Nursing Guide

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Today's nurses are uniquely positioned to enjoy both tremendous social importance, as well as the great personal and professional satisfaction of making a critical difference in the lives of others.

If you are considering an online nursing degree in order to continue your education or advance your current career in nursing, you are in the right place.

online nurse

Since we know you have lots of questions about studying nursing online, online nursing schools, and going back to school online, we have written this quick, easy-to-read nursing degree guide to help give you all the facts that you need to make the right choice for you.

What is nursing about?

As the cost of healthcare rises, doctors are spending less time with patients. But quality care is still necessary — and that's where nurses come in.

Nurses can work in hospitals, clinics, private offices, schools, and for home health agencies. They can also work in the legal arena as consultants and lawyers, for insurance companies, and even as clinical researchers. Some people use their degrees as sales representatives for drug and medical equipment companies. With so many employment options, and now more men entering this growing field, it makes good sense to earn a nursing degree.

Many hospitals today are competing heavily for nurses; some offering sign-on bonuses, cars, childcare, on-the-job training, and even housing assistance. Nursing provides generous benefits and salaries.

The amount of opportunity in nursing is tremendous with ever-increasing job security (bilingual nurses are especially in high demand). Nurses are needed in all parts of the United States and especially in major cities (which is great if you are a military family). This is not a 9 - 5 job! Hours are flexible, which is conducive for individuals with children, and those who are in school. The need for nurses is expected to grow, which is why online nursing schools are on the rise.

"Nursing is a diverse and rewarding discipline that combines compassion with sophisticated health technology. Nurses evaluate, diagnose, and treat health problems. They help people meet basic health needs, adapt to physical changes, recover from illness, and die with dignity. You knew all that. The profession offers a variety of employment and career opportunities. Nurses are employed in clinics, hospitals, schools, corporations, the military, and in private practice. Of course, you probably knew that, too. You may not know that job prospects in nursing are, in a word, awesome." [1]

"This major prepares students to be frontline providers of health care. Registered nurses design, manage, and coordinate care for individuals, families, groups, communities, and larger populations. Nursing students learn how to attend to the sick and the injured; how to rehabilitate, counsel, and educate patients; and how to work as part of a health care team in many settings." [2]

[1] princetonreview.com/Majors.aspx?cip=511601
[2] books.google.com/books?id=DGllxKSaMbAC

Is an online nursing degree right for me?

Think about an online nursing degree if:

  • You are a good listener and have unbiased compassion for others.
  • You are able to deal with traumatic situations, suffering, and death without allowing the stress to take a personal toll.
  • You are detail-oriented: nothing gets by you without notice!
  • You are in good mental and physical health, and have plenty of stamina and endurance.
  • You are responsible, able to assume legal and ethical accountability for your actions.
  • You are well-groomed and able to keep a professional appearance.
  • You are willing to work overtime and varied work hours, including weekends, evenings and holidays.
  • You don't panic easily and can keep your cool during a crisis.
  • You have a deep respect for people of all ages, races, social status, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs.
  • You have natural leadership skills and are not afraid to take charge of a situation.
  • You like volunteering and making a difference in your community.
  • You relish an active, fast-paced environment.
  • You respect confidentiality and can protect the privacy of others.

What other degrees besides nursing should I consider?

If you're not quite certain a nursing degree is for you, you may want to consider other fields of study that are closely related to the field.

Counseling

Understand the needs of individuals working to overcome life's challenges; learn how to best diagnose, treat, and help persons with behavioral and emotional disorders.

Health Administration

With a focus on health care services, study the financial, legal, and human issues that arise and its effects on a health organization's operational success.
Online Health Administration Degrees

Human Services

Learn about the needs of those living with violence, isolation, or poverty; what services are needed, how to initiate and manage the programs designed to ensure well-being and safety.
Online Human Services Degrees

Psychology

Observe the human experience in a new way: explore how the mind copes with everyday stimuli, and how trauma affects human behavior.
Online Psychology Degrees

Public Administration

Learn about the current ways in which services and programs are being developed and managed to meet the needs of society and its individual communities.
Online Public Administration Degrees

Sociology

Examine intricacies of human relationships how people relate to each other and how that pertains society as a whole.
Online Sociology Degrees

What programs and concentrations exist for nursing degrees?

There are plenty of programs offered, which range from going to school for a year, up to four years. Many nursing schools online are emerging, and offer the following programs:

Licensed Practical Nursing or Licensed Vocational Nursing (LPN/LVN)

LPN and LVN programs usually involve a year of training at a hospital, vocational school or community college. When you graduate in this program, you can upgrade to licensed LPN/LVN status after you get your diploma or certificate. To get an LPN license, you have to pass your state's nursing examination, known as the NCLEX-PN® exam.

Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)

Applicants may enter after graduation from high school, as well as established LPNs, who can usually qualify for advanced standing within the ASN program. This two-year degree focuses on technical skills and clinical training, allowing entry into the health care delivery system at the beginning practitioner level. Graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The bachelor's degree in nursing prepares students for many diverse and dynamic career paths in a variety of health care settings. The American Nurses Association and the National League for Nursing strongly recommend baccalaureate education as the entry point for professional nursing. The B.S.N. is available to both accommodate the beginning nursing student, who, upon graduation, is eligible to take the examination for licensure as a registered nurse, or the current registered nurse, whose highest academic credential is an Associate of Science in Nursing degree or a nursing diploma, who wishes to complete a BSN. This second option is known as the RN-to-BSN. The online bachelor's of nursing is the most commonly available online nursing degree.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

A master's degree in nursing will improve your career mobility and professional network. This degree is for nurses who want are interesting in furthering their expertise in a particular specialization and becoming nationally certified. For nurses interested in managerial or executive positions, an MSN is a must. The duration of a full-time program requires about two years. The prerequisite for some programs is having practiced as an RN for at least one to 2 years. Online master degree programs are especially useful in that they allow for a nurse to continue working as s/he is pursing an MSN.

Doctorate in Nursing (Ph.D.)

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing is the highest level of education a nurse can achieve. The Ph.D. prepares nursing educators, nursing researchers, and nurse scientists to advance interdisciplinary practice, research, and nursing practice in clinical, academic, or scientific environments. The majority of nurses who achieve the doctorate level of nursing are interested in nursing from an academic perspective. Doctorate students may invest in the understanding of more abstract concepts and applications of modern healthcare and nursing practices, focusing on communities, organizations and societies.

Make sure that the nursing school you choose is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and/or the American Association of Nursing Colleges (AACN). Accreditation indicates to you that a nursing program has appropriate educational objectives, and that the nursing schools itself uses established standards of current nursing practice to achieve these goals.

A BSN student can usually complete their degree in two to three years, depending on their prior college credit. MSN students will complete their programs in slightly less than two years, according to Charlotte Saylors, Vice President of Strategic Development in Healthcare at the University of Phoenix Online.

Many nursing schools allow you to choose a specialization — a focused area of study within the nursing degree.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have received the additional education and training necessary to provide primary health care, health information, and community-based case management in many clinical settings ranging from private practices, clinics, hospitals and businesses to managed care organizations and governmental agencies.

Nursing Education

In this concentration, you will gain vital industry knowledge and skills in areas such as the roles and responsibilities of a health educator; teaching and learning strategies; design and process of curriculum development; assessment and evaluation of learning; and the impact of scarce resources and the limited access to care in regions and localities.

Nursing Leadership and Management

Qualify for positions of leadership in all sectors of the health care delivery system. This specialization will enhance and develop your depth of knowledge in management and leadership skills in the practicing clinical professional such as fiscal management, legal/ethical issues, strategic planning, organization structures and marketing.

Nurse Midwifery

Registered nurses gain practitioner skills in antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum, family planning, and selected aspects of well-women's health care to provide access to excellent nurse-midwifery care to improve the health of moms and their babies.

What are some differences between on-campus and online nursing degree programs?

With any online course, the majority of your nursing course work is done online via the school's Web site. Students use asynchronous forums to communicate, and turn in assignments via e-mail. Same thing goes with nursing. The flexibility of online learning is a plus. Nursing schools online are also useful for students who are already nursing but want to upgrade their qualifications.

Make sure that the nursing school you choose is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and/or the American Association of Nursing Colleges (AACN). Accreditation indicates to you that a nursing program has appropriate educational objectives, and that the nursing schools itself uses established standards of current nursing practice to achieve these goals.

Benefits of Online Nursing Degree Programs

Besides being able to work on your nursing degree at anytime, day or night, the online arena gives you many more schools and program options to choose from as you are not bound to local institutions in your county or region.

One plus for nurses who are attending nursing school online is the use of technology. Aside from lessons about nursing, the integration of technology is a useful skill, especially because medical facilities are always upgrading technology.

Many schools permit you to study completely online, but some have residency requirements. Check with the school to make sure you won't have to travel there for a few weeks if you're not interested in on-site study.

What are some of the courses in a nursing degree program?

While the exact curriculum will vary from school to school, here are some of the courses you might take as a nursing degree student:

  • Adult, Pediatric, and Geriatric Care
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Fundamentals of Practice in Nursing
  • Home Health Care
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Maternal/Child and Neonatal Care
  • Medical and Surgical Care
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing Leadership
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Assessment
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics

What skills will I learn in a nursing degree program?

When you have completed your nursing degree, you will likely have gained many of the following skills and abilities:

  • Professionalism, competence, and commitment to continuous diligence throughout the healthcare process
  • Ability to apply the principles of ethical, moral, legal decision-making in nursing
  • Ability to effectively communicate with patients, community partners and health-care providers in order to share accurate information and provide quality health care
  • Ability to handle catastrophe and crisis, and everyday challenges, in a confident, efficient, and caring way
  • Ability to think, reason, and competently and confidently select or create solutions to health care challenges
  • Competence in utilizing critical thinking, communication skills, cultural competence, and use of technology in professional nursing
  • Self-motivation to keep up with trends and research in nursing the profession, as well as an appreciation for lifelong learning
  • Understanding how cultural, social, political, and economic factors impact on the health of individuals, families, groups and communities
  • Willingness to be a professional role model and promote a positive public image of nursing and health care

What kind of employers hire people with nursing degrees?

The United States is currently experiencing a nursing shortage. Nursing majors are in high demand! The holder of a nursing degree will have many immediate opportunities.

An estimated three out of five nurses work in hospitals, but other employers that hire nursing majors include:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Extended care facilities
  • Home health agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Insurance companies
  • Managed care organizations (HMO's)
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies
  • Private practices
  • Public and private schools
  • U.S. military branches
  • Women's clinics

Depending on the program you choose, whether via an online nursing school or a traditional nursing school, you may have to take:

  • Pre-Admission Examination (PAX)
  • RN/LPN Achievement (ACH) Tests
  • Nursing Acceleration Challenge Exam (NACE) I and II
  • National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX)

What are some possible careers in nursing?

Here is a sampling of jobs you for which you may be qualified with your nursing degree. Use this for inspiration, remembering that this may represent some, but certainly not all, of the careers one can consider.

Possible Job Titles for Associate's or Bachelor's Nursing Degree Holders

  • Ambulatory Care Nurse
  • Case Coordinator
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Emergency/Trauma Nurse
  • Holistic Nurse
  • Home Health Care Nurse
  • Infusion Nurse
  • Long-term care Nurse
  • Medical-surgical Nurse
  • Perioperative Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Radiologic Nurse
  • Rehabilitation Nurse
  • Transplant Nurse

Possible Job Titles for Advanced Degree Holders

Additional experience is typically required for the positions in this list.

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Director of Clinical Administration
  • Director of Pre-Authorization/Anticipated Care
  • Head Nurse
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Manager
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education Director
  • Clinical Information Systems Consultant

What skills will I learn in a nursing degree program?

When you have completed your nursing degree, you will likely have gained many of the following skills and abilities:

  • Professionalism, competence, and commitment to continuous diligence throughout the healthcare process
  • Ability to apply the principles of ethical, moral, legal decision-making in nursing
  • Ability to effectively communicate with patients, community partners and health-care providers in order to share accurate information and provide quality health care
  • Ability to handle catastrophe and crisis, and everyday challenges, in a confident, efficient, and caring way
  • Ability to think, reason, and competently and confidently select or create solutions to health care challenges
  • Competence in utilizing critical thinking, communication skills, cultural competence, and use of technology in professional nursing
  • Self-motivation to keep up with trends and research in nursing the profession, as well as an appreciation for lifelong learning
  • Understanding how cultural, social, political, and economic factors impact on the health of individuals, families, groups and communities
  • Willingness to be a professional role model and promote a positive public image of nursing and health care

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