Change, Choice and Difference: the Case of RN to BN Degree Programmes for Registered Nurses
Bachelor of Nursing (BN) programmes for Registered Nurses (RNs) were developed in New Zealand in the 1990s. With the introduction of pre-registration degree programmes, transition arrangements that recognised the prior learning of RNs were established allowing existing RNs to obtain an undergraduate nursing degree through a shortened course. Many RNs entered these programmes, despite there being no requirement to obtain a degree qualification and with other education options available to them. Professional debate exists regarding the need or value of RNs undertaking such study and whether these programmes should continue. A case study approach utilising mixed methods was used to examine the personal meaning and the national professional significance of RN to BN programmes. While ultimately the outcome of earlier professional efforts, these programmes occurred as a result of change, change within the socio-political and economic context of New Zealand and nursing education. Change at this macro level affected the individual choices of RNs. These choices were further complicated by a lack of professional consensus and a landscape of difference, with programme requirements and availability differing between institutions, while employers varied in the amount of support and recognition they gave those who chose this option. There were personal and financial costs to completing a RN to BN programme, yet the RNs in this study all believed it was worth it, reporting positive personal and professional outcomes. The professional and educational environment has changed since the introduction of RN to BN programmes and the numbers of individuals and institutions involved with them have greatly reduced. Currently decisions regarding the continuation or demise of these programmes are made by individual educational institutions based mainly on economic rationale. Consensus and direction is required nationally and professionally regarding the place of these programmes within post-registration education. While these programmes have provided benefits for individual RNs, their time in nursing education may be coming to an end.