- How Does an Online Nursing Program Work?
- Nursing Programs & Accreditation
- Why NCLEX-RN Pass Rates Matter
- Can You Get into an Online Nursing Program? A Look at Admissions and Pre-Requisites
- Inside Online RN Programs
- Specialization & Career Growth
- The Cost of an Online RN Program
- Paying for an RN Program
- Salaries for Registered Nurses
As nursing student needs diversify, schools are expanding how they deliver their higher education programs. While face-to-face remains the norm, more and more schools have incorporated online learning into their nursing curricula. It’s convenient, more affordable, and many students can use online RN programs to help balance school, work, and family responsibilities. This holds true for all nursing programs, including the ADN, RN bridge programs, and other higher education opportunities for current and future RNs. Want to learn more? Explore nursing programs online and find the educational path that’s right for you.
How Does an Online Nursing Program Work?
Online nursing programs combine the flexibility of distance learning with classroom work and hands-on clinicals. Many of the more academically-oriented courses take place online, while group and/or patient-centered activities occur at medical facilities. This combination makes online RN programs “hybrid” or “blended” in nature. While some post-licensure programs can be taken fully online, nearly all pre-licensure nursing programs with an online component are partially online. Let’s see how these hybrid programs work, and if online learning could make sense for your registered nursing education.
Nursing Programs & Accreditation
Accreditation refers to the independent review of a school or program to ensure it meets certain educational standards. This is particularly important with online nursing programs, where it can be very tempting for schools to cut corners to make it easier for students to graduate. When researching campus or online nursing programs, make sure the schools on your shortlist have (1) regional accreditation and (2) programmatic accreditation specific to nursing. The following accrediting bodies are key:
Why NCLEX-RN Pass Rates Matter
Accreditation confirms a nursing program meets basic education standards, and it’s a sign that the program readies its students to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Passing this exam is required to work as a registered nurse in all 50 states.
The NCLEX-RN exam is managed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and administered by Pearson VUE. It uses computerized adaptive testing, which means the test taker completes the exam on a computer, with the computer deciding which questions to provide the test taker based on how they answered the prior question. This means the exam may be different for every person, including the number of questions they must answer. Most test questions are in multiple choice format.
Because there’s so much weight on passing the exam, NCLEX-RN pass rates should be a key component in your nursing program search. Higher pass rates mean that a program’s curriculum is complete and its educators are well-versed in the nursing profession and education standards.
Can You Get into an Online Nursing Program? A Look at Admissions and Pre-Requisites
Exact requirements to gain acceptance into an online nursing program depends largely on the type of program. For instance, for a post-licensure program, incoming students need to already have a registered nursing license. This requirement does not exist for students entering a pre-licensure program. In contrast, students entering a pre-licensure program do have certain academic prerequisites that registered nurses enrolled in a BSN completion program won’t need to complete. In addition to academic prerequisites, incoming students also need to meet other admission requirements.
- Academic Prerequisites
Before beginning their nursing education, pre-licensure students must first complete prerequisites, which help provide an educational foundation for more advanced nursing courses. These prerequisite courses may differ slightly between programs, but usually consist of the following:
- Introduction to psychology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Introduction to sociology
- English composition
- Human development and growth
- Communication and speech
- One or more general education courses, such as humanities or US government
Depending on how the nursing program is set up, students may be able to gain acceptance to a school before completing any of these prerequisites. But, these students must then complete them during their first year or two while they apply for admission into the actual nursing program.
- Physical Prerequisites
Nursing is a very physical field, so incoming students must demonstrate the ability to meet the physical requirements of the profession. These requirements usually consist of:
- The ability to lift up to 50 pounds
- Fine and gross motor abilities
- Good balance and coordination
- Visual ability that allows nurses to provide medical care to patients, such as distinguishing colors
- Stand for extended periods of time
- Perform lifesaving activities, such as CPR
- Sufficient hearing to have full awareness of patient sounds and medical instruments
- Reach above shoulders
Additionally, students must provide evidence that they are healthy enough to work with patients. This includes proof that they are up-to-date on their immunizations and currently enrolled in a health insurance plan.
The Admissions Process
Prospective nursing students need to pay close attention to each program’s admissions requirements, as there are a wide number of variations between programs. In addition to admission to the school, there are also degree-specific admissions requirements. At the very least, students will submit an application and evidence that they meet the physical requirements for the program. Below is a list of other common admissions criteria.
Inside Online RN Programs
One of the strengths of nurses as healthcare professionals is their broad level of knowledge. So it comes as no surprise that the nursing curriculum for training registered nurses covers a wide arrange of subjects and topics. While each program has the freedom to create its own curriculum, all registered nursing students will take courses in several key areas.
In addition to these core subject areas, nursing students will have opportunities to specialize in certain areas of medical practice as a means of obtaining professional advancement.
Specialization & Career Growth
When it comes to career growth, nurses have a plethora of specializations available to them. Moving into a specific area of practice can increase career prospects due to a higher degree of skill required. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular specializations for registered nurses.
- Acute care
When it comes to serious illness and trauma, acute care nursing is the place to be. Acute care nurses can be found in emergency rooms, intensive care units, or treating patients recovering from surgery. These nurses are usually involved when immediate or urgent medical care is required.
One of the most common types of long-term care nursing involves treating elderly patients. Many of these patients deal with health problems that take a long time to treat or are incurable and must be managed. Geriatric nurses aren’t exclusive to treating chronic conditions and may commonly practice acute care for their patients as well.
For nurses who enjoy working with newborn babies, a neonatal specialization should be considered. Neonatal nurses can work with both fully healthy and extremely ill or premature newborns, or may choose to further specialize and work in just one area. For example, some neonatal nurses find themselves working primarily in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Cancer is one of the most common and serious diseases humanity faces. Whole teams of medical professionals focus on this healthcare issue, including registered nurses who specialize in treating it. Oncology nurses work with a wide range of patients, a variety of ages, and deal with many types of cancer.
Pediatric registered nurses work in a variety of settings, but almost exclusively with young children and adolescents. Some pediatric nurses can be found in an acute care setting, such as an intensive care units at a hospital. Others may be found in doctor’s offices providing routine and preventative care.
- Women’s health
As its name implies, women’s health nursing focuses on health issues specific to women. Most of the time, these issues involve reproductive and gynecological issues. However, women’s health nursing can also involve diseases that primarily affect women, such as ovarian or breast cancer.
The Cost of an Online RN Program
One of the major decisions to make when choosing an online registered nursing program is how much it costs to complete it. The exact cost depends on a variety of factors, such as residency status, program type, and the availability of financial aid. However, to provide a general idea of tuition costs, we’ve chosen three sample schools.
|1||1. University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing, RN to BSN Program||$4,900/year (in-state); $12,975 (out-of-state) or $448/credit (in-state); $1,122 (out-of-state).|
|2||2. Aspen University, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (pre-licensure)||$37,069/year or $309/credit|
|3||3. Arkansas State University, RN to BSN Online||$8,937/year or $248/credit|
Paying for an RN Program
A nursing education isn’t cheap. Even though most nurses can expect to make a decent income after graduation, they must still figure out how to pay for the cost of education to get to that point. Like any other student, nurses are eligible for several forms of financial aid, such as scholarships, grants, and loans. But there are also some options tailored specifically to nursing students.
Salaries for Registered Nurses
Great pay is a significant reason many decide to become registered nurses, but as you can imagine, how much a specific nurse makes depends on a variety of factors, including area of specialization, geographic location, and employer. The following is a list of what registered nurses can expect to make as a median salary based on where they work.
- Ambulatory healthcare services $66,300
- Government entities $75,900
- Residential and nursing care facilities $62,320
- State, local, and private hospitals $72,070
- State, local, and private education institutions $60,300