 207: Laboratory Safety

Spring – BIOL 240/241: Anatomy and Physiology, PSYCH 102: Introduction to Psychology and CHEM 108/109: Survey of General, Organic, and Biochemistry

Year 2 (Nursing Major)

Fall – BIOLOGY 323/324: Principles of Microbiology and PSYCH 343: Adult Development & Aging

Spring. NUR 240: Intro to Professional Nursing Concepts, NUR 250: Communicating and Managing Healthcare Information, and NUR 270: Basic & Intermediate Nursing Skills and Simulation

Year 3 (Nursing Major)

Fall – NUR 300: Pharmacology for Nursing Practice, NUR 310: Health Assessment for Nursing Practice, and NUR 320: Health & Illness Concepts I

Spring – NUR 350: Professional Development I: Nursing

Theory, Image, and Ethics, NUR 360: Health & Illness Concepts II, and NUR 370: Evidence-Based Practice: Translating

Research to Practice

Year 4 (Nursing Major)

Fall – NUR 400: Nursing Care of the Childbearing Family, NUR 410: Behavioral Health Nursing, and NUR 420: Nursing with Diverse Population Practicum

Spring – NUR 450: Health & Illness Concepts III: ComplexCare, NUR 461: Care Transitions Immersion Practicum, and NUR 470: Professional Development: Navigating the

Nursing Profession

What Are the Courses in the RN to BSN Program?

There are dozens of courses in the RN to BSN program. Here are some of the more prominent ones, with a brief description of each.

Health Policy

This course covers policy decisions around professional nursing practices, deep-diving into federal law, state law, and how they apply to healthcare providers, insurance carriers, and patients.

Health Assessment

This course teaches nursing students how to interview, inspect, and observe patients. It also covers vital responsibilities of assessing patients, such as percussion and auscultation.

Health Promotion

This area is all about preventative maintenance. Nursing students learn to educate patients on preventive care through screening and effective communication.

All About Clinicals

What Can I Expect With Clinicals?

With clinicals, nursing students are immersed in health care settings such as hospitals and public health agencies.

They are paired with a supervising nurse to assess patients, manage a small caseload, and put all of their nursing school learnings into practice. Consider this the “hands-on” and “on-the-job training” portion of nursing school.

How Are Clinicals Graded?

Clinicals are graded based on attendance, participation, preparedness, and homework, consisting of care plans. Every clinical rotation requires up to four care plans. Please refer to your school’s nursing program guidelines for grading criteria.

Why Are Clinicals Important?

Clinical rotations are the closest thing to being out in the real world. It allows nursing students to experience hectic hospitals and other health care settings, helping them apply nursing theory knowledge and skills learned in school.

In short, expect your communication, empathy, and intervention skills to be put to the test.

Here’s an example clinical curriculum of Marian University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program.

Semester 1 – NSG 201 Health Assessment and Communication

Semester 1 – NSG 241 Fundamentals

Semester 2 – NSG 331 Care of the Adult Client in Community /Acute Care Settings 2 – NSG 335 Mental Health Nursing

Semester 3 – NSG 307 Care of the Childbearing Client in Community/Acute Care Settings

Semester 3 – NSG 317 Care of the Pediatric Client in Community /Acute Care Settings

Semester 3 – NSG 431 Care of the Adult Client in Community/Acute Care Settings II

Semester 4 – NSG 441 Leadership/Community in the Nursing Profession

Semester 4 – NSG 451 Clinical Immersion Experience

All About the NCLEX

What Is the NCLEX Exam?

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) allows students from an accredited nursing program to become registered nurses upon passage.

There are two tests – one for prospective licensed practical nurses (NCLEX-PN) and one for aspiring registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).

What Does the NCLEX Cover?

The NCLEX covers all subject areas learned during nursing school. It breaks down questions into eight nursing subfields:

  • Management of Care
  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
  • Physiological Adaptation
  • Reduction of Risk Potential
  • Safety and Infection Control
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Basic Care and Comfort.

How Can I Prepare for the NCLEX Exam?

There are many ways to prepare for the NCLEX exam. They include mastering its computerized adaptive testing format, taking an NCLEX prep course, and remembering some fundamental tenets of the nursing profession to help guide the way you answer questions.

This guide includes a reminder to remember patient safety first. When in doubt, be sure to pick the option that will result in the greatest likelihood of maintaining a patient’s safety.

Can I Retake the NCLEX Exam if I Fail?

Yes, all test takers can retake the test 45 days after, up to eight times in a single year.

We encourage all NCLEX test takers to review their post-test diagnostic profile to learn all problem ways and the number of correct/incorrect answers by category to shore up on weaknesses and be in a better position to retake the exam.

How Long Does It Take To Complete the RN to BSN Program?

RN to BSN programs usually take up to four years for part-time enrollment and one to two years with full-time enrollment. However, length of study is based on several factors, including the school, amount of transferred credits, and the number of courses taken per semester.

Expect roughly five courses every semester for full-time programs and up to three courses for part-time programs.

Benefits of Earning a BSN

What Are the Benefits of Earning a BSN?

BSNs have significant advantages over RNs in the following areas.

Higher Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), the average salary for registered nurses is $80,010, with BSN nurses earning an average of $13,000 more.

This figure is subject to change based on state, years of experience, and areas of specialization. Do not be surprised if you start earning $100,000+ with 5+ years of experience.

Increased Demand

More and more hospitals require that all new hires have a BSN. The need for BSNs is so strong that New York released a 2017 law that requires all nurses to obtain a BSN degree within ten years after becoming a registered nurse.

Quality of Care

BSNs provide a better quality of care than RNA. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), increasing the number of BSN nurses in a hospital ward by 10% decreases patient mortality risk by 11%.

Excellent Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for registered nurses is expected to go up 9% every year through 2030, which will result in roughly 300,000 new jobs.

This favorable outlook also applies to registered nurses and nurses with Master of Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing (DSN) degrees.

Leadership

Obtaining a BSN allows you to move into leadership and management in high prestige roles as nurse manager, wellness director, or nursing supervisor.

Areas of Specialization

For BSNs, there are numerous areas of specialization. As a result, BSNs have the opportunity to join other disciplines.

Here are five nursing specialties BSNs can enter, along with their average annual salaries and a brief description.

Role: Neonatal nurse

Salary:$70,582

Description: Work with high-risk infants, such as premature babies, in an intensive care unit.

Role: Nurse Midwife

Salary: $105,030

Description: Specialize in pregnancy and childbirth. Assist women with gynecological and reproductive healthcare services from labor through delivery.

Role: Infection Control Nurse

Salary:$71,222

Description: Manages infections, diseases, and viruses to help prevent infection spread.

Role: Informatics Nurse

Salary:$78,672

Description: Working to manage healthcare data focusing on computer science and information technology.

Role: Trauma Nurse

Salary:$65,852

Description: Critical component of emergency rooms and critical care settings, helping patients manage life-threatening symptoms. This role is heavy on blood transfusions, wound healing, and emergency medications.

Proven Results

Studies by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) show that BSN nurses enjoy better patient outcomes (lower patient mortality rates and fewer clinical errors) than registered nurses with no degree.

How Much Does It Cost to Earn an RN to BSN Degree?

Costs to earn an RN to BSN degree vary based on the following criteria.

In-State Vs. Out-of-State

In-state students pay more than out-of-state students for traditional programs. For example, a community college-based nursing program could see the average cost per credit hour no more than $90 per hour instead of out-of-state tuition rates up to $220 per credit hour. With private universities, the cost of a credit hour is even higher.

Traditional Vs. Accelerated

An accelerated BSN program could cost much less than a traditional four-year college or university.

Regardless of the type of school, there are many financial aid options available to RN to BSN students. These include federal private loans, private student loans, scholarships, and grants.

How Long Does It Take To Earn a BSN?

Enrollment in a BSN program depends on several factors, including the school, education, and years of experience.

Traditional BSN programs take four years to complete. However, accelerated BSN nursing programs allow students to earn this degree in as little as 18 months for ADNs and 28-32 months for LPNs.

What Is an Accelerated BSN Program?

Accelerated BSN programs are an excellent way for registered nurses to obtain their degrees faster. It condenses four years of a traditional program into 12 to 18 months, containing science-based courses and hands-on clinical experience through clinical hours.

All in all, the RN to BSN curriculum is very rigorous, with a heavy focus on the human sciences, patient management, and clinical rotation hours for “on-the-job training.” However, successfully passing this curriculum can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling career in one of the most in-demand professions of our generation.

The program provides nursing students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in any health care setting. With many schools accepting transfer credits, including advanced standing credits towards an RN license for a shorter stay, it’s an excellent time to learn how to become a nurse.

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