Options for Online Nursing Programs
Being a nurse is one of the toughest jobs out there. Nurses have a lot of responsibilities when it comes to patient care. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses assess patients’ conditions; record patients’ medical histories and symptoms; observe patients and record the observations; administer patients’ medicines and treatments; set up plans for patients’ care or contribute information to existing plans; consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals; operate and monitor medical equipment; help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results; teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries; and explain what to do at home after treatment.
Many nurses begin by earning a Registered Nurse license through a Licensed Practical Nursing program or earning an Associate of Science degree in nursing. The coursework for these includes not only classroom courses, but also clinicals and internships for hands-on practice at required nursing skills.
While you cannot earn a Licensed Practical Nursing certification or an Associate of Science degree in nursing online, it is possible to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing or Master of Science degree in Nursing online. In BSN and MSN programs, students are learning more about the administration side of nursing, research methodology, advanced laboratory work, and nurse leadership. Now, let’s look at what it takes to enroll in online nursing programs.
Top Programs and Curricula
There are multiple universities that offer online nursing programs. At the top of most lists for online nursing programs is Purdue University Global. PU Global offers both BSN and MSN online programs. Alongside PU Global is the University of Illinois at Chicago. This great school also offers both BSN and MSN programs online.
At PU Global, there are two program tracks: RN-BSN Advanced Start Track, and RN-BSN Standard Track. The advanced start track requires students to have completed at least 90 credits prior to beginning. The standard track requires only 50 completed credits. For this review, we will focus on the standard track as it would be the most likely path for most students.
- College Composition I
- College Composition II
- Survey of Mathematics or College Algebra
- Introduction to Psychology
- Professionalism – Theory and Practice in the Global Workplace
- Fundamentals of Microbiology
Arts and Humanities (select one of the following):
- Arts and Humanities – Modern Creative Expressions
- Humanities and Culture
Social Science (select one of the following):
- The 1960s – Reshaping the American Dream
- People, Power, and Politics – An Introduction to American Government
- The Technological Revolution – A Social Scientific Approach
- Professional Leadership Transitions
- Research Guided Evidence-Based Nursing Practice
- Health Assessment for the Nursing Professional
- Chronicity Within Nursing Care Across the Life Span
- Leadership and Management in the Changing Health Care Environment
- Public Health Nursing – Population-Centered Health Care in the Community
- Bachelor’s Capstone in Nursing
Open Elective Requirements
- Nursing Electives
- Open Electives
The path takes approximately two to three years to complete.
At the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), the RN to BSN program takes about 16 months to complete if students take courses continuously. The curriculum includes the following track:
- Health Assessment and Communication
- Concepts and Processes in Contemporary Nursing
- Introduction to Nursing Informatics
- Introduction to Research and Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice
- Caring in Professional Nursing
- Nursing Care of Populations
- Nursing Leadership and Management in Healthcare
- Issues in Nursing Practice
- English Composition I & II
- Human Anatomy
- Human Physiology
- Life Span Human Growth and Development
General Education Requirements
- Understanding the Individual & Society
- Understanding the Past
- Understanding the Creative Arts
- Exploring World Cultures
- Understanding U.S. Society
- Liberal Arts and Sciences Electives
The MSN Program
PU Global also offers a Master of Science in Nursing online. The program “is designed to build on previous nursing education and clinical experience, prepare you to pursue advanced practice in a variety of health care settings, and lay a foundation to pursue doctoral education. The overall purpose of the master’s degree program is to provide graduate education for advanced nursing roles that respond to the needs of individuals, families, and communities.”
The curriculum depends on which MSN concentration you choose. PU Global offers the following concentrations for the MSN program:
- Master of Science in Nursing—DNP Path
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
- Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
- Family Nurse Practitioner, Primary Care Certificate
- Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
Each concentration has its own curriculum path, but all programs can be completed within two to three years.
The University of Illinois-Chicago also offers a master’s program called the advanced generalist Master of Science (AGMS). The advanced generalist acts as the care coordinator for clients while providing direct care in complex cases. Advanced generalists assess client risks, evaluate client outcomes, and advocate for clients and families.
The program offers two concentrations: Clinical Nurse Leader and Women’s Health. Both tracks require specific curricula, and both can be completed within two years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the outlook for nursing jobs is good.
In 2016, there were nearly 3 million nursing jobs available. RNs with a bachelor’s degree make about $70,000 annually.
Nurses holding master’s degrees can also look forward to an expanding job outlook. In 2016, there were more than 200,000 jobs available and the field was growing at 31 percent, which is much faster than usual. The average salary for these jobs is $110,000 annually.
Taking a degree program online is becoming almost commonplace in America. You would be hard pressed to find any current college student who hasn’t taken at least one course online.
Once you are a practicing nurse, online programs give you more flexibility and the opportunity to continue your education, thus improving your job prospects in the future.