If you are working as an RN and are looking to move onto the next stage of your career, then online nursing programs could help you achieve this and much more. They are aimed at practicing RNs who want to become NPs, or Nurse Practitioners, in a specific area of nursing.
These advanced roles require higher education and qualification levels than a BSN, and therefore the MSN that you can gain with online nursing programs could be just what you need to be eligible to apply for your dream nursing job.
Whether you are currently practicing or still planning your educational journey, online nursing programs could be right for you.
What is the course?
The online nursing programs are BSN-MSN/NP programs and are aimed at practicing RNs wishing to specialize in a nursing field such as gerontology or pediatrics. You will already hold a BSN to be practicing as an RN, and the online nursing programs will equip you with the skills to work as an NP or nurse practitioner.
They offer a high standard of training, access to experiences and opportunities, and a flexible learning experience. You will receive the clinical expertise that is necessary to prevent, assess, treat, and manage acute and chronic diseases.
The online nursing programs can be completed in around 24-30 months, depending on which pathway you take. The pathways are:
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
- Family Nurse Practitioner Degree, 30 months to complete
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
- Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner Degree, 24 months to complete.
Within each pathway, there are different courses, such as Theoretical Perspectives for Advanced Practice and Moral and Ethical Decision-Making. To make the programs as flexible as possible and allow it to fit around your current role, you can take each one at a time, with 7-weeks of studying followed by a 1-week break, before moving on to the next course.
You have to fulfill several criteria to be eligible to study one of the online nursing programs, including holding an unencumbered RN license, 3.0 GPA, and a BSN from a regionally accredited (CCNE or NLN) institution or nursing program. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are aware of the requirements and understand what is expected of you. It is also beneficial to plan ahead of time if you know the type of nursing you want to be doing to prepare your educational journey towards that dream job.
What are the career outcomes?
There is plenty of room to advance your career when you are working in nursing, with many choosing to further their education into more specialized areas of nursing. This is what online nursing programs are for, as they give you the opportunity to train to work as a nurse practitioner in your chosen field.
Nurse practitioners are mid-level practitioners who are nonphysician clinicians, which means that they take on many of a physician’s clinical and diagnostic functions without being trained as one. There is a focus on promoting patient wellness through education, and in some states, NPs can practice independently without the supervision of a physician.
There are different types of nurse practitioner, and the online nursing programs will prepare you to work in one of the following roles:
- Pediatric nurse practitioner
- Family nurse practitioner
- Adult gerontology nurse practitioner- primary care
- Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
These are all varied and challenging roles that have many different responsibilities and can lead you to working in a number of different settings and environments.
When working as an RN, you may be working in general nursing, which can be a good opportunity to experience different nursing roles and help you decide where you would like to focus.
What does it take?
If you are already working as an RN, you will be aware of the numerous skills and traits that make up a great nurse. You will most likely have many of them already, and the online nursing programs can help you develop them and learn how to apply them in the new situations you may find yourself in when working as an NP.
Nursing uses a combination of technical and personal skills that allow you to provide high levels of emotional and physical care to patients and their loved ones. Some of these skills can include:
- Empathy and compassion– these are two traits that are at the heart of nursing. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, to understand their thoughts and feelings. Compassion is sympathy combined with the need to fix whatever is causing distress or pain. When working as a nurse, it is unlikely that you will have firsthand experience of every situation that your patients are in, and therefore empathy and compassion can help you connect with them on a more personal level.
- Adaptability and willingness to learn- the medical industry is constantly changing and evolving, with new methods, ideas, and technology appearing frequently. Regardless of your level of experience or your role, you will always need to be ready and willing to learn and update your knowledge and skills. This ensures that you are always providing the most up-to-date care to your patients.
- Critical thinking- this is the ability to assess a situation and make a judgment about it objectively. When you are a nurse, you will constantly be making decisions, sometimes under high pressure, and you will need to be able to use your medical knowledge efficiently and effectively make choices. Your critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills will be used constantly to help you find solutions and conclusions that are best for your patients.
- Communication- nurses need to be able to speak and listen to a wide range of people and observe behavior and pick up on non-verbal forms of communication such as body language. You will often be conveying complex medical information to people who do not have the same level of medical knowledge as you and who may be feeling very emotional, and it is important to know how and when to adapt your communication approaches to suit the situation and people involved.
- Stamina- this refers to both physical and emotional stamina, and nurses need a lot of both. Nursing is a very physical profession, and you will be on your feet for many hours and moving machinery, equipment, and patients. Furthermore, you will need to have a lot of emotional stamina to keep yourself healthy and try and avoid things such as compassion fatigue.
- Teamwork- in a similar way to communication, you will be working with many different people with various levels of medical understanding. NPs are often part of a larger, multidisciplinary medical team, and therefore it is important to be able to work effectively with all your colleagues to provide your patients with the best medical treatment and to be able to advocate for them.
These are only a few of the skills that you will need as a nurse to provide a high level of medical and emotional support to your patients and work as a part of a medical team.
What are the benefits of learning online?
The online nursing programs use blended learning, which is a combination of learning and teaching methods. Much of the course is taught online with some practical classes, placements, and internships with blended learning.
This is obviously essential in nursing, as you need to be able to put your new skills and knowledge into practice. Online courses have many different benefits, as they are incredibly flexible, giving you more control over your learning environment and pace, letting you work alongside the course, and can also help you save money.
Your physical location can be a barrier when it comes to studying in-person and full-time. If your local university does not offer the nursing course you require, be it the subject or qualification level or the flexible study options you need, you may have to make some changes.
This could lead you to study something else, making sacrifices to study or wasting time and money. With online nursing programs, your location matter less, as a large part of the learning can be done from home, and you do not have to commute to classes every day.
Studying can be very expensive, with costs involving commuting, rent, accommodation, travel, tuition fees, and living expenses. This can prevent a lot of people from pursuing education, especially if they already have qualifications and a job. However, online courses can help remove or reduce some of these costs in different ways.
Tuition fees can be cheaper for online courses, with the possibility of still being there for financial support from your university and other benefits such as student discounts. Another example is the chance to save money on travel and campus accommodation by learning mostly from your home. You can also still study alongside your job, which means you can continue working and earning money while you complete the courses.
A defining feature of online learning is the flexibility it offers. The online nursing programs are aimed at practicing RN and are therefore made to be studied around your job and other commitments. This makes them a flexible option and gives you much more control over your studying experience. You will also be able to create a productive learning environment that meets all your requirements.
This helps to make you an independent learner and allows you to develop good learning habits that can be used in the future. This is particularly useful in a career such as nursing, where there is constant development and a need for learning new things.
With online nursing programs, you will be expecting to learn the technical skills that will help you find jobs and succeed in your chosen specialty. However, the online programs can also help you develop important personal skills that will help you excel in the workplace and look great on a CV.
Soft skills are personal, transferrable skills that are non-technical and are applicable in any role or industry. For example, some are very useful for nurses; for example, communication and organization, and online courses can allow you to develop these skills as you complete the program. Other soft skills include:
- Conflict resolution
- Time management
Online nursing programs can give you the opportunity to strengthen these skills within yourself and also give you real-world examples of when you have used these skills, which you can give in an interview setting. For example, organization and time management are both important when it comes to online studying.
If you are completing your studies alongside your job, you will have to be organized, schedule your time, and prioritize to both complete the program to a high level and continue to work and treat your patients to a high level.
Studying online nursing programs can help you broaden your knowledge and develop both personally and professionally. If you are just at the start of your nursing career, it is worth thinking about the future and considering your training options. This can help you be prepared when looking at your ideal nursing jobs to know what is expected of you and the types of available courses.
If you are already working as an RN, online nursing programs can be the next step in your nursing career, opening up doors, providing valuable opportunities and training, and even preparing you to complete a DNP at a later date.
There are also many benefits to furthering your education, such as increased job opportunities and earning potential, deeper knowledge and understanding, and access to resources and experiences that you get outside of an educational setting. The online nursing programs offer high-quality teaching combined with the flexibility to allow you to continue practicing while you study.
If you are considering becoming a nurse, then hopefully, this article has given you some ideas about beginning your training through online nursing programs and the advantages that they can give you.