Online nursing programs have revolutionized the way nurses are formed in this country. They have helped reduce both nursing and faculty shortages and are the way of the future for the profession. There are still some programs that are less than reputable out there that you have to watch out for, however. You might also find out that there’s a greater number of options when looking for online programs and they can be hard to navigate. Let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking when picking an online nursing program.
What’s the Program’s Reputation and Accreditation?
The two most important things when picking an online nursing program are how well the program is respected and if it’s accredited. Accreditation shows that the program is of high quality and will provide students with the education needed to perform their functions as well as any other nurse. Choosing an accredited program will also be important if you ever decide to switch schools and want your credits to be recognized.
Also, note that you will not be able to go for the NCLEX test if you went to an unaccredited school. You will need to look for a program that was accredited either by the AACN or the CCNE to be admissible. While you’re at it, it would also be wise to check what the NCLEX pass rate is for the program. This will also be a good indication of how good the program is and what your chances of getting hired out of school will be.
One of the things you should know about online degrees is that nothing is differentiating them from traditional degrees in terms of credentials. Your degree will look just the same as everyone else’s. It is the school and the quality of its nursing faculty that will matter the most, which is why looking at how it’s ranked is of utmost importance.
Is it the Right Type of Program for Me?
Picking the program that will allow you to realize your professional objectives will also be very important. For instance, if you’re just getting started and want a position when you have finished, you might have some difficulty getting a job with an associate’s degree or a certificate these days.
Online associate degrees might seem appealing because they’re accessible, convenient, and fast, but you should consider getting a bachelor’s instead if possible. Studying online for a bachelor’s could allow you to get your credentials faster, so that’s an option you could consider if time is a major concern for you.
Nurses who want to go for advanced credentials like a PhD. should also know the differences between a PhD. and a DNP. PhDs are mainly involved in academia and research while DNPs are more directly involved with patient care. So, if you want to still work with patients, something like the Marymount DNP could be a better option. It combines the DNP with family nursing, allowing for more versatility and the ability to start your own clinic.
Does it Offer Direct Admission?
A lot of people might be surprised to hear this, but getting accepted into nursing school doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be starting right away. Some schools will admit you in advance but will have you wait because they have limited spots.
You could have to wait up to a year or more to get in, so that’s something you’ll have to be ready for. While this might be a minor inconvenience to some, it might be difficult for you if you have to make work arrangements. So, make sure that you check if the program offers direct admission or whether you’ll have to wait.
Synchronous or Asynchronous?
One thing you’ll need to determine as fast as possible is whether the program is synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous classes are when you have to sit down for classes at specific times while asynchronous programs allow you to follow the coursework at your rate within a specific timeframe.
Both options have their pros and cons, and you will need to evaluate these before you make your choice. Asynchronous classes may seem more convenient on the surface, and they can be, but they also come with serious limitations. For instance, you won’t be able to speak directly with the teaching staff or other students. Not only that, but they require more discipline and can feel alienating.
If you want something closer to the real nursing school experience, then going for synchronous classes might be a better choice. In many cases, you’ll have a chance to interact with the teaching staff if you have questions. You’ll also be able to participate in live projects and discussions with other students. When you add clinical assignments, you’ll be able to get close to the camaraderie you would have by going to a traditional nursing school.
How Can I Get in Touch with Staff?
No matter which format you choose, you have to know how and if you’re going to be able to get in touch with the teaching staff. While many programs will allow you to speak directly with your teachers, you should know that some will only allow you to speak with course managers. If you can contact your teachers, you have to know how often, how fast you can expect a response, and through which method you can communicate with them, whether that’s video conferencing, phone calls, or email.
What are the Clinical Requirements?
Another very important thing you should look at in a nursing program is the clinical requirements. This is especially important if you’re a professional and have to make schedule arrangements. Accrediting bodies require that students complete a practicum or clinical component on-site. You have to know where this will be and how many hours will be required.
All of these questions should be answered before you pick an online nursing program. This will ensure that you get the proper formation, enjoy your time there, and get access to better job opportunities when you are finished.