Online Nursing Programs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 2.6 million nursing jobs in the United States as of 2008. Nursing is the largest occupation in the health care field. However, job changes and retirements have combined with the aging baby boomer population to create a nursing crisis. There are simply not enough nurses to fill all of the open positions. Online nursing programs are springing up to help address the shortage of qualified and trained nurses.
Online nursing programs are designed for:
- Professionals changing careers
- Stay-at-home parents and professionals
- Working professionals
The coursework mirrors the curriculum taught in traditional programs, but may be altered or condensed. Although a majority of the coursework is completed online, there still may be supervised experience in a clinical setting. Hands-on experience is crucial for some nursing curriculum, such as teaching nurses how to draw blood.
Online curriculum covers all of the traditional nursing pathways including:
- Associate degree in nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN)
- Nursing diploma
There are several hundred different programs which are licensed to administer programs for ADNs and BSNs. Relatively few can educate professionals for nursing diplomas. Consequently there may be very few online options for professionals looking for a nursing diploma.
ADN programs are typically 2 to 3 years in length. BSN programs run for 3 to 4 years, and diploma programs usually take 3 years to complete. BSN and diploma programs cover more subjects in greater depth and require more clinical experience of students than ADN programs.
After graduating, whether offline or online, a student will be required to apply for a license to begin practicing as a nurse. A National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is the requirement in all states. Only graduates from licensed nursing programs are allowed to take the NCLEX-RN. Additional requirements may vary by individual state.
License renewal typically requires submitting education credits to the state nursing authority at regular intervals. The credits are proof that the license bearer is keeping up to date on their nursing techniques. A license usually must be renewed every 1 to 5 years.
Nurses may also choose to apply for certifications and credentials in nursing specialties such as:
- Ambulatory care
Although such certifications and credentials are not mandatory like a license, they can improve the chances of being hired. Some health care facilities may require these as conditions of a promotion or raise. Certifications and credentials are available from national organizations such as the American Nursing Credentialing Center and the National League for Nursing among others.