What can be expected from a formal education in nursing?Education is an integral – and often never-ending – part of a nurse's career. From the initial coursework required to first become licensed, to the regular updating of clinical knowledge and medical procedures that are constantly improving and changing. A good nurse never stops learning.
An individual without a pre-existing bachelor's degree must start at a traditional learning institution, be it a junior college, a nursing program at a four-year college, a hospital-based training program, or a private learning institution. But someone who already has a bachelor's degree, even if it's not in the field of nursing, can move into the field principally through distance learning and online education.
What are the benefits to pursing my nursing education online?Online education is, in fact, a blend of online and in-person activities. Distance learning programs that are based primarily in online instruction use the web to deliver lectures, manage question and answer forums, administer tests, and complete homework and self-study activities. But in the field of nursing, there is also a large amount of learning that happens through hands-on activities in lab classes and practical experiences, or practicums.
While a distance-learning program will provide the bulk of its instruction through online delivery, most programs have a coordinator that helps students identify local learning institutions and medical centers to arrange those parts of the training and education that cannot be given through a computer screen. While information on pharmacology, anatomy, nursing practices, assessment, normal organ function, and introduction to diseases are all things that can be learned through a lecture watched online, learning how things feel, or look, or how to use that information to make the best decision for a patient are hands-on activities.
What can I expect from online nursing courses?These are some examples of the types of courses that might be delivered online: introduction to nursing practices, nursing theory, health and disease management, research methods, clinical integration, health behavior, developmental and normal adult psychology, introduction to pharmacology, and health policy.
Online education is also an excellent choice for people who want to advance their nursing degrees. Many programs offer accelerated conversion, or "bridge" programs, for nurses who want to turn their LPN into an RN, their associate's degree RN into a bachelor's degree RN, or who want to convert their Bachelor of Science in Nursing into a Master of Science in Nursing. These programs are designed for people who have completed a core curriculum and are prepared for faster instruction in more advanced nursing practices. Like all online programs, the conversion programs will require a certain amount of hands-on experience, and resources are typically made available to help students identify settings to complete these components of their education locally.
What are the typical requirements for continued education in nursing?Once someone has become a nurse, additional learning and instruction will be a fundamental part of life in the field. Hospitals often offer training, or "in-services" to staff in order to enhance skills and teach new policies or practices. In addition, over half of all states mandate continuing education as part of the licensure process. In these states, renewing the license to practice (which typically happens every two years, although this may vary from one year to four) requires the completion of courses designed to maintain and advance clinical knowledge. These classes are offered in a wide variety of locations and cover a broad array of clinical topics. While many nurses elect to take classes in their field of practice, some take classes in new or previously unexplored areas as a way to learn about alternative career paths or consider new work settings.
In some workplaces, employers may offer to compensate employees the costs for taking mandatory continuing education classes, and in some cases this is offered as part of a comprehensive benefits package. In these cases, the courses may need to be approved in order to qualify for reimbursement, and the nurse will often be expected to share some of what was learned with other colleagues so that the practice as a whole will benefit from new information.