August 6, 2020 · 7 min read

9 Tips for Finding Nursing Schools with Strong Diversity and Inclusion Plans

Here are the right questions to ask if you’re looking for a diverse and inclusive nursing school.

erika almanza brown

By Erika Almanza Brown

Erika is a Seattle-based freelance writer covering education and parenting topics.

male and female students walk to class
male and female students walk to class

The demand for diversity, equity, and inclusion at colleges and universities has intensified amid the Black Lives Matter movement, prompting many schools to promise to address these issues. But if you’re looking at nursing schools, whether on-campus or online programs, and issues of diversity are a top priority for you, how do you determine if a school is truly invested in tackling these concerns?

“If you find a school that only utters the phrase ‘diversity’ when it’s only coming from its diversity office, then that school has a problem,” says Shielda G. Rodgers, PhD, RN, associate professor and assistant dean for Inclusive Excellence at the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Everyone on campus needs to buy into it.”

Considering diversity and inclusion issues will help nurses better understand the needs of different segments of the patient population and deliver better care to these groups.

To understand why diversity, equity, and inclusion can be crucial to a student’s academic experience and success, it’s first important to understand the terms.

Diversity encompasses the potential differences within a population. These differences include ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, race, gender, economic class, abilities, and life experiences.

Inclusion is the intentional and coordinated effort to help everyone, especially those in the minority, feel valued, supported, included, and encouraged to participate.

Equity recognizes that not everyone arrives from the same place with the same advantages and works to allocate college resources to students in greater need.

students studying together

Diversity in educational settings benefits underrepresented students, whether they’re gender nonconforming, have a disability, or are in a racial minority. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Education, diversity actually benefits students of all backgrounds.

That’s because exposure to different cultures, perspectives, and experiences can improve critical thinking and analytical skills, and help students compete professionally in the growing global marketplace.

As a result, the nursing industry is working to keep pace with the changing population and expectations. The 2017 National Nursing Workforce Survey found that 19.2% of registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. identified as racial minorities. However, the U.S. Census projects that by 2045, the majority population will be made up of non-white racial and ethnic groups. This will require a more diverse nursing workforce that provides quality care and is culturally sensitive.

In 2018-2019, a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that from entry-level to doctoral nursing programs, around 34% of students were from minority populations. The association’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Group (DEIG) is working to improve engagement of underrepresented groups in schools and the workforce.

“If students find a fit where they feel like they belong both academically and non-academically, then they’re more likely to get their degree,” Rodgers says. “Otherwise, they could leave in one year.”

If you’re a student of color and you’re looking at nursing schools—or any schools for that matter—ask these nine questions to determine if a school is effectively executing a diversity, inclusion, and equity plan.



Does the school have a diversity and inclusion plan with measurable goals?

“Fundamentally, the diversity plan should be a major component of the school’s strategic plan whereby the primary mission should be to promote inclusive excellence—the integration of a standard of excellence not only in the academic realm but in all facets of inclusion and diversity,” says Rolanda Johnson, PhD, MSN, RN, and assistant dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing.

Additionally, the school should use metrics, such as recruitment and graduation rates, to routinely track and report its progress and hold itself accountable for reaching its goals for diversity and inclusion.



Does the school have a detailed plan to not only achieve diversity but to also address discrepancies in retention and graduation rates among minority students?

While it’s important to learn if a nursing school participates in a pipeline program that fosters a diverse student body through partnerships with school districts or other postsecondary institutions, it’s also crucial that the school continuously supports its students to ensure they graduate.

Johnson suggests connecting with current minority students about their personal experiences and whether the school has resources to help set students up for academic success.



What financial programs does the school offer to support economically disadvantaged students?

“Nursing schools are really expensive,” Rodgers says. She advises to comparison shop when considering schools by asking for a list of resources that are available to help cover the full cost of attendance.

That includes not only tuition and room and board but also books, school supplies, uniforms, testing, and traveling to a clinical site for training. There are many scholarships specifically for minority students but she advises, “Be aware of scholarships, grants, and financial aid packages that solely cover room, tuition, and board instead of the total cost of attendance.”



Does the school have funded programs or campus affinity groups to provide cultural and socio-economic support for minority students?

As with many health issues, the global COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the health of Blacks and Latinx communities, while Asians and Asian-Americans have often been on the receiving end of racial slurs regarding the virus’ origin. Schools should provide emergency financial aid to meet basic needs like food and shelter for students, as well as offer mental health services that address their emotional challenges during these stressful times.

Johnson says affinity groups can build a sense of community and belonging. “Students from underrepresented groups have often stated how having such groups are invaluable in that they are able to bond together based on common backgrounds and characteristics,” she says.



Does the school provide a variety of educational opportunities on topics of diversity, inclusion, and equity?

Johnson suggests looking for schools that allow students more opportunities to share their experiences and concerns broadly across the school. Some schools require students and faculty to learn about diversity and inclusion through coursework and workshops, an approach that helps educate white students and takes the burden off students of color to solely lead the charge.

This includes creating spaces for white students to learn about their own potential inherent biases, how to confront racial injustice, specific actions to be antiracist, and ways of holding one another accountable to help convert these learners into allies.



If a program is online, does it follow a diversity plan?

Johnson says online nursing programs should offer the same opportunities for community and inclusion. “Students must inquire about the strategies and/or plans universities or colleges have in place to create a sense of community virtually,” she says.

She suggests looking for the following, for example: regular check-in sessions held by faculty and student leaders on video conferencing platforms to create opportunities for ongoing communication; virtual meetings and activities organized by student groups to promote a sense of community for underrepresented groups; and virtual advisor-student meetings instead of  email or phone conversations.



Does the school look beyond campus for perspectives on racial and social justice?

Schools should welcome a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds, including from community members off campus, when making decisions about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Including church leaders, advocates, and city officials in discussions and decisions can benefit campus culture and help the school carry out its policies.



Does the school have a hospitable campus that is safe and inclusive for all students?

Across the U.S., many student activists have called on their school leaders to remove sculptures, monuments, building names and accolades that honor controversial historical figures. Ask schools where they stand on these issues. Do campus police and the local police department have a plan in place to help students of color feel safe and welcome?

These circumstances can negatively affect some students. Rodgers strongly suggests that students look at the campus climate because in recent months, colleges and universities have “seen a resurgence in racism, and schools need to address all of that.”



Does the school have faculty and staff who are members of minority groups, and does it have a plan to increase those numbers?

According to the 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Education, in 2013-14, 74% of faculty members at the nation’s colleges and universities were white, while 5% were Asian, 4% were Black, and 3% were Hispanic. But a diverse faculty can have a deep impact on course curriculum, campus climate and the academic experience for all students.

There are three significant advantages to having a diverse faculty, according to the Center for Education Data and Research:

  • Students of color benefit from seeing people like themselves in positions of authority.
  • Faculty from minority groups often have higher expectations for their minority students.
  • Faculty who share similar cultures and backgrounds with students can better determine effective teaching strategies and interpret their students’ behaviors.

All of these benefits promote student achievement, so learning what nursing schools are doing to increase diversity among faculty and staff could be another key in finding the school that’s right for you.

Minority Nursing Groups and Associations

Joining a group or an association that supports minority nurses can be a powerful tool in networking and staying on top of important issues. These organizations are a great place to start.

  • The National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations (NCEMNA)
  • Black Nurses Rock
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN)
  • Asian American Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA)
  • National Black Nurses Association (NBNA)
  • Philippine Nurses Association of America Inc.

Professional Insight From:

Rolanda Johnson, PhD, MSN, RN
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University, School of Nursing

Shielda Glover Rodgers, PhD, RN
Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing

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June 10, 2020 · 10 min read

The Basics of Online Nursing Degrees

From managing your schedule to what classroom delivery looks like, get important tips you need to prepare you for learning online.

By Anna Giorgi

female student video conferencing with teacher
online student on video chat with teacher and classmates

It’s a big decision to decide to go back to school—one that presents a number of challenges for people trying to work one more task into their busy lives. An online degree, which allows students flexibility in where and when they study, is often a great option for nursing students—whether you’re just starting your higher ed journey or you already have some experience under your belt.

Whether you’re going for your associate’s degree, bachelor’s, master’s—or even a doctorate, here’s what you need to know before jumping in.

Is an Online Program Right for You?

Prioritizing and managing course time around an already-busy personal life is the key to success in an online nursing program. The students best suited for online learning are committed, dedicated, and focused.

“You must be goal-driven because it is an environment where you can pick and choose most of the time when you’re going to sign on, when you’re going to do your work,” says Lisa Smith, PhD, RN, CNE, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions at Grand Canyon University. “You can’t be distracted by all the opportunities that come up throughout the week that pull your attention away.”

In addition to having the right mindset and skills, having support from your family or partner is important for your success in online learning.

In addition to a focused mindset, it’s also important to have the support of your employer if you think you’ll need to cut back in work or take time off to fulfill clinical hours. Support from your family or significant other is also critical to success in online learning. Your risk of dropping out increases when family members don’t understand the importance of what you’re trying to accomplish, Smith says.

What Nursing Degrees Can Be Earned Online?

Nursing degrees of all types—from entry-level associate’s degrees to upper-level graduate and doctorate degrees—can be earned through an online format, although there are varying levels of clinical, hands-on requirements that must be fulfilled in person at a clinic, hospital or other brick-and-mortar facility.

Check out the specific online requirements for the following nursing degree programs:

Online vs In-Class: What’s the Difference?

Students seeking their nursing degree online are studying, engaging with instructors, and completing most of their coursework remotely; usually from home. Still, the education you receive with an online program provides you with the same skills and experiences provided to students enrolled in on-campus programs.

The unique characteristic of online nursing programs is the flexibility they provide in allowing you to complete your studies on a timeline that works with your lifestyle rather than following a more regimented on-campus schedule. You’re able to choose when you learn while also gaining flexibility in overall program scheduling, since many online programs aren’t limited to traditional fall and spring semesters.

Degree programs delivered online require considerably more technological know-how than their on-campus counterparts, so it’s important to consider your computer skills in weighing your ability to learn effectively online. To prepare for online learning, you should understand how to upload documents, download software, and navigate your school’s website for classes and other educational resources such as online libraries. You may also have to work with software applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel, depending on your educational program.

“Since online learning is a very different modality than face-to-face, prospective students need to think about how strong their time management skills are,” says Melissa Burdi, DNP, MS, RN, LSSGB, associate dean for the School of Nursing at Purdue University Global. “Do they have a baseline understanding or comfort with technology?  Are they disciplined? Are they strong at basically carving out time in their day or throughout their week to budget and plan for the completion of certain materials?”

Take Our Quiz: Online or On-Campus? Find out What’s Right for You

Are you destined for distance learning or is on-campus life is your best bet?

If you’re thinking about going back to school and wondering whether learning in a traditional classroom setting or getting your degree online is best for you, our quiz can help nudge you in the right direction.

Which is best for you? Let’s find out.

Read each statement below and respond either: Online, or On-Campus.

Keep track of your answers.




The degree I want isn’t available at a convenient location, but I can complete it online without relocating.

The degree I want is within driving distance to my home or I’m willing to relocate to live near or on campus

Type of Experience:

I have a strong social network and don’t have an interest in experiencing campus life.

I want to experience all the activities that campus life has to offer when I’m not involved with academics.


I can finish my degree faster with an online program that allows me to progress at my own pace and take classes year-round.

I prefer traditional semester pacing at this point in my studies.


My work/family responsibilities require that I have the convenience to attend classes 24/7 and complete coursework on my own timeline.

I have the opportunity to be a full-time student or I have family/spousal support that makes it easy for me to adjust my calendar without a conflict.

Study Habits:

I’m self-disciplined and can stay on track in a way that helps me keep current on assignments and other course requirements.

I achieve my academic goals best with the structure and accountability that comes with attending on-campus classes on a set schedule.

Instructor Interaction:

I’m comfortable communicating with my instructor via email, discussion boards, or videoconferencing to clarify content and resolve course issues.

I prefer having the option to interact with my instructor and ask questions in real-time. I comprehend new material best when it’s presented in person.

Classmate Interaction:

I’m comfortable using discussion boards and social media to establish relationships and communicate with classmates that I may never meet in person.

I’m not confident reaching out to strangers in a virtual environment. I communicate best in face-to-face interactions.

Communication Skills:

I feel self-conscious speaking in public and prefer written communication when possible.

I’m not shy about raising my hand in class and asking a question or giving an opinion in front of my classmates.

Technological Skills:

I’m confident using technology to learn, communicate, and conduct research. I can usually resolve technical issues easily.

I have basic computer skills but am not comfortable navigating new software and learning platforms. Dealing with technical issues stresses me.

Home Environment:

I have a dedicated study space and all the tools I need to access online classes and interact with teachers and classmates when necessary.

Attending on-campus classes allows me to focus on my learning in an environment free from interruptions or distractions, which isn’t possible at my home.  

How’d you do?

If you answered, “Online” to seven or eight statements, you’re likely good to go for online classes. You probably have the discipline, confidence, and support system in place to handle an online classroom environment.

If you answered “On-Campus” or not sure to four or more statements, you may not be ready to tackle an online program. If you have concerns about technology or about reaching out to instructors and classmates but really want to make online learning work, instructors and advisors may be able to help you navigate the system and understand what they expect from students.

What to Look for In an Online Program

woman taking class online wearing headphones

You can ensure that you’re receiving a quality online education by checking school and program accreditation. Accreditation is a review process that determines whether your school or program meets established criteria that set educational standards.

You must attend an accredited program to qualify for most state nursing licenses and professional specialty certifications. You also need a degree from an accredited program if you want to transfer credits from one school to another.

School accreditation and program accreditation are awarded separately. You can verify a school’s accreditation on a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.

It’s also important to verify that your state board of nursing approves the program you’re taking and accepts a degree from there toward the licensure requirements you’ll fulfill later.

You must attend an accredited program to qualify for most state nursing licenses and professional specialty certifications.

How are Online Classes Delivered?

In an online learning environment, students typically access course content at their convenience. This means that some of your work and communication might not take place in real time. Even though you’re not physically sitting in a classroom, online programs offer many ways to engage with your instructor and fellow students.

Using Technology to Create a Connection

Many schools delivering online programs create virtual classrooms where web-based software such as Blackboard or Canvas creates an environment that mirrors a traditional classroom. You’ll access course content, turn in assignments, take quizzes, and interact with your professors and other students through this software.

Collaborating with Classmates and Study Groups

Online programs will often offer ways to help you engage with your instructors and classmates—often in real time. Courses may be delivered live when everyone has to sign on at the same time to a platform like Zoom that allows for real-time interaction through videoconferencing. Other courses may require group projects in which students have to work together. Additionally, many online schools also offer online clubs and organizations so students can socialize and form bonds away from the classroom in the same way they would on a campus.

Many online schools also offer clubs and organizations that allow students to socialize and bond in the same way that they would in a campus format.

Creating a collaborative learning community is critical to online nursing education. “Nursing is not a profession that you can do in a silo, so when you are learning online it’s very important that students have enough opportunity to interact with their classmates and faculty beyond just answering questions and submitting the assignments,” says Grand Canyon University’s Smith. “There needs to be interaction and dialogue.”

Connecting with Your Professor One-on-One

Many online schools require their professors to hold online office hours so students know they can connect as a set time. It will be up to you as an online student to seek out your professors when they’re available and be persistent if they’re not readily accessible. 

Most professors announce their preference for email, discussion boards, or even social media, at the beginning of the course so you know what to expect.

The Best Tech Set-up for Online Learning at Home

Setting up an appropriate at-home learning space can make all the difference in your success as an online student. While you may not have the luxury of designating a separate room for your studies, try to establish a personal workspace that allows you to concentrate.

To set up a home study space that positions you for success:

  • Avoid spaces that have distractions from TVs or central social areas of your home.
  • Consider using headphones if you can’t shut out nearby noise.
  • Choose a spot near a source of natural light, which helps keep you more alert and focused than fluorescent light.
  • Store study essentials like notebooks, pens, and textbooks nearby.
  • Select a chair and writing space that allow you to stay comfortable and focused.

Consult with your school for specific technology requirements and check your equipment against their standards. Most schools operate with high-speed internet. While a phone or tablet may be adequate for checking assignments, a desktop or laptop is recommended for proctored tests and live video. Schools typically provide required software for free or at a discount.

How Much Does an Online Nursing Degree Cost?

The costs of online nursing degree programs vary widely. Many online schools charge by credit hour or quarter credit hour, which is often used for part-time students. Other programs charge by semester. In a program that offers a modularized curriculum, you may be able to progress through as many courses as you can for one flat fee per semester.

In addition, some state schools may differentiate between resident and non-resident tuition for online students while others charge the same online tuition for everyone. Ask the schools you’re exploring for specifics.

To compare prices, use a school’s net price tuition calculator to determine the cost of your degree.

The best way to compare prices among programs is to use a school’s net price tuition calculator tool to determine the total cost of your degree. All schools that participate in the federal financial aid program are required to have a net price calculator on their websites. If you have to complete clinical hours, you’ll likely have to add fees for background checks, fingerprinting, equipment, uniforms, and other supplies.

Can I Get Financial Aid to Help Pay for an Online Degree?

Like traditional on-campus students, those seeking a degree online can also apply for financial aid and income-based scholarships. To qualify, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools and financial institutions use this standard form to determine your eligibility for financial assistance and student loans. Other potential sources of financial aid include school or program awards, nursing scholarships, and military service credits.

Will an Online Degree Make a Difference to an Employer?

Whether you receive your degree online, in a classroom, or a combination of both, isn’t as important to employers as the fact that you attended an accredited program. An online degree prepares you to be just as competitive in the workforce as one earned on campus.

In reality, so much study has been done that validates the quality of online learning that most employers don’t typically consider an online degree as a deterrent to hire, says Smith.

Give Online Learning a Shot!

Online education is becoming more and more mainstream, especially in light of recent global events that shifted the way education is delivered. The proliferation of robust networking and collaboration tools only make pursuing your online nursing degree easier.

“Online learning is an accepted and credible way to earn a high-quality nursing degree,” says Carla D. Sanderson, PhD, RN, provost at Chamberlain University. “Prospective students are encouraged to select the program that best fits their learning preferences and lifestyle needs.”

For even more resources, check out our seven page guide to online learning.

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Accelerated Nursing Program Advice from Nurses Who Did It

This fast-track nursing program is specifically designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field.

Your Bachelor of Arts degree proudly hangs on your wall. The only problem? You want to become a registered nurse—without having to commit to many more years of school.

You’re not the only one, and nursing schools have heard the call. According to the American Association of Colleges and Nursing (AACN),  more than 23,354 students were enrolled in accelerated nursing programs in 2018. 

These programs are designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. Also known as second degree or direct-entry nursing programs, accelerated programs allow students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 11 to 18 months of full-time study.

A natural concern for accelerated nursing program students is returning to campus life, but it’s nothing like freshman year of college.

Because of the full-time course load and rigid schedule, students are often discouraged, or sometimes prohibited, from working. However, some accelerated BSN programs are offered part time in the evenings and on weekends, though these typically take about 22 months to complete.

These programs shouldn’t be confused with RN-to-BSN programs, which are designed for current nurses looking to advance their career. RN-to-BSN programs take about two years to complete.

Learn more about program prerequisites, online learning, and what to expect in class and after graduation.

Who Are the Ideal Students?

smiling woman working on laptop

Accelerated nursing program students are often described as ambitious, motivated, and striving for academic excellence. Because the programs are so rigorous, nursing students often spend most of their time together.

Amanda Criner, a Chicago-based RN who also holds a BA in journalism, recalls the diverse group of students she went to school with. Some had business and real estate backgrounds.

“It was a really good mix,” says Criner, who returned to school after 10 years. “It was a second career or people who had decided [to go into nursing] later in college. They were supportive and we studied together.”

A natural concern for accelerated nursing program students is returning to campus life, but as Criner points out, it’s not like freshman year of college. There are no dorms or learning how to do laundry for the first time. The sole focus is on nursing and gaining clinical experience.

Some Students Drawn by Better Career Options, Personal Experience

What would draw someone to such a fast-paced and intensive nursing program? For many students, the impetus is job dissatisfaction or a positive personal experience with nurses.

Criner taught preschool prior to getting her nursing degree. The pay was low, the hours weren’t ideal, and she didn’t see any room for job growth.

A career change became a real consideration after her father spent an extended amount of time in the hospital. Criner’s regular interaction with his nurses made her realize she wanted to go back to school.

“The nurses were amazing,” she says. “They were smart, and they cared about my dad and us. I said, ‘I think I can do this.'”

Jessica Mooney, a Boston-area RN, was also inspired by a personal experience and the desire for job growth. Her original bachelor’s degree was in communications.

“My first job was working as an administrative assistant in a large teaching hospital in Boston in the neonatal intensive care unit,” Mooney says. “Working alongside the clinicians, especially the nurses, made me want to enter the field.”

Types of Programs

All types of accelerated nursing programs are similar in their goal—to provide a fast-track degree and prepare future nurses for a career. But there are nuances among these programs.

BA or BS? When researching programs, pay attention to the type of bachelor’s degree they accept. Some schools design their programs for students who already have a bachelor’s in science, while others are open to students with a bachelor’s in any field.

Start date? The typical September “back to school” season doesn’t necessarily apply to accelerated programs. Spring and summer start dates are popular, while other programs may begin in October or January.

Another thing to remember: There are no breaks, so you’ll attend classes without a stop between semesters. Be sure to plan your schedule accordingly.

Accelerated BSN on-campus or online? One factor to consider is how you learn best. If you’re focused and self-disciplined, an online accelerated BSN may work for you. However, if you’ll learn better with face-to-face interaction with other students and professors, think about an on-campus program.

Accelerated programs include the same amount of clinical time as traditional BSN programs, usually about 700 to 800 hours. However, you begin the clinical phase much sooner in an accelerated program because it allows you to use your previous educational experience to meet non-nursing course requirements.

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Typical Curriculum

Once you’ve completed the prerequisites, it’s time to get to the good stuff: nursing classes. Unlike RNs who head back to school, new-to-nursing students may not be familiar with the types of courses they’ll take. Here’s an example of classes you may encounter:

  • Nursing Profession Introduction
  • Maternity and Newborn Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Community Health
  • Pathophysiology
  • Nursing Research
  • Health Assessment Across the Lifespan

Your clinical rotations will occur in a hospital or other healthcare facility so you can gain skills in an authentic setting. In most clinical experiences, you work one-on-one with a nursing preceptor, an experienced nurse who directs and guides you in your new role.

Online Options

african american woman studying online at home using a laptop and looking happy

As online degrees grow in popularity, nursing schools have taken notice. Many institutions have begun offering accelerated programs online to provide students with more flexible scheduling and a new way to learn.

Since many students who are earning an accelerated BSN have other obligations, such as family, an online learning environment removes the stress of finding time to get to campus. (It’s important to note that online accelerated BSNs actually use a hybrid model. Theory classes can be done online while clinical experiences and lab work must be done in person).

Students typically complete their clinical rotations in their community, which is helpful if you enroll at a school that isn’t nearby.

Accelerated nursing programs online go beyond reading and lecture notes. In some programs, lab work is replaced with interactive simulations of situations you’d encounter as a nurse.

Students typically complete their clinical rotations in their community, which is helpful if you want to enroll at a school that isn’t nearby.

A word about online accelerated BSN degrees: The “flexible” component of these programs primarily refers to the level of independent study time. Since you won’t be required to show up to a classroom, you’ll have the freedom to get your work done at any time of the day. However, the program is structured; there are strict due dates and students move through the program at the same time.

Program Prerequisites

While accelerated BSN programs typically last 11 to 18 months, you may be in school a bit longer if you need to complete prerequisites. Some students take one class at a time while working. Mooney took three semesters to meet her requirements and worked full time.

Here’s a sample list of accelerated BSN prerequisites. A grade of B or better is usually required.

  • Biology I
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Microbiology
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • Statistics
  • Sociology

If looking at a list of science classes gives you flashbacks of high school, don’t be intimidated. Your life experience may help you more than you realize. Daunted by the prerequisites when she first saw them, Criner gave herself a pep talk.

“I can balance my checkbook so I can balance an equation,” she says. “Dive in and take a class to see how it is.” Many pre-nursing students take these classes at local community colleges due to convenience and affordability. And your Bachelor of Arts degree won’t go waste. Mooney said her liberal arts education prepared her for writing many papers in nursing school.

Other Admission Requirements

Accelerated BSN programs are competitive; schools often look for students who have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Many programs also meet with prospective students or provide a pre-screening questionnaire to identify individuals who will succeed in this type of program.

Career Outlook: Your Skills and Maturity Are Assets

female nurse bending down to talk to girl patient

Unfortunately, there can be misconceptions about accelerated nursing programs. To the uninitiated, it can seem like they’re easy or that students don’t gain the same expertise as those in traditional programs.

Don’t let the naysayers discourage you. In fact, the outcomes for accelerated programs are promising.

According to the AACN, some employers look for graduates of these programs because of their skill and maturity. Criner agrees, noting that a younger nurse may have less experience dealing with difficult personalities or sensitive situations.

“You have this advantage. You had a life before,” Criner says. “As someone with more experience, I’m more apt to say, ‘Let’s find a solution.'”

Some employers look for students from accelerated programs because of their skill and maturity.

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Accredited programs are designed to prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Schools often publicize NCLEX-RN passing rates for their students; this can be helpful when deciding which school to attend.

So is all that hard work worth it? We’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, registered nurses have a rosy outlook, with a predicted 12% increase in job growth through 2028.

And a nurse with a BSN has many careers to choose from.

Financial Aid for Accelerated BSN Programs

smiling woman reads paper while sitting on couch

Financial aid is an especially important topic if you plan to attend an accelerated BSN program that doesn’t allow students to work during school.

You may recall filing a FAFSA form when you attended school the first time. To be eligible for federal financial aid, you’ll need to complete this application again. If you have extenuating circumstances, such as high day care costs, you’ll need to provide this information to specific schools to factor into your potential aid award.

Nursing is also one of a handful of professions in which loan forgiveness may be an option.

In some cases, students will try to pick up side jobs to supplement their income. For instance, Mooney worked as a nanny near her home, but she warns it can be difficult to juggle work and school.

“It allowed me to study while the kids were doing their homework,” she says. “This was stressful because the fixed hours prevented me from meeting classmates for study groups or staying late after class to talk to a professor.”

Accelerated BSN Survival Tips

It’s no secret that accelerated BSN programs are fast-paced and intense, but for the nurses we talked to, it was the best decision they ever made.

“The program was the most challenging thing I have ever completed in my life,” Mooney says. “But still to this day, I smile when I see my diploma.” Mooney offers these accelerated BSN program survival tips to get the most out of your experience:

Have a dedicated place to study.

“Be comfortable in the space as you will spend every Friday and Saturday night here for 18 months!”

Get to know your professors well. Email them frequently and visit during office hours.

“They are nurses too. They want you to succeed. They can offer guidance if you’re struggling. Stay visible.”

Stay ahead of your work.

“Know your to-do list a week ahead so that you can anticipate how much time you’ll need to study.”

Make time to meet with your friends and support system, but don’t take a day off.

“Even if you have an R&R day, read for 20 minutes at some point in the day to stay focused.”

Talk to your professor if you do poorly on a test/simulation.

“Find out where you made your mistakes.”

Find a small study group with no more than four people.

“If you find yourself in a group that is not focused, get out ASAP.”

Get to know the staff nurses you meet in clinical.

“They may be able to help you get a clinical nursing assistant job and or even a staff nurse job in the future. Get their email, ask them informed questions and keep in touch with them.”

The truth is out: Accelerated nursing programs will certainly consume a significant portion of your life for about 18 months, but the payoff can be immense.

“People think it’s pretty great that you went back to school,” Criner says. “It means more to people. We need nurses with experience in the world. Start by having the confidence you can do it.”

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March 20, 2020 · 7 min read

Gear Up for National Nurses Week—and Nurses Year!

Recognize and honor the contributions of nurses in our communities May 6–12.

stephanie behring

By Stephanie Behring
Stephanie Behring is an education and healthcare writer living on the east coast. 

female nurses giving instructions to team of nurses
nurses collaborating on patients on ipad

You probably know that every year in May, National Nurses Week honors nurses for their work caring and advocating for patients and their families. But did you know that 2020 is being celebrated as the year of the nurse as well? It’s especially fitting given the need to recognize and appreciate healthcare professionals with this year’s pandemic crisis. There will be events all year to honor those dedicated to this demanding profession, and we’ve compiled many of them here to help you celebrate your chosen career.

When Is National Nurses Week?

As always, National Nurses Week will run from May 6-12, timed with Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12. This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the woman considered the founder of modern nursing, and in her honor, the World Health Organization has declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Nursing organizations across the country are planning special celebrations throughout the year, and the American Nurses Association (ANA), one of the oldest associations of professional nurses in the country, is even dedicating the entire month of May to honoring nurses.

“A month allows greater opportunities to promote understanding and awareness of our profession, encourage young people to consider nursing as a career, and recognize the vast contributions of nurses,” says Deborah Plumstead, an ANA senior campaign specialist.

What is the History of National Nurses Week?

Various groups have been lobbying to recognize nurses dating back to 1953 when U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Dorothy Sutherland unsuccessfully proposed a day for nurses to President Eisenhower. But it wasn’t until 20 years later when the International Nurses Council (ICN) proclaimed May 12 as International Nurses Day. It wasn’t until another 8 years later, in 1982, that President Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6 National Recognition Day for Nurses, and since then the ANA, which has supported the profession since 1896, has been the driving resource behind the celebrations. They’ve added more reasons and ways to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses make to the community—including May 8 as National Student Nurses Day.

All this means that it’s a great year to celebrate nurses (and being a nursing student) beyond grabbing an extra cookie from the break room during a week in May. From self-care to national contests, there’s something for every nurse who wants to participate.

How to Participate

Attend a Conference

Attending a conference or another nursing event can help you learn something new and build your network. There are a number of special events scheduled this year, so treat yourself to a career boost—or better yet, see if your employer will cover the cost of attending. However, before booking arrangements, be sure to double check whether the events are still happening, due to travel and social distancing restrictions related to current healthcare concerns.

Presented by Sigma and the National League for Nursing, this conference takes place in Washington, D.C., March 26–28.

This summit focuses on palliative care training and will be held April 15–16 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Held April 27–28 at the Cleveland Clinic in Mayfield, Ohio, this conference is for nursing professionals interested in clinical research.

Held May 3 in Athens, Ohio, this conference will provide the chance for nurses to earn seven continuing education units with a focus on serving vulnerable populations.

This conference will be held in Reston, Virginia, June 11–14 and will focus on the role of psychopharmacology in clinical care.

NAHN’s conference is dedicated to advocacy and is being held in Miami June 14–17.

This event is focused on increasing diagnoses in primary care settings and will be held in Naples, Florida, July 11–12.

This conference in Las Vegas is for a wide range of traveling healthcare professionals and will be held September 13–16.

This event is October 19–21 in Orlando, Florida, and features over 250 speakers.

Recognize a Nurse (or Yourself!)

The year of the nurse is also an excellent time to get involved in your professional community. You can find events locally, at the state level, and nationwide.

Two large nursing organizations are offering special recognition for nurses:

  • The Daisy Foundation’s Award for Extraordinary Nurses (Daisy Award). The Daisy Foundation has been honoring nurses since 1999. It works with 4,000 healthcare organizations globally to celebrate nursing with awards for individual nurses, teams, and nursing leaders. Winners are nominated by their peers and patients throughout the year. The foundation helps organizations set up ceremonies to present winners with an award package that includes a framed certificate, a daisy pin to wear on your badge showing you’ve received this honor, a hand-carved stone sculpture, and a spotlight page on the Daisy Foundation website. Winners are also eligible for exclusive career development opportunities.
  • The International Council of Nurses’ Nightingale Challenge. In 2020, the International Council of Nurses (INC), one of the most respected and longstanding global healthcare organizations, is challenging employers to identify 20 nurses for leadership and personal development. The goal is to encourage organizations worldwide to promote nursing leadership. Selected nurses will receive free training to advance their careers and have the opportunity to take on leadership roles. Participating organizations will have access to classes and seminars from global nursing leaders and to unique networking opportunities.

Enter a Contest

There are also a range of contests nurses can enter. Some might require a little creativity when it comes to entering, while others are as simple as filling out a form. Keep in mind that some contests are limited to certain specialties or regions, so make sure you read the rules carefully. Here are some ways nurses can win this year:

Nurses at all levels, including CNAs, are eligible to win a Range Rover by filling out an entry form by August 1.

Though the name wouldn’t suggest it, this contest is open to members of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA) and the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) (but residents of Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New York and Wisconsin are not eligible). Winners are picked quarterly for a $1,000 award toward a fun night out.

Ten lucky nurses will take the field at Fenway Park during Nurse Night on May 20. One winning nurse will also throw the first pitch of the game. Nominations for this contest close on April 9.

Though the February deadline has passed for 2020, bookmark this one for next year. You can win up to $1,000 for submitting a photograph that highlights the challenges of your work in nursing.

Get Freebies and Discounts

Show your badge during National Nurses Week, and many businesses will honor your work with free or discounted items. You can also sign up for free classes, including an ANA webinar on May 10 titled Magnify Your Voice — Use Storytelling to Advance Nursing. While most 2020 deals haven’t been announced yet, you can generally count on:

  • Uniform discounts
  • Free coffee from national chains
  • Free meals and snacks at participating restaurants
  • Discounts on housewares
  • Discounts on classes or free continuing education credits

Watch for discounts on the Nurses Week website.

Join in on Social Media

Nurses are joining the festivities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, using the hashtags #YON2020 or #yearofthenurse. Share stories about your favorite nurse, nurse educator, mentor, or colleague with us on our Facebook Page to pay it forward for everything they’ve done for you.

Jump Start Your Career

Find a Mentor

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go over the long run. It can be helpful to talk to someone who has been in the field longer than you and has accomplishments similar to your goals. Not sure how to find a mentor? You can begin by reaching out to a professor, starting a conversation with a coworker in a leadership role, or networking.

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go over the long run.

Get a Credential

Adding a new credential to your resume is a great way to boost your career. You can find courses in a variety of specialties that can help you gain knowledge and stand out in your field. You might even be able to get financial assistance from your employer toward a course. You can start by checking out the many credentials offered by The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). With more training, you can join nurses who maintain high credentials and are honored on March 19, Certified Nurses Day.

Go for an Advanced Degree

Have you been meaning to go back to school? Nurses Week is excellent motivation to earn that degree you’ve been thinking about. Whether you’re looking to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or turn your licensed practical nurse (LPN) training into a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN), now is a good time to get started.

Remember to Practice Self-Care

As medical professionals who are often in a high-stress environment, nurses experience a personal toll in their line of work. Nurses often work long shifts caring for the medical and emotional needs of multiple patients. In fact, 15.6% of nurses in a 2019 national survey reported feelings of burnout. Self-care can ease this frazzle, helping you recharge and deliver your best patient care. You don’t need an elaborate ritual, but you do need to make time to nurture your resilience. Some ways to do that:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Unplug from social media for a while
  • Take time to exercise
  • Eat healthy meals
  • Spend time with friends
  • Read a favorite book or watching a favorite movie
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Go for the Next Level

From an LPN to a Doctorate in Nursing, explore a variety of programs that will energize and educate you.

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October 10, 2019 · 7 min read

Nursing Programs You Can Finish in About a Year or Less

All Nursing Schools Staff

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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has been heralding the warning for years: The U.S. needs nurses and it needs them now. By 2050, the population of people over age 65 is projected to hit more than 83 million, bringing with them an increased need for healthcare related to aging and chronic disease. What’s more, a survey published in 2018 found that roughly half of the nursing workforce is over the age of 50, meaning more than one million nurses are expected to reach retirement age within the next 15 years.

Thankfully, nursing-related jobs that don’t require years of education are rapidly on the rise, and many are among the fastest-growing occupations in the nation. If you’re looking to join the field—whether you have a month or a year or more for your education—there’s a program that’s right for you.

Want to Knock It Out in as Little as 4–6 Weeks? Become a Home Health Aide

Length of Time

1–6 months, with at least 75 hours of training, depending on your state

Average Program Cost


Average Annual Salary


With a whopping projected job growth of 37% over the next decade, home health jobs are the third fastest-growing occupation in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The hottest job prospects in particular are those that require certification in order for you to work within hospice care or for home health agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid. Not only are aides in high demand in these services, but some agencies might even pay for the training you need to get certified.

In a home health aide (HHA) program, you’ll learn how to help individuals who are elderly, disabled, or are suffering from a critical illness to take care of daily activities like bathing, dressing, and cooking, as well as health-related tasks such as checking vital signs and administering medication. Your program will also include education on basic nutrition, safety techniques, and infection control.

Though not all states or agencies require certification to work as a home health aide, those that do require at least 75 hours of training in a state-approved program. Depending on the program you choose, you might be able to complete this education in as little as four to six weeks, though semester-based programs could take up to a few months. Online options can be excellent for students who want to take classes at their own pace, but keep in mind that you’ll still need in-person clinical training—at least 16 hours in most states.

Next steps for advancement: As a home health aide, you might choose to pursue a program to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), which will give you the chance to take on much more responsibility, oversee nursing aides and assistants, and potentially double your salary.

Have 1–6 Months? Go for Your Nursing Assistant Certification

Length of Time

1–6 months, with between 75 and 180 hours of training, depending on your state

Average Program Cost


Average Annual Salary


A nursing assistant program will prepare you to work in settings where you’ll be responsible for tasks such as taking vital signs, assisting with patient grooming, cleaning rooms, dressing wounds, and helping with minor medical procedures. Your program will also cover basic medical terminology, body mechanics, communication skills, and patient/resident rights.

The job prospects are good here too, with 9% growth predicted over the next nine years. Changes in patient preferences and federal funding have increased the need for nursing assistants who work in home healthcare and community rehab services. Nursing assistants with specialized experience in heart disease, dementia, and diabetes could be especially in high demand.

To work as a nursing assistant, you must be certified by your state’s department of health. But first, you’ll need to complete a state-approved program with at least 75 hours of training, though some states require as many as 180. Because of this broad range, programs can last anywhere from one to six months, with the majority of your time spent in clinical training. No matter the length of your program, you’ll have to pass your state’s certification exam and be able to demonstrate three to six skills in front of a registered nurse (RN).

Next steps for advancement: Without having to change jobs, CNAs can increase their employment opportunities and salary potential by earning a certification as a medication aide (CMA). This allows you to legally administer certain medications and report patient changes to the rest of the staff. Depending on the requirements of your state, you could complete a medication aide course in as little as six weeks before taking the MACE certification exam.

What About 9–12 Months? Consider a License in Practical Nursing

Length of Time

9–18 months, including various hours of clinical experience

Average Program Cost


Average Annual Salary


Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)—known as licensed vocational nurses in Texas and California—have much of the same responsibilities as CNAs, but take on advanced duties and work more closely with doctors and senior nurses in specialized areas such as pediatric, medical-surgical, and geriatric nursing. With the aging baby boom population, there’s expected to be a growing need for LPNs—11% over the next nine years—especially in home healthcare and assisted living facilities. Those with specialty certification, particularly in gerontology, could have even greater opportunities.

All LPNs are required to become licensed in the state where they work. Licensing involves completing a board-approved program of roughly nine months to a year, though some might be closer to 18 months. You might have the option to accelerate some of your classroom coursework online, but most LPN programs consist of about 60% clinical training. Once your program is complete, you can earn your license by passing the NCLEX-PN exam given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

Next steps for advancement: LPNs can often apply the credits they earned in their program to associate’s level coursework, earning a registered nursing degree in as little as a year. By doing so, you can increase your level of responsibility, save money on a higher degree, and give yourself the chance to significantly boost your salary.

Have a Year or More? Earn a Registered Nursing Degree at an Accelerated Pace

Length of Time

At least 1 year, including clinical experience

Average Program Cost


Average Annual Salary


Due to financial reasons, many hospitals are facing increased pressure to discharge patients as soon as possible. They’re moving more patients through the system at a given time, which leads to higher demand for nurses in outpatient and long-term care centers. Facilities that specialize in the treatment of conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease especially need registered nurses.

Designed for aspiring nurses with a bachelor’s degree in a different field, the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) allows you to apply credits from your first degree to a program for registered nursing. Your previous education must have covered the specific science and humanities prerequisites of your program, but if it does you could earn your BSN in as little as a year. These programs are rigorous but let you focus on completing nursing-specific coursework and clinical experience. The amount of clinical hours you’ll need varies, so it’s important to make sure that your program at least meets the minimum requirements for licensing in your state.

Like LPNs, RNs must have a license in the state where they work. Licensing requirements are widely different across the country but all require having at least an associate’s degree in nursing, completing the number of supervised clinical hours as defined by your state, and receiving a passing score on the NCLEX-RN exam.

Once you have your RN license, you can work in many medical settings such as emergency rooms, physicians’ offices, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes. If you choose to specialize, you could go into less traditional roles such as legal nurse consulting or forensic nursing. Travel nursing is also an excellent opportunity, letting you explore new cities while bringing your nursing talents to areas in desperate need of care.

Next steps for advancement: If you wish to take on greater responsibility and earn a higher salary, you might choose to pursue a master’s degree to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Depending on what you study as an APRN, you could work as one of the following:

You could also choose to go into administration, such as working as a hospital’s director of nursing, or move into nurse education. While job growth for RNs is projected at 12% through 2028, many roles within advancing nursing are expected to see an average of 26%. What’s more, APRNs make the most of any nurses in the field, often more than $100,000 a year.

Have More Time Than a Year to Earn Your Education?

In just two to three years, an associate’s degree program can help you get the training you need to immediately begin working as an entry-level RN. But keep in mind that as the field evolves, more and more nurses are earning their bachelor’s degrees. In fact, the Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80% have their BSN by 2020, and some employers are demanding that nurses with associate’s degrees go back to school within the next five years. If you want to increase your job opportunities, earning potential, and competitive advantage in the field, use the Find Schools button to research BSN programs in your area.

Source: Salary and job growth data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor States, as of 2018

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Five Important Nursing Upgrades

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Nursing Degrees and Credentials

In the health care market, the more education you complete, the more demand there is for your skills. Right now, there is an incredible demand for nurses with continued nursing education nursing degrees. Here are five upgrades for your nursing education that can help you advance up the career ladder.

However, the majority of new registered nurses (RNs) today come from lower-level programs such as associate or diploma programs. Tuition costs and timing play a central role in the number of lower-level nurses entering the job force each year.

Opting for Nursing Continuing Education

If you are a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a nurse with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and would like to upgrade your nursing education, do not despair! A large number of working nurses eventually decide to go back to school and upgrade their nursing degrees. The reason is simple. With a higher degree you are more employable, you’ll earn a higher salary and you’ll have much more freedom to chart your own nursing career path.

Common Nursing Degree Upgrades

You can upgrade your nursing degree in as many ways as there are nursing acronyms. Regardless of where you’re starting, you are sure to find an appropriate path since many schools have special programs that are customized to meet the needs of students starting from different points. Here are some of the most common upgrades:

1. From LPN-to-RN

To become an RN, you must pass the NCLEX exam in your state after earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you opt for the former, simply go back to a technical school or community college for another year to earn an associate’s degree, then take the exam.

The other way is to enter an LPN-to-BSN program. Some colleges have special programs which will allow you to get credit for some of your prior courses, and then go on to earn a BSN degree and become an RN.

2. From ADN or RN-to-BSN

If you already have a nursing license (having earned a diploma or associate’s degree) then you could qualify for a special program at many nursing schools that will take less than the normal 4 years to complete your nursing degree. Usually referred to as an RN-to-BSN Program, they are typically oriented toward working nurses who must balance school with their job. They offer flexible schedules and credit for previous experience.

3. From Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree to BSN

If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree but you now want to become an RN and earn a nursing degree, you can enroll in special accelerated programs designed for people like you. These are called Accelerated RN BSN Programs and they take the form of 1 to 2 years of intense training in nursing.

4. From BSN to Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

An MSN degree is an 18 to 24-month program that allows a nurse to specialize in a particular area—such as an area of advanced clinical training or research. Some students take on joint degrees in related fields like business administration, public health or hospital administration. Most people working toward an MSN already have a BSN, but there are accelerated programs for diploma nurses (to earn a BSN and MSN in one shot) and for non-nursing college graduates.

Typical requirements for admission into an MSN program include a BSN degree from an accredited nursing school, an RN license, minimum GPA and GRE scores and some period of clinical work experience.

5. From BSN or MSN to Doctoral Nursing Degree

You can earn a doctorate in nursing after completing either a BSN or MSN. Like nurses with master’s degrees, nurses with doctoral degrees are expected to have tremendous job demand over the next ten years. These programs prepare nurses for careers in health administration (a PhD is the preferred degree for nursing executives), clinical research and advanced clinical practice. They take from four to six years to complete, so they represent a significant commitment on your part.

In a doctoral nursing degree program everyone receives training in research methods (including statistics and data analysis), education, the history and philosophy of nursing science and leadership skills. But it’s up to you to focus in on a specific research area for your degree. Compared to a BSN or MSN, it’s important to match your particular interests with those of a particular faculty member.

Nursing Education Certifications

Professional Nursing Certifications are specialized exams that you can take to prove your expertise in a specific field, beyond the skills required for an RN license. The exams are provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The ANCC offers generalist, advanced practice and clinical specialist exams in almost 30 areas.

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November 4, 2016 · 4 min read

Nursing as a Second Career

All Nursing Schools Staff

Is nursing the right career for me?

Whether you are a college student or a seasoned professional in a different field who is looking for a career change, a nursing career can be a very rewarding professional path, and now is a great time to become a nurse with the nursing shortage and demand for qualified nurses all over the U.S. There are many opportunities, not to mention financial aid resources, available to nursing students. Whatever the reason, if you are considering nursing as a second career, get more nursing career information by reading the nursing education Q&A below.

I have a bachelor’s degree. Can I earn a nursing degree faster?

Yes. Many nursing schools offer Second Degree BSN, Accelerated BSN or Direct Entry MSN programs designed specifically to allow students with previous bachelor’s degrees to complete their nursing degrees on an accelerated schedule. This helps many people expedite their education to begin their nursing as a second career within 1- to 2-years of starting their nursing education.

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School Program More Info
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Can I work while earning my nursing degree?

Yes. Many nursing schools offer part-time nursing programs designed to accommodate the schedules of working students.

Can I earn my degree faster with medical field experience?

Because each person’s educational and work experience are unique, the best way to figure out if yours will allow you to gain advanced placement in a nursing program is to talk to the nursing schools you’re interested in directly.

I’m over 40. Am I too old to begin a nursing as a second career?

No. While you should keep in mind that nursing is a physically (and at times emotionally) demanding job, if you have an aptitude for math and science, thrive on working in an intense atmosphere, and love working with people, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider nursing as a second career after 40. If you’re not convinced that your age won’t be a handicap, here are some things to consider:

  • According to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, 45 percent of RNs are 50 years or older.
  • According to the same survey, the average age of all licensed registered nurses is currently 47, and this average is increasing every year—indicating that more and more students are entering the field after having pursued another career.
  • Nursing school administrators report that second-career nursing students typically bring an energy and intensity of focus to their studies that their younger counterparts lack, and are often top performers academically.
  • Potential employers value the maturity, professionalism, and advanced decision-making skills that older workers bring to nursing.

Is it hard for an older student to get into school or find work?

No. It would be illegal for any nursing school or employer to take your age into consideration while evaluating your application. What’s more, with nursing school enrollment just beginning to increase after a long decline and no sign of an end to the nation-wide shortage of nurses, both nursing schools and health care providers are actively seeking to recruit non-traditional nursing students—including second-career students.

What are the physical demands of a nurse job?

Working in a hospital or nursing home may be very demanding, for example, while working in an out-patient clinic, government agency or school may be much less stressful. Similarly, working as a staff nurse may be more physically demanding than working as a nurse administrator. Depending on where you work, some of the physical and mental stresses you’ll face may include:

  • Shift work, working on-call, or working weekends and holidays
  • Being on your feet for long periods of time
  • Moving (lifting and supporting) patients
  • Working in inadequately staffed facilities
  • Working with critically/chronically ill people and their families
  • Working in emergency situations

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School Program More Info
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Tips for choosing the right nursing as a second career program

To read more on these topics, please visit the Types of Nursing Programs sections of our Nursing School Education Resource Center. To learn more about upgrading your education in the nursing field, please see our Nursing Continuing Education page.

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Profile of a BSN Online Nursing Degree Student

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Why Get a BSN Online Nursing Degree?

Pat Newberry has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years, and there is nothing she would rather be doing. The Florida native obtained her associate’s degree in nursing in the 1970s, and she has had a varied career, moving from Florida to California, and working in hospitals, home health and occupational nursing settings. She has been a staff nurse, a charge nurse, a supervisor of nursing and an intensive care and cardiac nurse.

Why Make the Move to a BSN Online?

Newberry recently decided it was time to go back to school for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). “For the longest time I felt that I was able to climb successfully within the ladder of nursing with an associate’s degree in nursing. After 30 years in nursing, I’ve decided I want to start teaching nursing on some level. What I’m finding is that while I’m an RN, more and more jobs are requiring a full bachelor’s degree in nursing.”

Researching BSN Online Nursing Degrees

After doing some online research, she felt comfortable with South University’s BSN online bridge nursing program. The program is for nurses with associate’s degrees who want to obtain bachelor’s in nursing degrees.

“South University was in my region, and closer to Florida. It was also an accelerated program with shorter semesters that worked for me,” Newberry said. She loves the online format. “Online programs are not for everybody. It takes some personal discipline to do things at home. But it works very well for me, and I’m doing well in it.”

What are Online Courses Like?

Newberry has cut back to part-time hours, but she said that many of her classmates are able to manage working full-time and studying to get their BSN online nursing degree.

She said that although all of the nursing coursework is online, there are assignments that require students to engage with their local communities. “Parts of the assignments involve talking to the community. For example, yesterday one of my assignments was to interview a nurse practitioner. But for the most part it’s all online. There are online lectures in addition to the textbooks.”

She emphasized that BSN online programs for newbie nursing students is not possible. The hands-on, clinical training is a must. But, she added, “Theory courses could go online.”

Is a Nursing Career Right for You?

How did this veteran nurse know that nursing was the right career choice for her? “When I was in high school in Central Florida, I enjoyed the math and sciences. I chose nursing at that time simply because a nearby community college was offering it. It was accessible, and I knew that with a nursing degree I could go anywhere in the country and get a job, and I have.”

It was a decision she has never regretted. “I never knew I would like it as much as I do. It’s stimulating. I love working with people in this capacity. Even though it’s tough working with sick people, there’s a calling for that,” she said.

The Positive Aspects of Nursing

While the profession can be challenging, the positives are many. “You see how you can affect one life, which can affect the lives of an entire family,” Newberry explained.

Her advice to anyone interested in nursing is to start by getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing, even though it takes more time than an associate’s degree program. “It provides a broader education. The evolution of nursing is such that the bachelor’s is going to be required.” And BSN online degrees provide greater flexibility for the right nursing candidate.

Practical Nursing Experience is Valuable

And after graduating, she recommends that young nurses work in a hospital. “It’s the best thing I can advise any nurse to do to get their feet wet,” she said. After this initial immersion establishes a broad base of experiences and a good foundation, nurses have a plethora of options. “There are many different types of nursing positions and not all of them involve direct physical care,” she said. “Many are administrative level, and many are case management level jobs. But everyone should start in a hospital, where you learn the basics.”

The thing about nursing, Newberry concluded, is that you can take it anywhere and jobs will be available. “A lot of nurses have husbands or wives that get transferred. You can pick up with nursing and just take it with you.”

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November 2, 2016 · 4 min read

Getting RN Experience After Graduation

Employers look for at least a year of RN experience in nurse candidates. Here’s how to get it.

All Nursing Schools Staff

male nurse getting rn experience by working in community outreach innoculating kids

It’s a common Catch 22 for college graduates: Employers are interested in candidates with RN experience, but few are willing to give it to a new graduate.

This situation has plagued the nursing field, in particular, in recent years. Not only are employers looking for RNs with a few years of experience, but jobs are less plentiful than before. Since the recession caused many older nurses to delay their retirement, jobs haven’t opened up at the expected rate.

But new nursing school graduates shouldn’t get discouraged. There are strategies you can use to get RN experience and differentiate yourself in a sea of applicants. If you’re a current nursing student, keep these pieces of advice in mind and start preparing early.

How Can I Stand Out?

You’ve got the degree, but not enough RN experience. Here’s what you can do:

1. Volunteer

Volunteering won’t put any money in your pocket, but it could pay off in the long run. Volunteering your time in a hospital or other medical facility allows you to gain hands-on experience required by many employers. If you’re interested in a certain type of nursing, volunteer work gives you the opportunity to handle real-life scenarios and learn necessary skills.

Volunteering also has another benefit: You will meet nurses who can offer advice and networking opportunities.

During your volunteer hours, meet the nurse managers. These are the staff members who often make hiring decisions and some will be more apt to hire someone they have trained or worked with before. Working hard as a volunteer could spell employment in the future.

2. Showcase your nursing school accomplishments

Take a look back at what you accomplished during school. Were you part of a large research project that speaks to your skills as a nurse? Did you work with a renowned professor? All of these things can give you an added boost when employers look for qualified applicants.

If you’re in the midst of earning your nursing degree, now is a good time to take an active role in organizations such as the National Student Nurses’ Association. Or, work on a unique nursing project which could help beef up your resume in the future.

3. Network

Networking may be one of the most important tactics for finding an RN job. Plus, you can get started even before you graduate.

The National Student Nurses’ Association suggests that current students contact their school’s alumni organization before graduating. Talking to former students is a great way to network and let them know you’re starting your job search.

It’s important to know that networking comes in many forms. Attend conferences and career fairs and ensure your social media profiles, like LinkedIn, are up to date.

4. Further your education

In recent years, NSNA found that graduates holding bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN) or with higher qualifications tended to have slightly better luck finding a job.

If you have an associate’s degree, consider earning a BSN to improve your chances. Have a BSN? It may be time to look at MSN programs.

If heading back to school isn’t an option right now, you can also take shorter certificate programs to learn special skills.

What Else Can I Do?

Consider a few other tactics in your job search and you may land an entry-level position.

Look for “New Grad-Friendly” employers

It may take some searching, but there are medical facilities interested in hiring new graduates. According to a CNN article, one Los Angeles consortium of hospitals has a program set up with the goal of hiring 10 new graduates each year.

If you find an employer like this, but they’re not offering a nursing job you necessarily want, be open-minded. You can still gain valuable experience which can help advance your career later.

Take a non-traditional route

Perhaps you’ve always envisioned yourself working in a fast-paced hospital. Guess what? So have the majority of other nursing students flooding the job market.

The NSNA suggests looking “outside of the large acute-care setting for entry-level positions.” This includes rehabilitation facilities, school nursing, long-term care and rural communities. In fact, some believe these environments can offer some of the best experiences for new nurses.

Judy Honig, associate dean of student affairs at the Columbia University School of Nursing, told that these types of settings can make new RNs more creative.

“You have to know your material, you have to know what nursing is [in non-hospital settings], “Honig said. “The nurse in those situations in rural areas may be the most educated health professionals in the near area.”

Some days it may feel like finding a job is impossible, but don’t give up. With factors like the Affordable Care Act and nurses starting to take their retirement, the field is expected to grow faster than average through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics current Occupational Outlook Handbook.


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