Online BSN Programs Offer Flexibility and So Much More

Online BSN programs have opened plenty of new doors for registered nurses and non-nurses who want to add to their educational portfolios and need an online option to best fit their lifestyle or learning style.

Along with providing flexibility for working nurses, students with families or those who care for ailing or elderly family members find these programs are often more affordable than attending brick-and-mortar schools.

Many students and working nurses in rural locations can earn a BSN at schools across the country, which they wouldn’t be able to do if they had to attend classes in person.

For rural residents, an online community can provide a support system that they otherwise may not have access to and potentially lead to jobs in other states. That makes these programs an inclusive way to help nurses advance their education and non-nurses to enter the profession.

Online BSN programs also allow students to go at the pace that fits them best. This is especially helpful for full-time nurses who need flexible class schedules the don’t overlap with work hours.

In order to succeed in online BSN programs, students must be motivated, disciplined, critical thinkers and have strong verbal and written communication skills.

Here’s a rundown of these increasingly popular programs.

RN to BSN path

Working nurses with a valid license have a beneficial path to a degree with the RN to BSN online option.

These programs have become popular with nurses who want to complete a bachelor’s degree while continuing to practice at their day jobs. They also meet the needs of healthcare facilities and hospitals, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“These programs are growing in importance since many professional practice settings, including Magnet hospitals and academic health centers, now require or prefer the baccalaureate degree for specific nursing roles,” AACN stated on its website.

The organization notes 777 RN to BSN programs are in existence nationwide, and more than 600 of those teach at least some nursing classes online.

These online nursing degree programs run for 12 to 24 months, depending on each school’s requirements, program type and a student’s previous academic experience.

For nurses who began their nursing studies in an associate degree or diploma program, articulation agreements exist between these programs and hundreds of four-year colleges and universities that offer online BSNs. These agreements help facilitate the process of nurses attaining baccalaureate degrees.

ADN and diploma programs, according to the AACN, can help identify the schools with which they have agreements.

The AACN’s research shows that RN to BSN online programs are increasingly in demand. From 2017 to 2018, the organization reported that enrollment was up 0.6%, while graduations rose 4.6%.

Nationally, 34% of all college students took at least one online college course during 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

What challenges exist?

Depending on which school you choose, the cost can be prohibitive (we’ll discuss this more below).

If you are a procrastinator, there’s a danger of falling behind in online programs, which can lead to additional stress. Keeping up with the class and completing assignments on time are vital to staying on track.

For RN to BSN students, some programs don’t require any clinical hours since these nurses are already doing clinical work each day at their jobs. Non-nurses, however, have a number of different options to complete a program’s clinical requirements.

Online BSN programs rely on technology such as video lessons in order to teach some skills, while others are learned via simulation labs. In order to give non-nurses some hands-on opportunities, a number of programs maintain relationships with hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country. This way, wherever a student resides, they can complete their clinical rotation requirements. Another option is having students travel to a specific facility to complete clinical hours.

When researching online BSN programs, make sure you are clear on the specific clinical arrangements.

Students in online BSN programs also should have a good grasp on technology, such as video conferencing platforms. These technologies can be learned by reviewing online tutorials.

If you crave personal contact with other students and instructors, such as in an in-person class, online education doesn’t offer that. But it does allow for virtual connections.

Another more basic need is a reliable internet connection, which can be difficult in some rural areas.

Finding your best fit

Along with learning style, the best online BSN programs must offer flexibility to allow nurses and non-nursing students to study at their own pace.

Cost and time commitment are two major concerns.

According to U.S. News & World Report, which annually ranks top colleges and universities in various areas of study, online BSN programs can cost anywhere from $36,000 to $95,000 in total tuition over the course of your studies.

As for the time an online course takes, don’t expect it to be easier or less of a commitment than an in-person course.

One university that offers online courses said students in online BSN programs should be able to commit anywhere from four to 15 hours per class per week to studying, depending on the rigor of their coursework. That includes both online and offline work.

So, what are the best online BSN programs or the best online RN to BSN programs? That answer depends on you.

Determine the amount of time you will be able to commit, whether online classes fit your personality and personal situation, and whether the cost is right.

If you want to know even more, informational interviews with program leaders and even students who have taken part in an online program can be quite helpful.

For a growing number of nursing students, e-learning is providing as many opportunities and options as there are specialties in a nursing career.

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