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Understanding Online RN to BSN Programs

The Institute of Medicine suggests that the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees should reach 80 percent by 2020, a goal that is taken seriously by many in the field. An online RN to BSN program offers the potential of improved salaries and a greater range of employment opportunities. The following guide examines this bridge program in full detail, providing information on coursework, how to find a quality program, timeline, and also firsthand insight from a graduate. If you’re ready to learn how to enhance your skills and advance your nursing career, read on.

Best Online RN to BSN Programs 2018-2019

Best-Online-RN-to-BSN-Programs
Get Seal Methodology 2-Year Schools

With practicum experience taken care of, an online RN to BSN is attainable through many quality virtual programs. The program should hold national accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools to ensure it’s legitimate. Instructors should be industry professionals in current practice with published research. Online nursing programs should also assist students with support services and career counseling upon graduation. Through our methodology, we took a look at these and other valuable information to compile a list of the Best Online RN to BSN Programs in 2018. Discover which programs stood out above the rest.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Utica College Utica, New York$19,44697%1%44% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The online BS in Nursing (RN-BSN) at Utica College focuses on patient-centered health care and the most current nursing knowledge for today's complex health care environment. The 121-hour program can be completed in 3 years or less. Online courses include clinical pharmacology, health assessment, health policy management, and end-of-life and palliative care. Sample elective courses include biology of aging, Spanish for medical personnel, and understanding alcoholism, chemical dependency and mental health. Students attend classes by the same instructors who teach on-campus courses via the Engage learning management system, where they read course materials, ask questions, upload assignments, participate in group discussions and interact with faculty members. While the online RN-BSN doesn't require a residency, students must participate in 2 practice experience activities in their own community: a community assessment project to identify priority health needs and a clinical population education program focused on prevention of a community health problem. Participants in these experiential learning and practice experiences gain mastery of concepts such as inter-professional teams, evidence-based practice, clinical reasoning/critical thinking and cultural sensitivity. Admission to the online RN-BSN program requires an associate degree in nursing and an active RN license (or licensure must be acquired within 6 months of starting the program). Career possibilities include clinical nurse manager or educator or the pursuit of graduate studies. Utica supports online students with an academic advisor, success coach, career planning and financial aid options. Utica is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the online nursing program by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

School website
2 Cox College Springfield, Missouri$9,60014%1%100% N/A No No Yes

The RN to BSN completion nursing program at Cox College is for registered nurses with a regionally accredited diploma or associate degree in nursing. Participants start with 70 credit hours and must complete another 50 through Cox for a total of 120 credit hours. Of the 50 credit hours at Cox, 21 are general education and 29 are nursing courses. The nursing courses are completed online. Students can transfer up to 9 credit hours of previous bachelor-level nursing courses from other institutions. Nursing courses include nursing informatics, management and leadership in nursing, theories and research in nursing, community and public health nursing as well as trends, issues and ethics in nursing. The online nursing classes run in 8-week blocks, and students can begin the program at the start of any block. After enrolling in the nursing program, students are recommended to take at least 1 nursing course each semester. The RN to BSN program can be taken at a pace suitable for the student, but must be completed in 5 years. To graduate, students must satisfactorily complete all specified courses with a grade of C or better and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0. The school offers academic resources and financial aid. Cox College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

School website
3 Brigham Young University-Idaho Rexburg, Idaho$3,92033%1%53% N/A Yes Yes Yes

Brigham Young University-Idaho offers an RN to BSN degree for current registered nurses looking to take their careers to the next level. Graduates can administer, direct, manage and coordinate holistic nursing care for individuals, families and communities. The program may be taken online or on campus. Courses include pathophysiology, health/wellness in the aging adult, community nursing, nursing research, nursing leadership and advanced nursing concepts. The program also includes experiential clinical hours on various projects such as a family healthy assessment, education sessions with older adults and implementation of a virtual health fair. Online degrees at BYU-Idaho are facilitated by trained online instructors, follow the same semester calendar as on-campus classes and provide the same academic rigors of the classroom, but with more convenience in scheduling. The RN to BSN program is available in the winter, spring and fall semesters and can take either 3 or 6 consecutive semesters to complete, depending on how many credits a student takes per semester. The class progresses together through each semester, and there is frequent interaction among students and between students and the instructor. The additional university-required courses for the 120-credit bachelor's degree may be completed before, during or after the RN-BSN courses. Students can find advising, career services and student support links through the Student Development Center. BYU-Idaho is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and the nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

School website
4 Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia$15,10588%-55% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The online RN to BSN program at Liberty University equips licensed, practicing registered nurses with the critical thinking, leadership and clinical skills necessary to advance in their current roles or to explore other areas of the nursing field. Taught by nursing professionals with real-world experience, the flexibility of this online program allows students to remain active in their job, family and community. Faculty members have practiced in various subareas, such as cardiac care, critical care, emergency medicine, med-surg, oncology, research, as nurse practitioners and in other specialty nursing fields. Courses, taught in 8-week blocks through LU's online classroom management system Blackboard, include health assessment, nursing concepts, population health, strategies for community health care, leadership in nursing and nursing management. The RN to BSN curriculum consists of 120 credits, including 43 credits of general education requirements, 12 credits of science support courses, 4 credits of electives and 61 credits of nursing courses. Registered nurses participating in the online nursing program receive 31 credits of advanced nursing credit once they are accepted into the program. Additional transfer credits may also be applied to the non-nursing courses for previous coursework. The RN to BSN program takes about 3.5 years to complete. For the most part, aside from meeting assignment deadlines specified by professors, students can complete coursework at any time, day or night, that fits their schedules. Beginning in fall 2018, electronic textbooks will be provided free for all undergraduate courses, saving a full-time student up to $2,000 per year on textbooks. Academic advising and financial aid are available. The RN to BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School website
5 University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida$4,47843%-73% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The RN to BSN program at the University of Central Florida is ideal for registered nurses seeking a flexible BSN degree. This program can be taken totally online or completed on some of the university's regional campuses. The 30-credit-hour nursing program begins 3 times a year. Completion time depends on the number of classes taken per term; part-time and full-time plans are available. Up to 29 credits may be awarded toward the BSN for prior coursework. Students interested in getting a head start on a nursing graduate degree can substitute up to 9 credit hours of graduate coursework while enrolled in the RN to BSN program. Those courses would transfer toward a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice, allowing the student to complete the graduate degree in less time. Qualified applicants for the RN to BSN program must have an AA degree from a public institution in Florida or 12 UCF general education courses as well as 2 years of foreign language in high school or 2 semesters in college. Career opportunities for graduates of the RN to BSN program include ER nurse, nurse, nurse consultant, nurse leader, RN case manager or staff nurse. UCF online students have access to a wide range of student services, including advising, academic resources, a writing center, career services and financial aid. The university's main campus is located in Orlando. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

School website
6 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, Alabama$10,47056%1%68% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The RN to BSN program at the University of Alabama is designed so nurses can continue working full time while completing the requirements for an advanced degree. All nursing courses are taught online, and every effort is made to allow students to complete clinical activities in an area close to their home. Admitted students receive 40 hours of nursing credit for their RN licensure. Following completion of core requirements, RN to BSN students may compete the nursing courses in 3 semesters of full-time study. A new cohort of students is admitted 3 times a year (in the spring, summer and fall semesters). A part-time plan is also available. Core curriculum classes, such as English composition, computer science and history, are available online through UA or can be completed at another institution, such as a community college, and transferred to UA. RNs who have completed the entire core curriculum may complete their BSN in one year of online study. Nursing courses include nursing informatics, inquiry for evidence-based practice in nursing, role transition, community health, leadership and management roles and complex client systems. Online students have access to all the same services enjoyed by on-campus students, including academic resources, the libraries, writing center, personal tutoring, technical support, career resources and financial aid.

School website
7 University of Wyoming Laramie, Wyoming$2,97670%1%59% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The University of Wyoming offers an online RN-BSN completion program which is open to registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Students can complete the nursing major courses in 1 calendar year (fall, spring and summer), based on course availability, with no on-campus time required. Learning outcomes for participants include demonstrating evidence-based practice in the care of clients, families and communities; managing data, information and technology to guide nursing practice; using health promotion, disease prevention and risk reduction strategies in caring for clients, families and communities; and demonstrating behaviors that reflect the nursing code of ethics, professional and legal standards and the values of nursing as a care profession. Nursing courses include bridging nursing paradigms, public/community health, health disparities, health care informatics, population health, leadership in health care today, health care systems and policy and innovation in nursing practice. Students are also required to complete a capstone course in which they must synthesize program concepts through analysis of a documented public health issue. Using evidence-based resources, students must address public health competencies and analyze how the identified issue and interventions impact the health of the affected population. Resources available to distance learning students include advising, career help, financial aid, tutoring, IT assistance, a writing center and library services. The RN-BSN completion program at UW is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and Higher Learning Commission.

School website
8 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, Alabama$8,04077%1%59% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The RN Mobility: RN to BSN Plan at the University of Alabama Birmingham takes 2 semesters to complete on a full-time schedule or 3-5 semesters on a part-time schedule. The program requires a total of 125 semester hours, and courses are all offered online. One on campus requirement includes an orientation that takes place prior to the start of the program. Students must also participate in one leadership development practicum, which includes 90 clinical hours. Throughout the program, students will have access to professors via phone or the virtual classroom and have the opportunity to engage in online discussions and web-based activities with their peers. The BSN foundation courses include a variety of courses in written composition, natural sciences, humanities and behavioral sciences. The upper division nursing curriculum for the BSN include Health Assessment Across the Lifespan, Informatics and Research for Nursing Practice, Pathophysiology for Professional Nursing Practice, Community Health Nursing and other courses. To begin the application process, students must apply for undergraduate admission to the university. Once the student has gained acceptance, the next step is to apply to the School of Nursing. The admission requirements include a GPA of 2.5 or higher and a grade of C in Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Microbiology, Descriptive Statistics and an elective. In addition, applicants must have earned a diploma or associate degree from an accredited nursing program and have a current license as an RN. No special tuition discount is offered for online students, but tuition rates are the same for both residents and nonresidents, $505 per credit hour for undergraduate courses.

School website
9 South Dakota State University Brookings, South Dakota$7,15557%1%60% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The online RN to BSN in Nursing program at South Dakota State University (SDSU) allows diploma and associate registered nurses to complete a bachelor's degree in 3-5 semesters through a flexible online format. Students must complete a combination of prerequisite university core classes and nursing courses for a total of 120 credits while maintaining a GPA of 2.5 or higher. The nursing curriculum is intended to prepare students in all clinical areas and includes the following courses: Transition to BS; Family and Communication; Health Assessment, Clinical Decision Making and Nursing Intervention; Leadership and Management; Community Health; and Nursing Research and Theory. Students will also participate in clinical practicums in their geographic area. Students who wish to further their education can transition seamlessly into a MS or DNP program. To support distance learners, SDSU provides success videos with tips for online student success and "netiquette" guidelines for the online classroom. In addition, students have access to academic advising, the career center, the financial aid office and technical support. To qualify for admission, students must have an associate degree in nursing (ADN) with an unencumbered license and a 2.5 GPA or higher. RNs can be admitted with three or fewer prerequisite courses left to take. To apply to the program, students must apply to SDSU for general admission and complete an application for the RN–BS option through NursingCAS, which includes transcripts, a personal statement, 2 letters of reference, TOEFL or IELTS scores for ESL students and a legal questions form.

School website
10 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida$4,55969%-71% N/A Yes Yes Yes

The Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of South Florida is offered fully online and consists of 30 hours of coursework. Students may complete the program in 5 part-time semesters or 3 full-time semesters. Several courses include service learning practicums, which students may fulfill at their current place of employment. If a student is not currently employed or if their employer does not wish to participate in service learning, USF will help coordinate a practicum placement. In the RN to BS program, students may select a specific cluster of coursework to focus on including leadership/management, patient/staff education and/or clinical excellence. To help facilitate online learning, the College of Nursing provides technical support to students with a helpline and Canvas tutorials. The RN to BS program is designed for students who live in the state of Florida and who are currently licensed as registered nurses with a diploma or associate degree in nursing from a regionally accredited school. Admissions requirements include acceptance at the USF undergraduate admissions office, a GPA of 2.50 or higher on all undergraduate work and completion of the prerequisite courses English Composition I and II. To apply, students must submit a USF admissions application, transcripts from each college or university and a College of Nursing application. The College of Nursing awards scholarships to currently admitted students and accepts scholarship applications through the USF Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid Services. Students that wish to pursue additional education will be able to transition from the RN to BS program into USF's nursing master's program.

School website
11 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona$8,69882%1%54% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
12 Troy University Troy, Alabama$7,22457%1%39% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
13 Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota$7,36047%1%47% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
14 Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina$4,15936%1%71% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
15 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas$5,17225%1%56% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
16 Bethel University McKenzie, Tennessee$9,30577%1%38% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
17 Morehead State University Morehead, Kentucky$8,49667%1%49% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
18 University of Central Missouri Warrensburg, Missouri$6,44666%1%55% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
19 Ohio University-Main Campus Athens, Ohio$11,29882%1%69% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
20 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Odessa, Texas$4,31278%1%37% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
21 University of Florida Gainesville, Florida$4,47729%-88% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
22 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, Texas$5,21664%1%50% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
23 James Madison University Harrisonburg, Virginia$5,89620%1%83% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
24 Arkansas Tech University Russellville, Arkansas$5,25640%1%47% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
25 Park University Parkville, Missouri$11,73049%1%27% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
26 California State University-Chico Chico, California$5,47242%1%63% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
27 Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, Ohio$9,16880%1%85% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
28 Washington State University Pullman, Washington$9,32472%1%70% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
29 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, Missouri$5,97977%1%55% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
30 Missouri State University Springfield, Missouri$6,15054%1%57% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
31 California University of Pennsylvania California, Pennsylvania$7,23814%1%58% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
32 University of Toledo Toledo, Ohio$8,05292%1%47% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
33 Murray State University Murray, Kentucky$7,29671%1%53% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
34 Westfield State University Westfield, Massachusetts$97029%1%64% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
35 University of North Georgia Dahlonega, Georgia$3,6489%1%55% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
36 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate, Tennessee$20,520100%1%40% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
37 Weber State University Ogden, Utah$4,61158%-50% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
38 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, North Carolina$3,89368%-59% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
39 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, Mississippi$7,54968%1%51% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
40 University of Mary Bismarck, North Dakota$15,990100%1%59% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
41 Illinois State University Normal, Illinois$9,82749%1%73% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
42 Davenport University Grand Rapids, Michigan$15,93693%1%41% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
43 Wichita State University Wichita, Kansas$6,38574%1%50% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
44 Mayville State University Mayville, North Dakota$5,05372%1%43% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
45 Arizona State University Tempe, Arizona$9,68485%1%66% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
46 Fort Hays State University Hays, Kansas$3,78973%1%44% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
47 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, Ohio$9,32258%1%72% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
48 Dickinson State University Dickinson, North Dakota$5,13854%1%34% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
49 California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, California$5,47238%-63% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website
50 University of Tennessee at Martin Martin, Tennessee$7,68058%1%50% N/A Yes Yes Yes School website

Meet the Expert: Keith Carlson

Keith Carlson is a Board Certified Nurse Coach who works under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, where he helps nurses create satisfying, healthy, and enriching careers. A nurse since 1996, Carlson also writes the award-winning nursing blog, “Digital Doorway”, and is the co-founder and co-host of RNFM Radio.

The Profile of an RN to BSN Student

If you are considering pursuing an RN to BSN online program, you may recognize aspects of yourself in one or more of the following scenarios, although your exact educational and professional background may differ.

RN with Some College Education

Sometimes, studying at a college or university doesn’t fit everyone’s style. A student may have begun studying the biological sciences, but during the course of the four-year degree program, that student realizes that college may not be right for him or her. Instead, a career in nursing–one that does not necessarily require the completion of a bachelor’s degree–seems to offer another potentially remunerative and satisfying career path. Instead of finishing college, this student decides to pursue his or her RN through an associate degree program.

After graduating, the RN accepts a job offer and begins his or her career. Over time, this RN may occasionally feel a lack of self-confidence in the context of various professional circumstances. The nurse now feels that perhaps a bachelor’s degree is indeed the best recourse, since it offers a deeper knowledge and understanding of nursing, medicine and healthcare and, thus, enabling the nurse to enhance his or her job performance and level of professionalism. This nurse decides to return to school in order to earn a bachelor’s degree, and finds that an online RN to BSN program fits his or her work schedule and lifestyle better than a traditional school setting.

RN Wanting to Advance His or Her Career

Though being a RN is one of many positions attainable without completing a degree from a four-year college, not having a bachelor’s degree may come with limitations. Even if an RN has achieved the highest level of seniority in a particular healthcare setting, that RN may eventually hit a ceiling in regards to vertical job mobility, salary, or even professional satisfaction.

Not having a bachelor’s degree in nursing could potentially mean an RN cannot advance into a certain position, such as a managerial or supervisory role. This could also result in the nurse not being able to hold the same level of responsibility at another facility, since that facility may require their nurse managers and supervisors to be baccalaureate-prepared.

At some point, this RN may tire of struggling to get ahead, and begins seeking a new way to break through that ceiling and advance his or her career. The RN begins researching degree programs, and realizes that an online RN to BSN program may be his or her best option. With a BSN, the RN could better qualify for positions such as head nurse, department chief, administrative manager, or clinical nurse manager.

RN with Children and/or Other Responsibilities

Whether an RN wants to learn more about the nursing field, a traditional classroom setting may not be practical. A bachelor’s degree takes many hours to complete both in and out of the classroom, and in a traditional learning setting, those class hours are fixed, regardless of a person’s schedule or obligations.

Many RNs work during the day, which would exclude them from daytime classes. Meanwhile, other nurses work night shift, which would equally exclude them from nighttime classes. Still others work two jobs or double shifts, which means there is little time for schoolwork. If the RN’s work schedule doesn’t fit in with the only available classroom schedules, that nurse could feel locked out of the opportunity to earn a BSN.

Further, many RNs have more than just a job to worry about; they may also have children or other family members to care for. Busy nurses may have responsibilities to other organizations or their community that may also conflict with strict academic classroom schedules.

Luckily, an RN in this position has another option: an online RN to BSN program. With this program, the student can often tailor his or her school schedule to blend relatively seamlessly with work, family, and other responsibilities. Through recorded lectures and homework assignments that can be completed and turned in at any time of day or night, online degree programs can allow the earnest RN to complete the BSN education he or she desires.

RN to BSN Tools

In a online RN to BSN program, students learn an array of valuable skills and concepts that contribute to becoming a more knowledgeable and effective nurse. These concepts and skills may include effective leadership, probability and statistics, evidence-based practice, nursing research techniques, community health, and population-based nursing. Below are some of the skills RN to BSN students gain:

skills gained
Knowledge
of the human body

A deeper understanding of the human body is a crucial tool in effectively collaborating with other healthcare providers, as well as explaining diagnoses and treatments to patients. It also provides a clear understanding of the procedures nurses perform and the information they gather from patients and providers.

Understanding generational differences in nursing care

Each age group requires a different set of concepts and skills for the sake of understanding age-related changes in physiology and pathophysiology, as well as treatment options and expectations regarding potential outcomes.

How to perform a more thorough health assessment

While RNs may already be skilled in performing a health assessment, an online RN to BSN program offers a more in-depth look at the many aspects of the process. From using the correct instruments to conducting an effective interview, a health assessment is an essential skill for a practicing nurse.

Electronic medical records and other information technology

More healthcare providers and facilities are shifting toward electronic medical records and IT-supported care. As a BSN student, the nurse may learn about the latest technological developments in healthcare, including online patient portals, telehealth, EMRs, or wearable devices.

Nursing theory

A nurse needs to understand his or her role within the healthcare setting, as nurses play a unique part in patient care and the operations of a medical facility or other practice setting. Nursing theories abound, and these models of learning and nursing care guide nurses in navigating the healthcare environment, interpersonal relationships, and the trajectory of 21st-century healthcare.

Professional development

Overall professional development is a critical aspect of being a more knowledgeable, engaged, and effective nurse. In an online RN to BSN program, students learn skills such as leadership, communication, and critical thinking, with a goal of building upon the nurse’s previously mastered competencies.

Other areas of focus

Nursing research, statistics, community health, and population-based nursing are other areas of study that the online RN to BSN student may encounter during the course of many programs.

Coursework

From science classes to professional classes that build the RN’s arsenal of tools and skills, the online RN to BSN program offers a well-rounded degree complete with several different types of courses. Take a look at some examples of classes:

General Education Components

As with any other bachelors degree program, RN to BSN online program students will complete several components common to many general degrees. These will likely include English Composition and Foundations in Mathematics, but general education courses can also include an introduction to humanities, survey of the government and Constitution, sociology, and psychology, to name a few. These courses offer a solid framework for any education path that teaches skills necessary for being a productive member of the workforce.

Anatomy and Physiology

This subject is so important to an RN to BSN degree program that students often take two sections, one concerning fundamentals and one focused on advanced concepts. In these courses, students explore the structures and functions of the body’s many interdependent systems.

Community Health

In this course, students explore the relationships between cultures and communities, particularly in regards to healthcare and wellness. The course’s main principles may include disease prevention, emergency preparedness, and health promotion within a community setting. Students learn about the effects of policies and resources on particular communities, as well as skills for fostering collaboration with the goal of solving community-wide health issues.

Professional Roles and Values

In this course, students examine and analyze the specific role of a nurse within the healthcare system. The course explores the relative and complementary roles of nurses, doctors, administrators, and other staff. Students also learn the values of nursing, such as cultural competency, professional conduct, leadership, advocacy for patient rights and social justice, legal and ethical standards of care, and the public image of nursing.

Health Assessment

For this course, a student builds upon his or her nursing knowledge while learning advanced assessment skills. This includes physical assessment techniques, interviewing skills, advanced history-taking, and assessments of social and physical environments.

Information Management and Technology

After performing a health assessment or updating a patient’s chart following a visit or appointment, RNs must handle vital patient records, which are increasingly electronic and cloud-based. This course teaches students the importance of current technologies used to document and coordinate patient care in a highly networked healthcare ecosystem. Students will also learn how workflow and patient care is impacted by changes and improvements in healthcare technology. Students may also study the growing role of nursing informatics as a discrete nursing specialty.

Population-Based Nursing

This course involves the understanding of population-based patient cohorts, all of whom require their own specific types of care. Appreciating the skills needed to approach and understand diverse populations is critical to the nurse’s well-rounded ability to successfully and sensitively assess entire populations or subsets of a population.

Online RN to BSN Timeline

Once RNs understand the depth, breadth, and scope of online RN to BSN programs, they then need to acquire knowledge regarding what it takes to successfully complete such a program.

Year 0

Preparation for enrolling in an online RN to BSN program can be extensive, as RNs face several steps in order to begin pursuing the degree path.

Before being admitted into an accredited online RN to BSN program, nurses who hold an Associate’s Degree of Nursing or nursing diploma are required to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive a nursing license. Some programs require completion of another exam before admission, the Elsevier’s HESI Admission Assessment (A2), which consists of seven components, from basic math and English subjects to essential sciences.

From there, the RN must have a certain cumulative GPA, which can vary by institution, but may be about a 2.0 GPA or higher. A candidate needs a diploma in nursing or transcript that demonstrates that the RN successfully completed particular nursing-related courses. He or she may also need to include a personal essay along with the application. If the RN has earned an ADN or nursing diploma, he or she may be eligible for transfer credits, which would shorten the coursework and time needed to earn the BSN.

Year 1

The first of the program’s approximate two years of study includes many of the lower-division undergraduate courses, of which there are usually approximately 60 credits. These may include general education requirements such as English and mathematics, but may also require the more basic science classes needed for nursing, such as biology, chemistry, and the first anatomy and physiology section. A student may also begin to encounter some of the upper-division nursing courses during this year of study.

Year 2

The second year of the online RN to BSN program usually consists of the upper-division nursing courses. These include more specific coursework, such as Advanced Health Assessment and Nursing Informatics, while the student also completes remaining lower-division classes. At the end of approximately 120 hours of credits, the RN can graduate with a BSN.

What Makes an Online RN to BSN Program Great?

All online RN to BSN programs have many aspects of coursework in common, but not all are created equal. Some offer a very baseline education, while others are programs with characteristics that make them great choices for nurses in pursuit of professional and educational advancement. Here is an explanation of some of the most important elements prospective students should look for in an online RN to BSN program:

Accreditation

Online RN to BSN program scams do indeed exist, so it’s important to ensure a program has the right accreditation before applying. The two main accreditations include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS). As part of the NCACS, an online program may also have accreditation from a newer system known as the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). Local and regional associations may also accredit certain programs, giving you one more vote of confidence. It’s important to make sure that the organization or agency that accredits the school and/or nursing program is one that is recognized by the Department of Education.

Varied, But Relevant Coursework

Nursing students need to learn a wealth of information about many aspects of science and medicine, as well as professional skills and attributes. When exploring online RN to BSN programs, it’s important to understand the coursework involved to ensure the student takes all of the courses he or she needs to succeed in the profession. RNs want a foundation in general education and liberal arts, which they should receive with any bachelor’s degree, as well as a solid grounding in basic sciences. From there, they need more advanced nursing courses that touch on all aspects of nursing tasks and professionalism, from health assessments and interviewing skills, to population and global health courses.

Experienced Faculty and Professors

In order to prepare for any career and industry, students need to learn from the best faculty and professors. RNs should carefully research each potential school’s educators. Some things to look for include what type of degree does he or she hold? What kind of professional experience does he or she have and is it extensive and current? Have they conducted and published any research to advance the field of nursing? Professors in RN to BSN programs should not only have an academic background in the field, but also show that they have expertise in the professional medical world as well.

Self-Paced Coursework

Because these students are already RNs, many continue to work in healthcare settings while they earn their RN to BSN degree. One of the key benefits of an online degree program is the ability to have flexible and self-paced coursework requirements that make allowances for a student’s busy schedule and varied responsibilities. A RN can speak with currently enrolled students, program graduates, or prospective teachers in the pursuit of a clear notion of what a typical schedule might look like.

Inside Scoop:Q&A with a Graduate

For a glimpse inside the mind of a online RN to BSN program graduate, meet Sherry Shiveley, who graduated from the Indiana Wesleyan BSN online program in May 2010. Prior to beginning her online coursework, Shiveley worked as a nurse with an associate degree for about 18 years. She knew other nurses who were pursuing a BSN as well, so the group completed the program together. Shiveley is currently a travel nurse and has been traveling for two years.

Q& A with Sherry Shiveley

Why did you choose an online RN to BSN program over one in a traditional classroom setting?

My work schedule was chaotic, so I felt online would fit my needs better.

What do you think the online program offered that you might not have been able to get from a traditional classroom setting?

It was very easy to understand what was expected of me, and when the assignments were due. Being a phone call or email away, instructors were very good about answering questions, depending on time zone differences.

What were the easiest parts of the online learning process?

Online instructions were easy to understand, plus other classmates’ input was an asset.

What was the most difficult part of the online learning process?

Group work was the most difficult. Some of the team members were late in submitting assignments. Some had to even submit projects for other students.

What would you say to someone who is considering enrolling in an online RN to BSN program?

Don’t get too stressed out with the deadlines, but manage your time wisely. When answering your classmates’ questions or responding to posts, keep it concise–long posts can get too involved and become time-consuming.

Online RN to BSN Programs Degree Search Tool

As it becomes more common for nurses to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, many RNs will find online RN to BSN programs to be a perfect fit for their busy lives. As one of the more common online degrees available, prospective students have many choices available, allowing them to find a program not only meeting their academic requirements, but also providing key features such as flexibility, affordability, experienced faculty, and relevant coursework. The search tool below takes all of these factors into consideration to deliver a tailored list of schools for each student.