Accelerated Nursing Programs

What are my options for accelerated nursing programs?

For individuals who have already attained a bachelor's-level nursing degree in another area of study, there are opportunities to receive a Bachelor or Master of Science in Nursing at significantly faster rates than an individual without an existing degree.

Because of the current and anticipated shortage in nursing personnel, the US Department of Labor is projecting the need for one million new and replacement nurses by 2018. Many nursing schools are creatively identifying solutions to add to the workforce at a pace faster than is typical with traditional courses of study. In an effort to encourage people with existing bachelor's degrees to consider taking on another degree and becoming a second-career nurse, many nursing schools have developed accelerated
Accelerated BSN/MSN programs use a student's existing bachelor's degree to meet most of the general education requirements, and then create a tightly packed, continuous schedule that allows a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) to be completed in 12-18 months instead of four years, and an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) to be completed in three years instead of five to six.

What are the common prerequisites for entering accelerated nursing programs?

Admission criteria are often strict with regard to GPA requirements and thorough background screenings. Candidates are often discouraged from working during these programs due to the intensity of the instruction. Programs may also have pre-requisites in the areas of biology, anatomy, physiology that must be completed before a student can be admitted.

These programs are limited to individuals who have attained a bachelor's-level nursing degree, and the schedules are challenging. The programs are typically scheduled year-round, and the same amount of information and clinical experience hours that a bachelor or masters degree student would learn in a traditional program is scheduled into a much more concentrated time frame. Labs and practicums are part of these accelerated programs as well.

How can accelerated nursing programs help to advance my career?

Accelerated programs report turning out high quality students, with a high percentage of them passing the NCLEX (the national nursing examination) on the first attempt. These students have also been shown to demonstrate an above average level of commitment to the programs and patient advocacy. The maturity that accompanies people in pursuit of their second degrees is often credited for the success of the students in these programs, and some institutions report that their second-degree nurses are in higher demand than their first-degree nurses because employers recognize the commitment that a second degree takes.

Additionally, there are accelerated programs available for individuals seeking to convert their existing nursing credentials into the next level of nursing practice. There are programs available for LPN/LVNs to convert their credentials to RN's, programs for RN's without a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to acquire their degree, and programs for nurses with the BSN to convert to a Master of Science in Nursing. Many of these conversion programs are available online, with labs and practical field experiences coordinated through the student's local health care community. There are accelerated conversion programs available both through campus-based and online schools, and these allow practicing nurses to reach the next level in their nursing careers quickly and conveniently.

What are my options for online nursing programs?

While nearly all states have at least one accelerated program, it may be so far from a student's home that it becomes impractical. Second-degree students often have families or strong ties to their geographies that make relocating for school impossible. A distance-learning program offered through universities with online nursing departments might best serve these students. These programs provide most of the lecture portion of the instruction through online courses and web-based homework programs, and then coordinate labs and practical work within the student's home community. Online programs are a convenient way to complete an accelerated nursing program and receive an advanced degree for individuals who do not live close enough to make a campus-based program practical.

Online programs are as tightly scheduled as their campus-based counterparts, and are not typically self-paced. In order to maintain the timeline of the curriculum, web-based lectures and homework activities are scheduled with established completion dates, and like the campus-based programs, are scheduled year-round without lengthy holiday or summer breaks. This allows students participating in accelerated programs through online learning to complete the course of study in roughly the same time as candidates in accelerated programs at traditional nursing schools.

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