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I have been in healthcare for the past 15 years and most of that time has been as a RN (Registered Nurse). I have worked in Medical-Surgical units, the Emergency Department, Critical Care Transport, and Surgery (Pre-, Post-, and Intra-op).
I began my career as a Nursing Assistant and have been employed for the past 13 years as as a RN. Most of my time has been spent in the staff nurse role, yet my other roles include management and currently in nursing education.
Way back in the grand year of 2008, I completed my Associate of Science Degree in Nursing from a local community college. I am very proud to say that this was completed 100% debt free. I did participate in my employers tuition reimbursement program with the idea that I was committed to working for them for 2 years on completion of the degree. I felt this was a small price to pay for maintaining a debt free status.
Going back to school…again.
Soon after completing the ASN, I contemplated returning to complete my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, but wasn’t sure where to attend. I knew I didn’t want to incur any debt, pursue the degree online, and attend school on my terms (asynchronous log-in primarily).
The ASN vs Diploma vs BSN Argument
When I initially searched for a school for the BSN, my employer did not require staff nurses to have their undergrad degree. An ASN or diploma certificate (yes, those are still a thing) were all that was necessary. Some of the nurses I have worked with do not see the need for anything else and I would mostly agree with that statement. The undergraduate degree does open up more options for the staff nurse and helps establish them in the workplace as a more successful candidate than those having only an ASN or diploma certificate. I know that statement alone may lead to much contention, however, managers will almost always choose the candidate with a bachelors degree over those without one. I am not saying that the undergrad degree makes you a better nurse (it doesn’t), but it does demonstrate ones’ willingness, ambition, and (generally) higher level thinking. Unfortunately, many employers have made the choice to require the BSN as an entry-level degree for the staff nurse. Why? Because…bu$ine$$. Research suggests that patients cared for by BSN nurses have lower mortality rates and improved satisfaction scores. So…it led me to consider looking at BSN programs.
The Journey on Choosing a BSN Program
After doing some further research, I chose Ohio University (in my home state). At the time, there weren’t many budget-friendly online options that allowed an asynchronous atmosphere. Ohio University definitely met all of my options and needs! I completed the RN-BSN completion in 2012 completely debt free, again thanks to my employers awesome tuition reimbursement program!
Did My BSN Make Me a Better Nurse?
Do I think that my BSN made me a better NURSE? Nope. There was 1 clinical based course in my BSN program and as I recall I completed 20 courses (it felt like so much more).
Do I feel it made me more well rounded and promoted higher level thinking (like research and more problem solving)? Yes. In my ASN program, research was not much of an option due to the amount of stuff shoved into the program. I don’t fault my program for this as I believe research is more supported now (13 years later).
I believe the most important question is…would I trust a diploma or ASN prepared nurse with providing care for me?
I have worked with many nurses (LPNs and RNs alike) who are head and shoulder above many others (including some providers) and I do not feel having a degree automatically makes someone smarter, more trustworthy, or safer. The term educated idiot is still a real thing, after all.
Taking a History of Fashion Course
I have been asked what my most difficult course was in my undergrad program. I would say, hands-down, it was the History of Fashion course. I can’t make this up, I seriously took a History of Fashion course. And…IT. WAS. HARD!!!! I signed up for this class thinking it would be a cake-walk, but not at all. It was pretty interesting, though, and I can tell you that Calvin Klein ruined his mother’s washing machine in making stone washed jeans.
So, it was the most difficult course, most interesting course, and I earned a shirt to prove it thanks to my amazing wife!
Going to School Again…Really?!?!
I made the decision that my BSN would not be my end goal, but I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up (and still don’t, I think). I knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree and began completing several courses toward a MSN as a FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner). Between finding out that we were expecting our first child and feeling like the market would soon be flooded (that was in 2012), I felt the Lord telling us that it wasn’t the right time for me to pursue the MSN.
Being a dad has been the most important and greatest role of all!
The next several years led to other great opportunities in surgery as a full-time charge nurse, then managing a great surgery/endoscopy team for 2 years, and then providing education to an Emergency Department and Behavioral Health unit.
Choosing Western Governors University
Toward the middle of 2019, I felt the Lord allowing me the chance to return to school to complete my MSN with an emphasis in nursing education. After much prayer and consideration, I made the decision to attend Western Governors University (WGU) to finish my MSN.
WGU is almost exclusively online with a few brick and mortar programs located throughout the US. The school provides Bachelors and Masters degrees in technology, business, education, and healthcare. New programs seem to always be getting evaluated so other degrees or areas may be added in the future!
My criteria when searching for a MSN program included:
- Budget friendly
- Short timeframe (if possible)
- Asynchronous format
- No clinical hours*
Did It Meet My Criteria?
Well…almost. Let me explain.
First, it is 100% online.
The program is completely online except for the last of your specialty specific courses. All of the core courses are online and the nursing education courses are also online. When you are in the last few courses, you will select a preceptor at an undergrad (ASN or BSN) nursing program, develop a nursing course in conjunction with your preceptor, and then provide a lecture on a specific topic (developed in conjunction with your preceptor) to a group of students. Unfortunately, my experience was slightly different due to a crazy global pandemic. I still followed the same process, however, instead of going to a campus to teach, my teaching was done through an online video lecture.
Second, it was TOTALLY Flexible.
The program allowed me to login anywhere with internet access and at any time, day or night! The program is totally doable for working people and the best part about WGU is you can complete courses at your own speed. For instance, I completed my ENTIRE MSN program in…wait for it…a little under 8 months! Start to finish! That is total flexibility like none other. Now, there was still a lot of paper writing in that time, but totally flexible!
Third, it was CHEAP!
Cheap, cheap, cheap. Did I mention how cheap this was? My entire cost was about $6,000. Yes, for an entire Master’s degree! WGU has the programs set up in 6 month terms and there is one flat price per term. You can do as many classes as you would like in that 6 month term, but not less than 4 in your first term. My entire program had 15 courses, and I completely 12 of them in the first term, leaving 3 left in the final (2nd) term. The final term was prorated as there were only 3 classes left! All textbooks are online and are included in the price. You even get a free copy of Microsoft Office! How cool is that!?!
Fourth, done in 8 months.
Now…before I go much further, every student progresses at their own pace. Some have been known to complete the program in 6 months, and some it takes 2 years. Every student is different and my experience may not be the same as yours. I have worked with some nurses who have completed the RN-BSN program in a little over 4 months. Again, not the norm, but still a possibility.
Fifth, Log In Anytime, Anywhere.
Asynchronous learning is where it’s at for us full-time working people! Logging in anywhere there is internet access is totally awesome and allows you to work when on the go, too. Asynchronous learning has definitely been amped up in the past few years and is here to stay!
No Clinical Hours*
I’m leaving this on here as it may be something for you to consider. Although I did not want to have clinical hours, per se, I totally understand the need for them and appreciated my learning experience. Clinical hours in this environment are not like the clinicals you experienced in your undergrad program. The hours here are actually fun, engaging, and pleasant. Everything about my MSN program was enjoyable as it was totally applicable to my role and scope as a nurse, unlike the History of Fashion course.
Overall, I am totally pleased with my experience with WGU and would totally recommend to anyone considering the school for their learning needs. The school is regionally accredited (very important in academia), regarded among other institutions, appropriately challenging for its students, and truly is designed to set the student up for success! The best thing about WGU is the resources available for the student! My answer has been a resounding YES when asked if I would consider WGU again for my MSN.
If you have attended WGU for your undergrad or grad degree, share your experience with us in the comments!
If you have any questions about the MSN program at Western Governors University, I would be happy to share my experiences with you!
Disclaimer, I am NOT employed by or affiliated with WGU. I did not receive compensation to attend WGU. All thoughts contained in this post are mine based on the experience as a student in their MSN-Nursing Education program.