NurseRegistry previously discussed the shortage of registered nurses, which is predicted to reach 260,000 by 2025. With an aging baby-boomer population, the demand for registered nurses (RNs) is at an all time high and the healthcare industry is going to need all hands on deck.
There is, however, an ongoing debate how tomorrow’s nurses should prepare themselves for work. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing argues that a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) should be required for nurses to work in hospitals. However, opposing groups believe that an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) is enough to practice, as not all students have access to baccalaureate programs. Nonetheless, continuing education for RNs is very important and is potentially life saving. So it’s interesting to note, that it is actually possible to study for a bachelor’s degree or masters online, while continuing your work as a nurse. But first, you should consider the pros and cons of distance learning to understand if it is the right choice for you.
Flexibility and convenience
Online programs offer a flexible schedule that traditional institutions do not. You can get your coursework done while attending to other responsibilities (i.e., family, work). This provides great value for those who do not have access to a traditional college, especially if they live in rural areas, as they do not need to commute long distances to study.
The Century Foundation’s analysis on ‘The Real Price of College’ showed that a huge portion goes towards housing and books. In community colleges, 80% is allocated for said additional expenses, while they take up 61% of the total cost of public colleges and universities. Since online institutions conduct their classes in a virtual space, additional costs such as electricity and maintenance are reduced or eliminated, as well as transportation costs. Digital course materials are also more affordable than paper textbooks, which can cut down the total cost significantly.
Additional Technical Skills
Employers value nurses who know how to use technology, as they are required to do administrative work. A breakdown of Maryville University’s nursing degree details how technical skills are required if you want to complete the course, and this is something that online nursing schools in particular are heavily focused on. Understanding technology is invaluable in nursing as hospitals are constantly upgrading their internal systems to improve patient care.
James Kinneer, Vice president of People and Organizational Development at the Indiana Regional Medical Center, says that employers do not care whether a prospective nurse gets their accreditation online or from a traditional school. Kinneer mentioned in an interview with U.S. News that hospitals are actually looking for whether the RN has enough hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Some online nursing programs lack hands-on training, which may result in nurses being underprepared when handling real-life scenarios. Students need to check whether the school they’re applying for offers face-to-face interaction with peers and patients. If not, they should check whether the school can help them find an internship that will allow them to gain experience and apply theoretical knowledge in a clinical setting.
If you’re opting for a compressed degree — meaning four years of a bachelor’s degree condensed into two or three years — then expect a heavy workload. Online nursing degrees require a significant amount of work because they lack face-to-face meetings and hands-on training. Most of the assignments have to be submitted within a shorter time frame. So you have to consider that a shorter course will require a higher volume of work.
While some people thrive when learning independently, others fail. They find that too much freedom leads them to putting off studying or completing assignments at a later date. This then results in having to cram everything in a short space of time. Some students find it hard to connect with their professors. Due to them not being confined to a classroom, they have to connect with them online, which does not guarantee an immediate response. However, for students who are self-motivated, self-paced learning teaches them to be disciplined, organized, and resourceful.
Written by Mandy Jensen exclusively for nurseregistry.com