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Accelerated BSN Programs

By EveryNurse Staff on February 01, 2021

Are you contemplating a career change? Now might be the perfect time to transition to a career as a registered nurse by enrolling in an accelerated BSN program. As one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States, with demand expected to increase over the next few years, nursing professionals enjoy almost unlimited prospects. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you may qualify for entry into an accelerated program at a nursing school. A fast-track program means you can earn your nursing degree and start making a difference in other people’s lives quickly.

The bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree that you earn through an accelerated BSN program is no different in difficulty or course material from that of a traditional BSN program. It builds on the coursework you’ve already completed during your previous bachelor’s degree program. An accelerated BSN program sometimes also is called a “second-degree” nursing program. Students with a bachelor’s degree in another field can earn a BSN as quickly as in 11 to 18 months by applying to an accelerated program at a traditional nursing school campus or an accredited online nursing school. The accelerated BSN program is demanding, but it will help you become a registered nurse as quickly as possible. Pursuing your accelerated BSN program online often allows you to balance the intensity of the course load with your job and family.

What Is an Accelerated BSN?

Some people find their true vocation later in life and decide to change the trajectory of their entire careers. If you already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s or graduate degree, an accelerated baccalaureate program offers the fastest route to become an RN. After completing the accelerated BSN (ABSN program), you will be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam and receive licensure as an RN. Your degree qualifies you to become one of the many different types of nurses. Though you can add specialized certifications to your BSN, the BSN is the highest level of nursing education before a master’s degree.

Pursuing an accelerated BSN is better than starting from scratch to earn an ADN within the same time frame. Having a bachelor’s degree is important for RNs because it provides nurses with a deeper level of professional training in nursing practice and patient-centered care. The medical field is experiencing a shortage of nurses as the baby boomer cohort ages and nurses across the country begin to retire. Some states, like New York, require all newly graduating associate’s-level nursing students to have a bachelor’s degree within 10 years. If you are considering a career in nursing, you should start with a BSN to enjoy the most options in employment.

Accelerated BSN Program Goals and Objectives

The objective of an accelerated BSN is to provide students with the coursework and learning experiences necessary to prepare them to work as a registered nurse at an accelerated rate. A BSN-prepared nurse typically has more responsibility and authority than an ADN nurse because of the in-depth training he or she receives while studying for the bachelor’s degree. Students are expected to attend school full-time, forgoing the normal breaks between sessions, at a faced-paced, intensive rate. Accelerated courses are designed to build on the courses you already completed during your previous bachelor’s degree course of study. Additionally, like a traditional nursing program, accelerated bachelor program nursing students are required to complete the clinical hours’ component. The number of clinical hours is determined by the state, but completion is necessary to be eligible to take the NCLEX and become a registered nurse.

Accelerated programs are geared toward those who have already proven their ability to succeed in a post-secondary environment. Accelerated programs allow students to take the next step in their careers by upgrading their job prospects as well as their responsibilities. Although this type of program is not necessarily cheaper than a traditional BSN, and it’s more expensive than the average ADN program, it’s a fast track to a career as a BSN-prepared nurse. As its alternate name implies, it’s a second degree, but it’s condensed, so overlapping courses don’t have to be repeated. An accredited online ABSN program is as demanding as an on-campus program, but it’s usually a more flexible option in that the student doesn’t have to physically travel to class and often can complete her studies when her schedule and time allow.

Accelerated BSN Curriculum and Classes

The coursework for the BSN covers an intense curriculum, primarily composed of nursing topics and the sciences. The goal is to avoid duplicate material while still providing the courses essential to the nursing program. Most of the classes include science-based nursing classes, such as anatomy, chemistry, pharmacology, physiology, and microbiology. You likely will take a “Foundations of Nursing” type course as an introduction to professional nursing practice. Classes include specialty topics such as those geared toward targeted demographic groups, like geriatrics or pediatrics, to help you understand the varying dynamics of patient care. Additional courses may include family health, community health, and mental health to help you prepare to become a well-rounded nurse. Nursing leadership, ethics, and patient-centered care also are included in the coursework.

Some programs follow a curriculum identical to that of a traditional BSN program, and others condense some of the coursework to meet the requirements of an accelerated program. In those programs that contain the same or a similar curriculum, students may be integrated into classes with traditional bachelor’s program students. However, the course load is heavier for accelerated students, and you won’t have to retake the general education classes and electives since you covered that material during your baccalaureate studies.

Who Are Accelerated Programs Geared Toward?

The American Association of College of Nursing Students projects a need for an additional 200,000 nursing professionals every year until 2026 to meet the rapidly rising demand for qualified nursing professionals. Roughly 50 percent of today’s current registered nurses are over the age of 50, which means they are nearing retirement age. This means that professionals in other medical care industries may be called upon to fill the gaps in the health care field.

An innovative plan to help fill these empty spaces helps professionals transfer fields. The accelerated degree program brings non-nursing graduates to the health care field via a fast track to nursing. The promise of a strong job outlook is appealing to many professionals in fields in which jobs are scarce and unemployment rates are higher. Rather than taking an entry-level job with a low salary, a professional may prefer to switch to an entry-level nursing position, in which the mean salary is around $70,000.

Accelerated programs have existed in nursing education for many years, but they have increased in number during the last decade. More than 280 accelerated BSN programs are available in the United States with more in the planning stages. This is much higher than the number of four-year nursing programs that train entry-level nursing professionals.

One of the leading benefits of an accelerated program is the type of professionals they graduate. A student who has already graduated with a bachelor’s degree comes to the program more prepared to excel as a nursing student. Employers report that graduates from accelerated programs are more mature than their BSN peers, possess strong reasoning skills, have completed a variety of clinical experiences, and possess the ability to learn quickly on the job. Some health care employers partner with schools to offer tuition repayment programs to qualify their graduates to join their teams as RNs. These types of offers have helped entice professionals to change careers and to recruit highly qualified nurses for facilities that are facing nursing shortages.

BSN Career Options

To become a registered nurse, you must have an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. A BSN degree is preferred over an ADN because it guarantees a higher level of training. Most employers prefer job candidates with a BSN because the nurses are not only more qualified to care for patients, but they also can help ensure better patient outcomes. Improved patient outcomes have been linked with higher ratios of BSN-prepared nurses in a medical facility. Additionally, some of the best-paying jobs are available only to nurses with a BSN degree, including:

Surgical Nurse

If you work well under pressure and can pay close attention to detail, surgical nursing could be for you. Nurses in surgical roles help prep patients for surgery, monitor vitals, and set up IVs, and some even work in the operating room. Although nurses in this role comprise about 2 percent of the BSN workforce, jobs are projected to grow by 26 percent during the next few years. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for nurses in this position is more than $74,000.

ICU or Critical Care Nurse

If you like working in a fast-paced environment and can think quickly on your feet, the intensive care or critical care unit may be a good career choice for you. These nurses work with the hospital’s sickest patients. ICU nurses help monitor the vitals of very ill patients, evaluate their condition, provide medication, and change bandages. The percentage of ICU nurses in the BSN workforce is low (.8 percent), but it’s growing rapidly. The average entry-level salary is around $75,000 for this position, depending upon location. For instance, in California, CCU nurses earn more than $100,000 annually.

Pediatric Office Nurse

Nurses who prefer to work one-on-one with fewer patients outside of a large hospital setting may appreciate the slower-paced environment of a doctor’s office. Family practice and pediatric offices offer opportunities to work with children to take patient histories, perform screenings, and provide preventative care. The job pays, on average, more than $76,000, according to ZipRecruiter.

Obstetrics Nurse

If you enjoy women’s health care and reproductive health care, an OB/GYN nursing career might be ideal. The average OB/GYN nurse earns more than $72,000 annually, according to Salary.com. The average projected job growth by the year 2028 for an OB/GYN nurse is roughly 12 percent, according to Study.com. To become an OB nurse, you probably want experience in obstetrics, either by working as a doula or by completing your internship in the OB section of the hospital.

Hospice Nurse

Because of the aging of the large baby boomer demographic, one of the largest demands for nurses lies in long-term care centers and hospice facilities. Hospice nurses work with terminally ill patients or patients who need palliative end-of-life care. To qualify to work in these types of settings, you need to have completed up to 500 clinical hours within a hospice setting as well as a BSN. According to Indeed.com, nurses working in hospice roles with BSN degrees earn more than $71,000, with some making over $82,000 each year. Advanced certification hospice nurses make an average salary of $96,000 as a result of their additional training.

Additional Career Options

Degree Guides

Admission Requirements for an Accelerated BSN Program

The accelerated program is an intensive course that requires students to carry a heavy load of nursing coursework as well as to complete clinical hours. Administrators in these programs look for student applicants who have the ability to focus long hours of intensive study and not fall behind in the work requirements. Therefore, accelerated program requirements are heavily dependent on your success in your initial bachelor’s program.

Bachelor’s Degree From An Accredited Institution

Accelerated programs prefer applicants who graduated from an accredited college or university since these vetted institutions are usually considered more reputable. To receive accreditation, the university must complete a rigorous program to prove the quality and value of its baccalaureate program. Even more important than your school’s accreditation status, the number of credits that you completed during your bachelor’s degree studies is a critical component of qualification for entry into the program.

Prerequisite Coursework

While you may have some leeway in your general education classes and electives, core prerequisites are important for the nursing degree and must be considered of equal value. Attending a school that is not accredited can make transferring credits difficult. If it’s been a while since you took the required core prerequisites, you may have to successfully pass an exam to demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter or even retake some of the classes.

  • Liberal Arts Prerequisites. Typically, BSN degrees include liberal arts classes (such as English, history, and language), but accelerated programs often can build on the degree you’ve already earned. Most accelerated programs allow you to transfer those basic liberal arts credits to fulfill the general education liberal arts and elective requirements of the BSN.
  • Natural Science Prerequisites. Without question, the most important courses in a nursing degree are science-based, and several prerequisite science classes are usually required for an accelerated BSN program. You must have completed classes considered equivalent to the accelerated program’s curriculum standards.
    Accelerated programs typically require prerequisites in biology, chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, probability, and statistics, physiology, pathophysiology, and general nutrition, among others. Before you apply to any program, research its prerequisites.

Entrance Exam

Just as an exam is required to enter a traditional four-year BSN program, an exam is often given before you can gain entry into an accelerated BSN program. This entrance exam tests the potential student on the subjects required to succeed in nursing school. During the exam, your skills in math, reading, English, and science will be evaluated. Many resources are available to help you study, review materials, and perform your best on the accelerated BSN entrance exam.

General Admissions Criteria

You don’t need previous health care experience before you can enter an accelerated BSN program, but you must meet specific standards. If you are confident that you not only have completed all the prerequisite coursework but also have the necessary exam-taking skills, your next step is to submit proof that you qualify for the program.

  • Personal Statement.  School administrators look for students who are serious, driven, and dedicated. A professionally written letter of intent that expresses your regard both for the program and the profession is appropriate. Administrators want to know that you are serious in your desire to change your career goals. This is your opportunity to discuss your previous professional experiences and to explain why you decided to switch to nursing. In the letter, describe your passion for nursing and why you are a suitable candidate for an accelerated program.
  • GPA and Post-Secondary Degree Transcripts. You must provide the transcripts from your college degree when you apply. Request them to be sent directly from your previous school. Many programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, although some may even require a 3.5 GPA.
  • Criminal Background Check. Certain crimes, specifically violent offenses, equal an automatic disqualification. You must undergo a background check to ensure that cases of abuse, violence, fraud, or theft do not exist on your record, which would lead to automatic disqualification.
  • Letters of Recommendation. To prove that you are capable of becoming a student who can complete the rigorous requirements of the program, many colleges require letters of recommendation, preferably from people who have known you quite some time, hold positions of authority in the community, and who are not related to you. To enter an accelerated BSN program, you likely will need letters from some of your former professors or previous supervisors in which you worked in a position relevant to the program. If you have worked in a medical setting, try to obtain a letter from your supervisor. Choose professionals who can vouch for your skills and work ethic.

Benefits of an Accelerated BSN Program

Many professionals begin their careers in a profession they think is the right one for them, only to find that for whatever reason, it isn’t a good fit. Perhaps you discovered you love taking care of people and helping your community. Or, perhaps you’re struggling to find reliable employment in your current field. Nursing is a field with many positions that allow you to earn a relatively high salary. Registered nursing professionals with a BSN degree are typically chosen over ADN RNs, have more responsibilities, and receive a better salary. An accelerated BSN program lets you make a career move to an RN position in the shortest possible time.

Fast-Paced & Intensive

The program is not easy. Expect a full schedule and a high-intensity workload. You will study at an accelerated pace with few breaks, and your coursework largely includes difficult science and nursing classes that require hours of study, practice, and memorization. Additionally, as you study, you will be expected to put your knowledge into practice by completing clinical hours. Students can work while they’re in an accelerated program, but it can be difficult to juggle the demands of work and school.

Broad Scope of Nursing Practice

When compared to the ADN, the BSN covers much more ground. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing says that a bachelor of science in nursing program “encompass[es] all of the coursework taught in associate degree and diploma programs, plus a more in-depth treatment of the physical and social sciences, nursing research, public and community health, nursing management, and the humanities.” As a result of the extra training, nurses are more prepared to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic issues they encounter on the job.

Better Patient Outcomes

Research demonstrates a clear link between the staff of BSN-qualified nurses and improved patient outcomes. When a higher ratio of BSN-prepared nurses works at a medical facility, death rates decrease, and patient outcomes improve significantly. A study reported in the 2019 Joint Commission Journal on Quality revealed that BSN-prepared nurses were more prepared in 12 out of 16 health care areas than their ADN peers, including evidence-based practice, data analysis, quality, safety, and implementation of projects. The University of Michigan released a study that noted a 10 percent increase in BSN RN staffing ratios led to a lowered mortality rate of 10.9 percent. Moreover, BSN registered nursing care led to an 80 percent lower readmission rate and a reduction in patient length of stay.

Transfer Credits – You Don’t Have to Start From Scratch

When you enroll in an accelerated program, you aren’t starting completely over! You probably will be able to transfer the credits you earned during your previous bachelor’s degree coursework, which will save both time and money. Instead of the traditional four years typically required to get a BSN, you’ll be on a fast track to earn your BSN in 11 to 18 months.

Qualify for Leadership Positions

With a BSN degree, you will qualify for nursing positions that provide additional responsibilities. Specializing in an area such as critical care or obstetrics helps you gain more experience and perhaps even move more quickly into leadership positions. While earning an ADN is the minimum degree requirement to become an RN, an ADN RN usually doesn’t qualify for teaching or leadership roles. This degree also will prepare you to pursue a master’s in nursing and even for more specialized roles, such as a nurse practitioner or a nursing school faculty member.

Additional Program Information

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