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I would love to work at a larger hospital that provides more teaching opportunities. Should I pursue my BSN or take classes to specialize in a specific area?

Monday February 4, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I've been an RN for six months and work at a small local hospital on the med/surg unit. I really like being a nurse, but there aren’t a lot of educational opportunities at this hospital. I have an associate degree in nursing and a bachelor’s in finance. At this point I'm not sure which direction to go in. I would love to work at a larger hospital that provides more teaching opportunities, but I know I need at least one year of experience. I'm not sure if I should pursue my BSN or take classes to specialize in a specific area. What is your opinion?

New Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear New Nurse,

It sounds like you are off to a good start in your career. I absolutely recommend you make plans to get a BSN. It is becoming the standard in the profession and many hospitals are making it a prerequisite — just as PTs, OTs, pharmacists and dieticians all need a degree in their field. Because you already have a bachelor’s degree in another major, you should be able to get it done.

Because you are working on a med/surg unit, I recommend that you join and participate in the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (www.amsn.org) and the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). Many associations have reduced dues for nurses during their first year of practice. Your membership will give you access to their publications, educational resources and networking opportunities. It is imperative that you immerse yourself in the community of nursing. Once you join, attend meetings and get on a committee. Not only is this a great way to develop yourself personally and professionally, but also you will be building your professional network, which is essential to thrive in nursing. Networking is known to be a great way to find a job.

You also should attend career fairs. This is a good way to connect with recruiters at some of the facilities you might want to work with in the future. Because you are already working in a hospital, you just might be able to land a position in a teaching hospital before your year is up. See what's coming up in your area at

Taking other classes is fine, but I would put your energy into getting a BSN as soon as possible. It will give your career a boost now and in the foreseeable future.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.