Online education itself brings forth a world of new opportunities in terms of higher education, be it for professional or academic pursuits. For nurses in particular though, the medium presents several unique advantages. Stay with us as we go through the benefits, suitability, and opportunities that massive improvements in education technology have brought to the nursing profession.
Suitability: Is an Online Nursing Course ideal for You?
In order to be eligible for a nursing program being offered online, you must, at the very least, be a registered nurse with significant clinic hours to boot. The exact requirements in terms of both prior education and experience will differ, based on factors such as:
- The nature and design of the program
- The university or nursing school
- Your field of specialization.
For example, if a nurse has a bachelor’s degree in nursing, they can pursue their doctorate directly, without having to get their MSN certification first. However, there are additional stipulations that must also be met, in order to qualify for an accredited online BSN to DNP program. Some of those requirements are variable, but the following are to be expected at the very least:
- License to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN)
- An accredited BSN degree (regional and/or national)
- 0 GPA or higher (BSN)
- 1 or more years of experience as a professional nurse.
For those wondering how the educational qualifications and training provided by an MSN course can be skipped, rest assured that as long as the program is genuine, it won’t be. CCNE accredited online BSN to DNP programs have the MSN coursework streamlined and embedded into the DNP program itself. This is exactly why, if you already have an MSN degree, this is not a course meant for you. Nurses with MSN degrees should instead be looking at online MSN to DNP courses, as they will be much shorter and more adequately suited for their qualifications and experience.
The multiple benefits of online nursing education can be divided into two primary categories: common benefits of online education in general; and the unique benefits of online education for nurses. We will go through several points next, which will highlight the advantages that may fall under either of these two categories but will still be applicable for all nurses seeking higher education.
Safety: Do Medical Professionals Have a Higher Chance of Contracting Covid Outside Work?
It is possible to contract certain variants of the coronavirus, even if you are vaccinated, and even with the older strains, no vaccine can provide 100% protection against any disease. This is, of course, basic info that you are already familiar with as a nursing professional. Doctors and traveling nurses are the most susceptible professionals, due to the nature of their work itself. After all, while everybody is staying away from crowds that may or may not have people carrying the virus, patients that have tested covid-positive are actually coming in droves to the hospitals, only to be treated by them. This means that safety is a huge concern for medical professionals already in the middle of this ongoing pandemic. Things have changed recently though, and medical professionals likely have a higher chance of contracting covid, or any other contagious disease for that matter, outside their workplace.
When working in a hospital or clinical setting, you are in a constantly disinfected and highly sterile environment, with colleagues who are perfectly aware and more than capable of taking all possible measures for keeping themselves and their surroundings germ-free. Despite there being a high rate of infections among medical professionals during the initial days of the pandemic, infection rates among working medical professionals have come down drastically since. After going through the initial struggle of learning about safely handling a viral strain that did not even exist before, medical professionals now have a clear safety system mapped out. This has helped in significantly minimizing the staff’s chances of contracting covid within a hospital environment.
Unfortunately, very few other facilities can maintain the same level of hygiene, and universities are certainly not among them. Even the world’s best universities are perfectly aware of that fact, which is why traditional establishments are holding the majority of their classes online now. By studying for your degree online, you can achieve two objectives simultaneously:
- You will be keeping yourself from getting exposed to the virus in a non-sterile environment, without your complete PPE set
- By staying away from the campus crowd, you will not be carrying anything back with you to the hospital either.
There is still a chance of getting infected at work, unfortunately, but at least with online classes, you will not be spreading anything to hundreds of people at the university unwittingly, in case you do become a carrier. Through limited exposure, you will not only be keeping yourself comparatively safe, but the move will also mitigate any chances of you infecting others. This holds true for all medical professionals in general and not just nurses.
Affordability: Are Online Nursing Courses More Affordable than their Traditional Counterparts?
The short answer is yes, online degree courses, in general, cost anything between a little to a lot less than their offline counterparts. The main reason behind this difference is the same as it always is whenever we compare online models to their offline counterparts. Traditional university classes naturally have to pay a lot more per class in overhead charges, as compared to online university classes. How well the savings are reflected in the course fees is something that might vary widely from university to university though. Nevertheless, online education is usually more affordable than traditional programs, and there are more reasons as to why that is true, other than just reduced tuition fees. We will elaborate on that in the next point.
Cost-Effectiveness: Do Online Nursing Courses Save Time and Money?
The difference in cost between nursing course fees may or may not be too big, but the amount of time and money a nurse can save by not having to commute regularly or pay for extra living costs while studying in a different city is remarkable. To better explain this statement, let us first highlight how online education helps nurses save money and time, to begin with.
Absence of Additional Expenses: Money, Time and Energy
To attend traditional nursing school while working part-time, they must waste extra time and increase their budget for commuting to and from their home, work, and university. Not only do the students now have to incorporate an extra route into their daily commute which will eat into their time, but that extra traveling would also take a toll on the nurse’s energy level. Considering how stressful the job of a nursing professional can be at any time, and especially during these trying times, energy is just as important of a resource as money and time are, if not even more so.
On the other hand, when you sign up for an online degree course that can improve your nursing career prospects, there is no need for doing any of that. You can study in between shifts, at home, or while traveling, as long as you have a laptop or just a smartphone with you. Also, all those hours and the energy you will save by not having to commute daily can be put into finishing the course faster, or for spending more hours at your present job.
Work Fulltime: Learn and Earn at the Same Time
Higher education is costly for RNs, and if you go to a different city or state to study, the living costs, alongside the loss of a significant income source are likely to put you under heavy student debt. To top it all off, you are also losing out on the experience which you would have gained if you could still work as a nurse. Advanced online nursing courses are designed specifically for busy, full-time nurses, which means that they are flexible enough to provide their student nurses with the opportunity to pursue higher education while holding a full-time nursing job.
Depending on your personal life and related obligations, you may still need to shave off a few hours to make more time for studying, but most nurses who study online are normally able to put in multiple hours of work per week. Therefore, in sharp contrast to offline nursing programs, you can learn and earn (experience and money) at the same time. This would naturally lead to better management of student loans.
By now, it should be clear as to why online courses have become the more popular choice for busy nurses. They provide a very real, practical, and approachable opportunity to pursue higher ambitions. There will still be the need to put in an extra effort mind you, even if you do pursue your coursework over the internet. Considering that DNP-FNPs can earn up to $66.90/hour or $139,140/year on an average (Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services), that extra effort will more than pay for itself in due time.