Is Nursing a Profession?


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Is Nursing a Profession?

There are those who say that nursing will never become a profession until all nurses are required to have at least a BSN. There are others who will argue that the diploma and ADN nurses are better nurses. This debate has gone on for years and will continue for some time to come.

There was a point several years back when progress towards making a BSN mandatory was making headway. Hospitals began only hiring BSN nurses and had even begun to cutback on hiring LP/VNs who then had to look to other venues such as retirement and nursing homes for employment. And then the nursing shortage began to make an impact and it didn’t matter what preparation nurses have as long as they are a licensed nurse.

Not all states have the ability to survey, collect and analyze data from the nursing workforce, so we have to look at figures from 2004. At that time, greater than 51% of the workforce had less than a BSN; 17.5% of RNs were diploma prepared, 33.7% had an ADN, 34.2% had their BSN and 13% had advanced degrees of an MSN or a PhD in nursing.

It is doubtful that a dramatic shift in BSN prepared nurses has occurred since 2004, and with shortages of nurse educators it is not like to happen any time soon. Students are pursuing any avenue open to them including the LP/VN route with an eye to bridge to RN or BSN.

And so the debate over whether nursing is truly a profession will continue. The fact is however, that nurses are the backbone of the health care system. The shortage of nurses has made an impact and brought this point to the forefront. Nurses need to continue to demand respect for our contributions and it is essential to continue to conduct ourselves in a professional manner.

Nursing is a lifelong learning process. No student graduates from nursing school knowing everything they will ever need to know. Health care itself is constantly evolving as technology improves and more is learned about medical science. Techniques, procedures, medications and treatments continue to change.

Nursing roles have evolved over time as well. Nurses have many more responsibilities now than ever before, including the fact that early nurses worked very hard and also swabbed the floors and made bandages, etc.

Continuing education is mandatory in most states. Career advancement requires more formal education. Those who prefer bedside nursing don’t necessarily need more formal education. But clinical specialists and nurse managers do need at least a BSN. Nurse educators are usually at least MSN prepared and professors have a PhD.

To the outside world, nursing may not meet the criteria to be labeled a profession but to those who work the work and talk the talk, nursing is one of the most rewarding of all professions.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and is the author/owner of

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