Accelerated BSN Programs – Put Yourself on the Right Path

So, you want a BSN. And, you want it right now.

Don’t fret. Getting a bachelor of science in nursing quickly is easier than ever today, thanks to accelerated BSN programs.

These programs are designed, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, to provide the quickest route to nursing licensure for adults who have completed a degree in a non-nursing field of study. In addition, they can help current RNs achieve a BSN degree.

Accelerated BSN programs number in the hundreds around the U.S. and are available online, in an on-campus setting or as a hybrid mix of both.

The benefits are numerous, with the most important being a fast track to a new career or professional growth.

“These programs build on previous learning experiences and provide a way for individuals with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines to transition into nursing,” according to the AACN.

Alternatively, an accelerated program can allow a registered nurse to move up the education ladder to increase career advancement opportunities.

Based on a study published in the Journal of Professional Nursing, graduates of accelerated BSN programs said they were effectively prepared for their work as nurses and were more likely to remain in the profession long term.

“Graduates’ perception that they had a knowledge base for management of patient care is further evidence that accelerated programs can be successful in conveying an understanding of discipline-specific concepts and professional judgment,” study authors wrote.

What’s an accelerated BSN all about?

An accelerated BSN program is an intensive learning experience that entails a full-time commitment.

Working while enrolled in an accelerated BSN program is not recommended because of the rigor involved in these paths of study.

On average, they run from 11 to 18 months, including prerequisites, with no breaks between sessions. This is in contrast to a traditional BSN program that can take as long as four years.

Whether in person or as part of online accelerated BSN programs, students get the same number of clinical hours as those in traditional entry-level programs, according to AACN.

Because the courses and clinical experiences will move at a rapid pace, learners can expect more homework each day than traditional students.

According to a 2016 study published in Nursing Forum, educators identified six key areas that are important when working with accelerated BSN students:

  • Extreme organization
  • Engage students through active listening
  • Mutual respect
  • Engage via life/work experience
  • Effective pedagogy adaptations
  • Early immersion

In turn, students in accelerated BSN programs should be motivated, flexible, mature, dedicated to learning and have proven success in previous studies. AACN notes that a minimum 3.0 grade point average may be required. In addition, accelerated programs tend to carefully screen potential students based on their likelihood to succeed in this unique environment.

Though these programs are shorter in duration, they aren’t short on learning opportunities. Students learn the same fundamentals of nursing, such as communication, clinical skills, problem solving and critical thinking, and nursing theory. Professional, legal and ethical standards are also covered.

Financial costs and how to find help

America needs more nurses.

This is backed up regularly by agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimates that 203,770 additional RNs will be needed every year through 2026 just to keep up with demand from baby boomers who are retiring.

Completing an accelerated BSN program requires commitment and a financial cost.

An accelerated BSN can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $90,000, based on location, type of program and various other factors. A traditional four-year BSN program, by comparison, can cost $40,000 to $200,000.

For some learners, this will mean applying for student loans.

Other options for funding do exist, however.

For current RNs, tuition assistance from an employer is an option. Hospitals and healthcare systems that offer this benefit do so in a wide variety of ways.

To understand more about your employer’s assistance offerings, read the employee handbook or ask a nurse manager or HR representative about the options.

Numerous state and national nursing organizations, corporations and nonprofit groups offer scholarships to nursing students. A number of these can apply to nurses in accelerated programs.

Johnson & Johnson, which oversees the national Discover Nursing program to empower nurses and grow the number entering the profession, lists more than 300 different scholarship opportunities on its website.

What the future holds

Identifying the right school will involve a number of factors, such as cost, scheduling options and comfort with instructors.

In a 2018 study, AACN noted that 282 accelerated BSN programs existed in 49 states. At that time, 30 different colleges and universities were working to establish new accelerated programs.

Among the programs in existence in 2018, AACN identified 23,354 students who were enrolled, an increase of 20% from the previous year.

Graduates of accelerated programs numbered 12,293 in 2017, then jumped more than 9% the next year, which is evidence of the growing accelerated opportunities.

What can you do with a bachelor of science in nursing? The answer is anything you can imagine.

Nurses can choose from dozens of specialties, such as critical care, pediatrics, obstetrics and infection control, based on what they’re looking for in a nursing career and what is the best fit for their personality and life goals.

Working nurses who complete BSN programs also open themselves up to the possibility of administrative and leadership roles in nursing. AACN encourages graduates of accelerated programs to pursue work as nurse educators in order to help fill the growing need for more nurses.

No matter where your nursing career is headed, an accelerated BSN program can get you there at the pace you demand.

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