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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.