With the power to help and heal in your hands, nursing can be one of most personally and professionally rewarding careers you choose to pursue, and if you do, you’ll likely be in demand. Nurses are desperately needed to care for today’s aging population and replenish an aging workforce, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has declared a shortage of nurses in the U.S. due to a number of factors. Among them:
COVID-19 continues to crush local health care systems, with nursing shortages reported in multiple states. In December 2021, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency and signed an order requiring schools to “report vacant seats and faculty shortages to the Kentucky Board of Nursing.” Beshear estimated Kentucky would need some 16,000 additional nurses by 2024.
An Aging Population
With the “Baby Boomer” generation entering or already in retirement, nurses are needed to provide geriatric care for these older Americans.
An Aging Workforce
The average age for a registered nurse is 50, and the next 15 years could see a significant number of those nurses retiring from the profession. Hospitals and other health care employers are in dire need of qualified nurses to restock their ranks, but the key word here is qualified.
Nursing school has long offered a path to a rewarding career, and the availability and accessibility of accredited online nursing programs has removed a major obstacle for nursing hopefuls. You may be wondering what an online nursing program is, what is the best online nursing program, and is a nursing degree from an online nursing program worth it? In this blog, we will review what online nursing programs are and if it is worth it to pursue a nursing degree online.
Nursing Programs Are Gaining in Popularity
There are many types of online nursing programs. Some provide a path to break into the industry and prepare students for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®), and some, like the RN to BSN, offer registered nurses a chance to bring their skills and knowledge up-to-date with the latest advancements in nursing and, notably, the latest changes to America’s always-evolving health care laws. In some cases, those who work in health care are interested in transitioning to a new area within the field.
Many nursing procedures change over time, and an online nursing degree program will address those changes. Additionally, many nurses seek to obtain leadership positions, and often those positions require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.
Such is the case for online nursing student Amy Johnsen, who is pursuing her online Bachelor of Science in Nursing* degree at UAGC.
“I love my job as a bedside postpartum nurse, but I’d always wanted to go back and get my BSN in case I wanted to go into management,” Amy says. “Plus, it’s always good to have more options and increased job security.”
Amy’s story is not uncommon, as bachelor’s degrees have long been the entryway to a more fulfilling career. In nursing, however, it is so much more. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) notes, “nurses with baccalaureate-level education have been linked to better patient outcomes, fewer errors, and lower mortality rates” – reasons that have made the RN to BSN a must-have for many employers.
The knowledge gained from an RN to BSN program is so essential the State of New York made headlines when in 2018 it instituted a law requiring newly-licensed registered nurses to obtain their bachelor’s degrees within 10 years of employment.
What Types of Online Nursing Degrees Are Available?
While the BSN is an extremely popular option, nurses can also take their education to the highest levels, with master’s (MSN) and doctoral (Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs. According to the AACN, the number of students enrolling in nursing degree programs surged during the first year of the pandemic – by 5.6% at the bachelor’s level, 4.1% at the master’s level, and 8.9% at the doctoral level.
What Is an RN to BSN Degree?
An accredited online RN to BSN program is designed for registered nurses and combines essential course topics – health informatics, health care ethics, medical law, research methodologies, leadership and management, and health care, among others – with real-world practice experiences. Coupled with a student’s own professional experience as a registered nurse, this coursework will help them graduate with next-level skills employers seek in candidates, which is one major reason it makes an RN to BSN worth it.
Beyond that, today’s RN to BSN programs examine the diversity of communities, cultures, and patients. Health care, after all, is not a one-size-fits-all discipline, and nurses must come prepared with the awareness and empathy that will allow them to gain trust among their patients.
“I feel like I learned quite a bit with my Transcultural Nursing class,” Amy says of her RN to BSN experience. “It was interesting going through the class and understanding how different people have different expectations, especially when it comes to postpartum needs.
“At my hospital, we work with a wide variety of people from so many different cultures and ethnicities, and I’ve always known each one may or may not have their own quirks. For instance, many women in the Native American population like to save their placentas. They take it home to bury as part of putting it back into the cycle of life. However, you can’t expect that of every Native American mother. The class simply made me more aware of what to look out for, but not to assume that every person observes the same traditions.”
As more and more hospitals seek magnet designation to attract and signify to patients that their facility provides quality health care, many RNs are being asked to return to school to earn their BSN degree. Earning your BSN can make you more marketable to facilities seeking or interested in seeking this recognition in the future.
It is important to note that in order to enroll in an online RN to BSN program such as the one offered at UAGC, a student must first be a registered nurse. A registered nurse, or RN, is a nurse who holds a nursing diploma or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). To become a registered nurse (RN), you must also pass the NCLEX-RN® exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and also meet all the licensing requirements mandated by your state’s board of nursing. Beyond that, each institution may have additional admissions requirements to enroll.
Earning your BSN degree will place you one step closer to pursuing an advanced role such as charge nurse, preceptor, school nurse, staff nurse, and more.
What is an MSN Degree?
A Master of Science in Nursing, takes your education to the next level, preparing you for management and leadership opportunities while building upon your foundation of health care knowledge. As nurse.org notes, some prestigious hospitals and health care organizations prefer job candidates with a master’s degree. Some roles, such as Clinical Nurse Specialist, require a master’s degree in nursing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Further, the diversity of online masters in nursing programs opens doors of opportunity for more prospective students, and those who graduate may have an easier time securing the job and salary they want.
There are many types of MSN degrees. Beyond the traditional route of going from your bachelor’s to your master’s in nursing, there are RN-to-MSN programs, Direct-Entry MSN degrees for applicants with no nursing experience, ADN-to-MSN programs for associate degree holders, and Bridge RN-to-MSN programs for students with two-year nursing degrees and a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field.
What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice is the pinnacle of achievement for practice-based training in nursing. According to nurse.org, doctoral graduates primarily work in leadership and administration settings, as well as Advanced Practice Nursing (APRN). These nurses will have roles in management, organizational leadership, health policy, and health informatics systems. And like all doctoral degrees, it opens the door for a variety of opportunities, as graduates enter their next role with the most advanced training and knowledge in their industries.
Are Online Nursing Programs Worth It?
What you learn from an online nursing program will vary by school and degree level, but when deciding on the right college or program, there are four essentials you’ll want to get from your online college experience:
1. Relevant curriculum: Your online nursing degree program should cover the aforementioned health care topics and how to apply them in today’s evolving health care industry. Even a topic as current as COVID-19 should be a prominent fixture in classroom discussions.
2. Access to professors and students: Because you won’t be physically seated next to each other, you’ll want an online nursing program that makes it easy to connect with fellow students and your professors. Examples include online discussion boards, social media connections, student groups, and availability of tutors.
3. Practice experience: Logging out of the classroom and gaining real-world experience is critical, especially with the country’s health care industry in constant flux.
4. Flexibility: Your online nursing degree program should offer you the chance to log into your classroom whenever and wherever, with access on your phone, tablet, and desktop. For registered nurses working full-time, a flexible class schedule that allows you to learn on your schedule is key. Additionally, an online nursing program should provide students with access to all the necessary support and resources needed to succeed in college, including online tutoring, library, writing support, technical support, and more.
When considering the pros and cons of online nursing programs, those five essentials fall in the former category. As for the cons, consider them obstacles rather than drawbacks:
1. Time management: Any online degree you choose will challenge you to sharpen your time management and organizational skills. Balancing the responsibilities of school, life, and your career may seem daunting, but with proper time management, you can graduate on your schedule.
2. Adjusting to online learning: It can be difficult for any student, regardless of age or experience, to make the transition from the physical classroom to the virtual one. When researching your online degree, look for a school that offers a support system and resources to guide you from enrollment to graduation. This can include peer mentoring programs, dedicated advisors, and online librarians.
3. Lack of face-to-face networking opportunities: While your online university may easily connect you to your fellow students and professors, not all universities take things a step further like UAGC does. Your ideal school will offer the chance to build your career credentials and network with colleagues and future employers. When doing your research, ask if the university has a Career Services team that helps connect students with job opportunities and offers in-person networking events.
What Can I Do After Graduating from My Online Nursing Program?
Nurses are in demand, so if you’ve earned your nursing degree, you may be in a position to take your career in the direction you desire. The BLS estimates there will be about 194,500 openings for registered nurses every year, on average, through 2030. The agency adds, due to “pressure on hospitals to discharge patients as soon as possible,” there will be job growth in long-term and other types of care facilities.
Duties of registered nurses include:
- Assessing patient conditions
- Recording patient medical histories and symptoms
- Observing patients and recording those observations
- Administering medicines and treatments
- Setting up plans for patient care or contributing information to existing plans
- Consulting and collaborating with doctors and other health care professionals
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment
- Helping perform diagnostic tests and analyzing the results
- Teaching patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
- Explaining what to do at home after treatment
With your online RN to BSN, you will be prepared for roles that include:
- Charge Nurse
- Emergency Department RN
- Oncology RN
- Operating Room Registered Nurse
- Psychiatric RN
- Relief Charge Nurse
- School Nurse
- Staff Nurse
- Staff RN
The Future of Nursing
The ongoing pandemic and other emerging viruses and diseases will continue to reshape the future for nursing professionals and could impact everything from health care regulations to technologies used to test and treat patients. If you want to be part of this versatile, fast-growing field, contact an Enrollment Services Advisor about enrolling in an online nursing program, including the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) at UAGC, today.
Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.
*Applicants seeking admission to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program must meet the following admission requirements prior to the start of the first course at the University of Arizona Global Campus:
Possess a current, active, unrestricted license to practice as a Registered Nurse or its equivalent in at least one U.S. state. Students must maintain an active unrestricted license throughout the program.
Have earned a nursing (hospital) diploma or Associate degree in Nursing from an approved accredited institution **.
Have earned a grade of C- or higher in Microbiology (with lab), or equivalent, from an approved accredited institution**.
Applicants must possess an active, unrestricted license to practice as a Registered Nurse or its equivalent in at least one U.S. state. All students must maintain this licensure throughout the program of study. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the program. Students are responsible for informing the University of Arizona Global Campus of any change to the status of their RN license. In addition, Global Campus may perform routine, periodic validations of student RN licenses to ensure compliance with this requirement.