In 2020, we experienced a nationwide shift to online learning—and many believe it is here to stay. According to new report from Inside Higher Ed, about 60 percent of colleges and universities do plan to keep some of their undergraduate programs fully online in a post-pandemic world, even when their campuses re-open. However, in general, this can’t be applied to all degrees. Some programs, such as entry-level nursing and healthcare majors, require in-person experiences to thrive.
Despite this, online nursing programs continue to be in high-demand—along with the growing demand for registered nurses. In the United States, we are expecting a shortage of over one million nurses by the year 2022. Although 155,000 new nurses join the workforce each year, it is not enough to keep up with the growing need for patient care. What this means is that there are thousands of jobs available for educated nurses who qualify for the role. However, in the current state of the nation, many aspiring caregivers are looking for flexible, online options to reach their nursing goals. This leads us to the question:
Can You Become a Nurse Online?
As much as colleges recognize the benefit of online learning, it is not entirely possible to become a nurse online. This is because of the clinical aspects involved. You can complete a nursing degree online, however, you will still be required to fulfill clinical hours in-person, at a patient care or lab facility.
All states have a clinical hours requirement for new registered nurses (RNs), though this will vary depending on your local licensing board. In Connecticut, for example, it’s required that 50 percent of total contact hours in a first-time nursing program are completed in:
- Supervised, direct patient care experiences
- Direct, observational experiences
- Simulated experiences appropriate to the program outcomes
- Laboratory experiences for the acquisition and practice of clinical nursing skills
The goal of the clinical requirement is to ensure that new nurses walk away with hands-on, practical experience in their field of work. They will have direct experiences with patients and how to handle situations they may encounter on-the-job. They have the opportunity to put their learnings to practice in a real-life medical setting. This, in turn, has a major impact on the success of nurses down the road, and cannot typically be fulfilled in an online environment.
With that said, however, you can fulfill a lot of your fundamental nursing courses online. A few nursing programs offer fully online classes, with the exception of clinical rotations. Other nursing schools curate a careful combination of online and on-ground nursing classes (a “hybrid” course format), allowing students the benefit of online and practical instruction. At Goodwin University, for example, some of our associate degree in Nursing courses – and many of the prerequisites required – can be found online, for students who need flexibility in their scheduling. However, we recognize the value of learning directly in the laboratory, and using simulated patient care experiences, for aspiring nurses who are just starting out. For this reason, many of our entry-level nursing classes can be found on-campus.
Of course, if you are already a licensed registered nurse and looking to advance your education, your online options do become more expansive. Seasoned nurses can complete a nursing program online entirely, without the need to travel to campus or post-pone shifts at the hospital. Which nursing programs are offered online, exactly? These are detailed below.
What Types of Online Nursing Programs Exist?
- Hybrid Entry-Level Nursing Programs:
As noted above, you cannot complete an entry-level nursing degree (such as an associate degree in Nursing) entirely online. However, online courses may be offered in part with your practical training. If you desire an online nursing program, but are new to nursing, ask prospective schools about their online offerings. Some nursing schools prioritize flexibility, and will be willing to create a course schedule that aligns with your needs. Be aware of schools that promote an entirely online ADN program, says Nurse.org – state nursing boards do require in-person clinical hours to become a registered nurse. As an aspiring nurse, you will want these in-person hours, too, to build your experience in basic patient care.
- Online RN-to-BSN Programs:
More and more registered nurses are looking to go back to school for their Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) degree, as more and more employers are starting to require it. If you already have your RN license and are seeking BSN advancement, consider an RN-to-BSN program. RN-to-BSN degree programs are designed specifically for the already-working nurse. This means they are flexible, accessible, and fully attainable, even with your busy schedule. Goodwin’s RN-to-BSN program is offered entirely online, and can be completed part-time in just 16 months.
- Online MSN Programs:
Some nurses have their BSN, but still seek career advancement. A Master’s in Nursing (MSN) can qualify you for a variety of advanced positions in the field. For example, Goodwin’s MSN program prepares nurses for positions in nursing administration and healthcare leadership. Specialized MSN programs (such as the Family Nurse Practitioner degree or the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program at Goodwin) can prepare already-licensed RNs to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). APRNs, commonly referred to as advanced nurse practitioners, take on many responsibilities similar to physicians, and have more autonomy when it comes to coordinating care and creating treatment plans for patients in need.
The best part? All of these degree programs are also offered entirely online. Many MSN programs, including the ones listed above, recognize that nurses have a busy schedule and jobs they care about, not to mention families at home. For this reason, they give nurses the ability to complete the MSN programs online, from anywhere with internet access. If you have obligations at work or home, and you desire to take your nursing career to the top, rest assured you have the ability to complete a Master’s in Nursing program online.
If you are new to nursing and looking to complete your nursing program online, be sure to inquire with each prospective school and get details into their online offerings. Remember, entry-level nursing programs are never fully online, due to the clinical requirements needed to practice as a nurse. However, you can advance your nursing career through online program offerings, like the RN-to-BSN and other bridge models. You may also become a nurse practitioner online, if you wish.
If you are interested in learning about the online nursing programs available at Goodwin University, or have more questions about becoming a nurse online, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call 800-889-3282 or visit us online to request more information.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.