Pursuing a BSN Degree Online
Is it right for you?
A typical day for Michelle Billings, RN, begins at 7 a.m. when she finishes her 12-hour shift at Home Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Fla. Ms. Billings works three overnight shifts per week, but she’s not complaining. Why? Because it allows her the luxury of having a career that she loves and also being there to see her daughter to and from school each day. But here’s the kicker: This ambitious nurse-wife-mother is also enrolled in a BSN degree program. How does she fit that in?
On her days off, Billings spends time catching up with household duties and enjoys evenings with her family. Then at about 10 p.m., when everyone is sound asleep, she goes to school — in cyberspace. Like thousands of nurses nationwide, she has discovered that online nursing degree programs really are as good, if not better, in some ways, than traditional campus-based study programs.
After working 12 years as a medical assistant, Billings decided to go for her RN degree at Keiser University’s campus-based program. Following graduation, she began working a full-time job, and after two years of nursing decided to go for her BSN. She chose Keiser’s online program and has no regrets.
“Going back to school in the online program allows me to work my classes around my schedule, and I don’t have to miss any interaction with other students,” she says. “My computer allows me to have an audio hookup, so I can actually talk with professors and other students in real time . Being enrolled in the BSN program at the same time as I am in clinical practice enriches my career as well, because I can troubleshoot things that are happening that week in my own practice.”
Raquelle Callahan, RN, a floor nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Roseberg, Ore., agrees that holding down a full-time position while going for a BSN degree is easier to accomplish via the Internet. “I would not be able to further my education without online programs because I work full time,” she says. “I’m enrolled in an online program that is very conducive to my schedule and time restrictions. I can log on any time, night or day. Teachers work around the clock and respond within 12 hours.”
VIRTUALLY THE SAME
Lesley Morgan, Ph.D., MBA, ARNP, is the director of Jacksonville University’s online nursing program, which is entering its ninth year. Dr. Morgan told us, “One of the advantages of an online nursing course versus a campus-based class is that the student’s time is only taken up with their own specific questions — they don’t have to sit through questions they may already know the answers to. We also try to mimic the open classroom setting with our online message boards.”
With the exception of location, differences between the online and campus-based programs are few and far between. Courses cover the same material; the objectives are the same; the books are the same; the structure is the same; the time period for completing a course is the same; and tuition costs are — pardon the pun — virtually the same, although that will vary school to school. E-campus students even attend the same graduation ceremonies as the campus-based students.
Online programs have a few added perks as well. Most of them have access to a larger amount of videos featuring nursing medical procedures and practices than those offered in regular classroom courses. Cyber courses also feature up-to-the-minute technology, viewing of live and recorded medical procedures, user-friendly interfacing, access to teachers via phone or email, online chats with other students and a real-time instructor, and threaded discussions in a bulletin board format. People often feel they know each other better online. They are not intimidated about asking questions.
COMPUTE VS. COMMUTE
Another advantage is there is no wait list for entry to online nursing programs. Most programs can accommodate an unlimited number of students seeking BSN or higher degrees, while waits of 12-18 months are common for associate degrees at ground-based campuses. Some universities have timed entry points to join their nursing programs, while others, like University of Phoenix, have a year-round entry program, allowing students to join the nursing school every week, every month, without waiting. Some also have scholarship opportunities for RNs seeking higher education through online study programs.
Gas prices are, like always, something to consider. Online campuses everywhere are reporting an increase in students as a result of the economy and rising fuel costs. Dennette Moon, RN, BSN, says, “I live an hour away from the campus. It costs me $30-$40 to drive to one class on campus. By studying online, I’m saving wear and tear on my vehicle.”
Having done her ADN on campus and her BSN online, when she decided to go for her MSN/MHA, she chose the online route with University of Phoenix’s eCampus. “Being able to do things on my schedule and not the school’s schedule allows me to better manage my time. What I like best is having a complete medical library in my computer; the resources are right there at my fingertips. And, besides accessing the library, I have access to my teachers and have always gotten a timely email response. I’ve called my instructors as late as 10 p.m. and was never shunned.”
YOUR DEGREE, YOUR FUTURE
When it comes down to choosing a program that’s right for you, Dr. Gail K. Baumlein, Ph.D., RN, dean of nursing programs for Chamberlain College of Nursing, suggests that nurses, “select a BSN program that offers an educational format designed for adult learners, and one that meets their needs for flexibility in course scheduling. A program should focus on core content that is readily applicable to professional settings and that provides interaction with peers who value their professional experiences and values.”
At Los Angeles’ Mount Saint Mary’s College, Anne Tumbarello, MS, RN, CNS, and director of the BSN program, weighed in saying, “While MSMC does not offer an online nursing program, we do offer select courses online. In all of our programs we instill in our students the importance of lifelong learning. Our increasingly complex healthcare system requires our graduates to stay current with evidence-based practice and technological advances in health care organizations.”
Drexel University in Philadelphia has been offering an online RN/BSN program since 1999 and currently has 1,000 students enrolled. Dr. Gloria Donnelly, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, enthusiastically advises RNs to go for it. “Our online BSN program provides the best of both worlds: quality and convenience. So you can complete your degree, completely online and on your time, while maintaining your work and family commitments.”
“The healthcare system is in crisis,” Dr. Donnelly adds, “and the shortage of nurses, nurse leaders and teachers is growing more critical. A highly educated nurse workforce will improve quality and safety for patients, and educate the next generation of nurses. There can be no hesitation by nurses in improving their knowledge and skills.”
Many of the deans interviewed shared Dr. Donnelly’s opinion, stressing the importance of working toward a BSN.
CHALLENGES OF HEALTHCARE
Dr. Suzette Cardin, assistant dean of student affairs and UCLA’s School of Nursing, says, “Nurses who decide to continue their BSN degree or continue on with higher degrees are putting themselves at a significant advantage over other nurses due to the fact that they are learning critical thinking skills and skills for today’s ever-changing healthcare environment.”
“I would encourage the RN to get the BSN for a few reasons,” Elizabeth Speakman, Ed.D., RN, CDE, ANEF, associate professor and assistant dean of RN to BSN programs at Jefferson College of Health Professions, says. “Earning the BSN is an opportunity for RNs to develop personal and professional transformation; it's not a redundancy of previous education and, in fact, most students are pleasantly surprised that it's not a repeat of what they know. There is also legislation being examined about requiring a BSN within 10 years of licensure. Another reason is that there are many jobs that are BSN-preferred, and many hospitals will only hire BSN grads.”
The emergence of “Magnet status” hospitals is also a factor brought up when discussing a BSN degree. According to The Center for Nursing Advocacy, Magnet status is, “an award given by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC), an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, to hospitals that satisfy a set of criteria designed to measure the strength and quality of their nursing.”
Carla A. Downing, Ph.D., vice president of product development and academic support for The College Network, told us, “Many hospitals today are striving to achieve Magnet status to improve patient care through nursing excellence, and to create a better work environment for employees. BSN or MSN degree-prepared nurses are vital in helping hospitals achieve Magnet status. These nurses will provide valuable research and input, which will shape the way hospitals deliver better patient care and better employee satisfaction.”
Lee Kantz, chief marketing officer at the University of Illinois Global Campus, says, “Talk to your employer. Learn about the opportunities your employer has for a nurse with a BSN or MSN. Also, many hospitals are exploring Magnet status, a measure of quality that relates directly to the educational level of their nurses. Employers may therefore be willing to help pay for the program.”
The bottom line is this: Online nursing programs give licensed RNs who are already in the working world the freedom to continue their education, no matter where they live and no matter what time of day they are free to study. Working toward a BSN can lead to opportunities for nursing jobs that pay more and offer “normal” working hours.
RESOURCES FROM THIS ARTICLE
Chamberlain College of Nursing (www.chamberlain.edu)
The Center for Nursing Advocacy (www.nursingadvocacy.org)
The College Network (www.college-net.com)
Drexel College of Nursing & Health Professions (www.drexel.edu/cnhp)
Jacksonville University (www.jacksonvilleu.com)
Jefferson College of Health Professions (www.jefferson.edu)
Keiser University (www.keiseruniversity.edu)
Mount St. Mary’s College (www.msmc.la.edu)
University of California at Los Angeles School of Nursing (www.nursing.ucla.edu)
University of Phoenix/College of Health & Human Services (www.phoenix.edu)
University of Illinois Global Campus (http://global.uillinois.edu)
This article is from workingnurse.com.