Guide For Nursing Degrees

online nursing degree guide Over the years, the nursing profession has gained immense popularity. This is not surprising, since the demand for health care professionals has skyrocketed in recent years. The aging population has been the primary reason for this growth. As the baby boomers grow old, there will be an increasing demand for people with health care education and skills. In addition to that, as the increasing number of Americans adopt a healthier lifestyle, health care professionals are needed to educate them lead such a lifestyle.

With this growing demand for health care professions, it is only natural that an increased number of people would now wish to go for nursing degrees. To get ahead in this field, you need to have nursing education, irrespective of the fact whether it is gained traditionally or online.

Is a nursing degree for you?

Even though nursing programs are becoming increasingly popular, it is advised that you keep a certain set of pointers in mind before deciding whether a nursing degree is really for you or not.

You should seriously consider getting a nursing degree if the following holds true for you:

  • You are a good listener and want to help humanity
  • You are very observant – You notice things that others usually overlook
  • You have an ability to deal with stressful and traumatic situations with strength and calmness
  • You are in good health, both mental and physical
  • You are open to working overtime, weekends, holidays and evenings
  • You understand the varying needs of people of all ages, economic backgrounds, races, religious beliefs and sexual orientations
  • You enjoy working in an active, fast-paced workplace
  • You understand the importance of confidentiality and respect for your patients

If you have most of these qualities and skills, this profession might just be perfect for you.

What degrees similar to nursing can I pursue?

Nursing is merely one branch of the vast health care industry. If you are not sure of becoming a nurse, there are other related majors you could pursue to help you pursue careers in fields similar to nursing. The following could be a few examples:

  • Counseling: This would require you to understand the needs of distressed individuals with the maximum amount of compassion and care. You would be responsible for diagnosing and treating behavioral and emotional disorders.
  • Human Services: A degree in human services would teach you to understand the conditions and needs of people living with violence, poverty or isolation. It will help you design programs to deal with such individuals.
  • Psychology: This is the study of the human brain. You will analyze how human beings react to certain situations and how trauma affects their behavior.
  • Health Administration: The health care industry offers employment opportunities outside the traditional realm as well. There is a financial, legal and human aspect as well, which has a noted impact on the operational success of any health care organization. You can become a part of the management side of health care operations.
  • Public Administration: A degree in public administration would expose you to the world of programs developed for the health care industry.

What are my degree options within nursing?

There are a variety of nurses and nursing programs are offered accordingly. Which degree program to choose will depend upon where you see yourself in the nursing hierarchy. Various nursing programs will have their own specific time lengths and requirements. Online nursing schools are gaining popularity, offering the following programs:

Licensed Practical Nursing or Licensed Vocational Nursing (LPN/LVN)

This program would typically include a year of training at a vocational school, community college or hospital. Once you graduate, you can get your diploma or certificate to become a licensed LPN/LVN. To get licensed, you will need to pass your state's nursing exam, also known as the NCLEX-PN examination.

Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)

Fresh high school graduates and LPNs can apply to this program. It is a two year long program which focuses on clinical training along with technical skills and allows entry into the health care delivery system at the beginner's level. Students who have completed this program are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The American Nurses Association and the National League for Nursing, both advise aspiring nurses to complete this program, since this is an entry point for professional nursing. You can go for a BSN degree as a freshman or as a nurse who has already completed the ASN program. The latter option is known as RN-to-BSN.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

This is an advance level degree that can create new opportunities for you. This program is designed for nurses who wish to further their expertise in a specific specialization and become nationally certified. Nurses who are interested in administrative or managerial positions in particular, are required to have an MSN. This program would take nearly two years to complete and the primary prerequisite for admission is having practiced as an RN for one to two years at least.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

This is the highest level of education that a nurse can achieve. It enables aspiring health care professionals, nursing researchers and nurse scientists to research into advance nursing science and practice nursing in clinical or academic environments.

Which areas of nursing can I specialize in with a nursing degree?

There are several aspiring nurses who wish to specialize in a particular aspect of nursing, as opposed to the general nursing practice. The options available for such individuals include:

Family Nurse Practitioner

These are advanced practice nurses who go for additional education and training for the provision of primary health care facilities to patients in various clinical settings, including private practice, hospitals, businesses, government organizations and hospitals.

Nursing Education

In this specialization, students are taught fundamental knowledge regarding the nursing industry in areas such as roles and responsibilities of health educators, instruction and learning strategies, designing of program curricula and assessment and evaluation techniques.

Nursing Leadership and Management

This concentration focuses more on the management aspect involved in nursing, such as financial management, planning and development, organizational structure and legal complications.

What are some of the differences between on-campus and online nursing degree programs?

An online nursing program operates almost entirely or partially through the university's website. Students are required to complete their coursework and submit it online, interact with instructors and other students online and browse through coursework via online channels as well.

This mode of instruction gives students flexibility and convenience, allowing them to choose a program that fits their individual schedule. Practicing nurses are encouraged to apply for online programs to advance their knowledge and excel in their careers.

Online programs may have an on campus element in them as well. The theoretical aspects are covered online, whereas the students might be required to visit the campus for practical components of the program.

What courses are taught in a nursing program?

A nursing program includes a large variety of courses, which vary from school to school. Following are some of the courses that you might come across:

  • Adult, Pediatric and Geriatric Care
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Home Health Care
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing Leadership
  • Psychology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical Assessment
  • Medical and Surgical Care
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Environmental and Occupational Health

These are just a few of the options that you might have in a nursing program's course structure.

What skills will I learn in a nursing degree program?

Employers in the nursing world would be most concerned with the actual skills you learn during the course of your nursing education. Ideally, you should gain the following skills and abilities:

  • The ability to practice ethically, morally and legally
  • Professionalism, competence and commitment to continually contribute to the betterment of health care industry
  • Ability to calmly handle high stress situations
  • Ability to effectively communicate with patients, their families and fellow nurses, in order to share accurate information
  • Ability to reason and think in order to create solutions for health care challenges
  • Ability to competently use thinking skills and technology together in professional nursing
  • Ability to remain updated on the changing techniques, emerging research and technology in the world of nursing
  • Understanding how social, cultural, economic and political factors affect the health of patients, families, groups or communities
  • Willingness to promote a positive image of the health care industry

What kinds of employers hire people with nursing degrees?

Currently, there is a shortage of nurses, driving the demand for skilled and licensed nurses. Nurses are now being hired by various organizations in different capacities to perform health care functions.

While most nurses work in hospitals, there are others who prefer to work in the following settings:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Home health agencies
  • Insurance companies
  • Extended care facilities
  • Managed care organizations
  • Public and private schools
  • Women's clinics
  • US military
  • Private practices
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies

What are some of the possible careers in nursing?

Once you have a nursing degree in hand, there are several job positions you may apply for. Keep in mind that these are only a handful of careers relevant to nursing; there are various other careers that you can go for within the realm of nursing.

  • Ambulatory care nurse
  • Case coordinator
  • Critical care nurse
  • Holistic nurse
  • Medical-surgical nurse
  • Preoperative nurse
  • Psychiatric nurse
  • Radiologic nurse
  • Transplant nurse
  • Rehabilitation nurse
  • Infusion nurse
  • Long-term care nurse

And in case you are an advanced degree holder in nursing, more options would open up for you. These include:

  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Director of clinical administration
  • Head nurse
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse education director
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Clinical information systems consultant
  • Nursing education director
  • Director of pre-authorization/anticipated care

Additional considerations

When going for a nursing degree, keep a few things in mind. Depending on the program you choose, you might have to take several examinations:

  • Pre-Admission Examination (PAX)
  • RN/LPN Achievement (ACH) Tests
  • National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX)
  • Nursing Acceleration Change Exam (NACE) I and II

Make sure to always check for the requirements for the nursing degree you wish to apply for. Requirements can be obtained from the admissions office or the admission portal on the university's websites. Plan your application timeline according to the tests requirements and the amount of time these tests are likely to take.

Another thing you should keep in mind is accreditation. The institute you choose to get your degree from, whether an online college or a traditional on-campus college should be accredited by the relevant organization. In this case, the relevant organization would be the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and/or the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Accreditation should be an integral part of the college selection process since it indicates that the program in question has appropriate educational objectives and follows high quality standards.



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