Understanding How Online Nursing Programs Work

Understanding How Online Nursing Programs Work

This page delves into the key aspects of distance education and what it’s like to pursue an online nursing degree versus attending traditional in-person classes. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse and prefer learning remotely, there are many convenient and affordable options available to you. While nursing programs typically involve some in-person requirements like clinical training, many institutions now offer remote classes to cater to a diverse range of students. Students who enjoy studying from home and are motivated to learn independently often excel in these online nursing programs.

On this page, we explore the main components of remote learning and what it’s like to pursue an online nursing degree versus the traditional classroom experience. The page also includes information on the essential technology requirements for these programs, descriptions of degrees available in nursing, and what to expect in terms of admissions requirements, curricula, and future career paths.

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What You Can Expect From an Online Nursing Program

Online nursing programs offer the same high-quality education as on-campus programs. Employers value online learners just as much as those who attended traditional classes. There are some differences to consider, mainly in terms of your personal learning style and preferences.

Navigating Online Nursing School

One advantage of online learning for nursing students is the flexibility it offers. With many online nursing courses being asynchronous, learners with family or work commitments can complete lectures and assignments when it suits them.

Although most coursework for online nursing programs can be done remotely, students often need to complete some clinical training in person. To fulfill the required clinical hours, online students typically visit an approved location like a local hospital or clinic. Some online nursing programs might also offer virtual clinical training, especially considering challenges posed by COVID-19. Check with the schools you’re interested in to learn more about their in-person and virtual clinical training options.

Different Approaches to Online Learning

Online nursing programs offer classes in synchronous and asynchronous formats. Synchronous learning occurs in real time through live sessions, requiring students to attend at specific times. Asynchronous classes, on the other hand, allow students to engage with course material on their own schedules. While asynchronous classes offer more flexibility, they involve less interaction with peers and professors. Synchronous classes mimic traditional classrooms and offer more interaction among participants.

Technology Requirements

To succeed in online nursing programs, you’ll need a computer and a reliable internet connection. Some schools even provide laptops for remote learning or offer refurbished laptops at more affordable prices. Nursing students will also need specific equipment for clinical training, which schools typically list before students begin.

Support for Online Learners

Online students have access to resources similar to on-campus students. Schools usually list remote resources like counseling, academic advising, and tutoring on their distance learning websites. Some schools offer additional resources for online students. Useful tips for remote learning can also be found on websites like NurseJournal.org, which provide strategies for both nursing and non-nursing students.

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Online RN-to-BSN Programs

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree prepares students for various nursing careers. Completing a BSN usually requires around 120 credits. This degree is suitable for students planning a nursing career or further education in a specialized field. Graduates typically pursue roles like nurse managers, health educators, or critical care nurses.

An online RN-to-BSN program is a common route to a BSN for working registered nurses (RNs). This bridge program allows RNs to earn their BSN on a flexible schedule. Typically, the program takes 18 to 24 months to complete. Students need a nursing diploma or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and current RN licensure.

Online BSN students cover topics like psychology, mental health basics, community health nursing, and pharmacology. Although didactic courses can be done online, BSN programs often require 400 hours of clinical experience, which students complete in a local hospital. Working RNs often meet clinical requirements at their workplaces.

Applying to an online RN-to-BSN program usually involves submitting transcripts, an application, proof of nursing licensure, and a background check. Some programs might ask for a personal essay, references, a resume, and volunteer experience proof.

Online MSN Programs

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs suit students aiming for specialized nursing roles or leadership positions. Common MSN concentrations include gerontology, midwifery, nurse anesthetist, and orthopedics. The program duration varies based on prior education and training.

Incoming master’s students with nursing backgrounds might apply to an online RN-to-MSN program. Non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders could join a direct-entry MSN program. Like an online RN-to-BSN program, an online MSN program’s didactic part can be done virtually, with clinical hours completed at a hospital. Requirements might include recommendation letters, prerequisite courses, and GRE scores.

A traditional online MSN program for students with a bachelor’s degree usually takes about two years. Students might need around 35-40 credits, covering classes like nursing theory, healthcare policy, and disease prevention.

Best Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs

Online DNP Programs

For top administrative, research, or teaching nursing positions, many students pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Completing an online DNP program usually takes 2-3 years, depending on prior experience.

Online DNP tracks include BSN-to-DNP or MSN-to-DNP options. MSN holders typically complete the program faster. DNP students with an MSN might need around 35-40 credits.

DNP coursework depends on your specialization, with classes in executive leadership, health policy, technology, and public health. Applying to an online DNP program often requires a BSN from an accredited school, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and GRE scores.

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