Accelerated Nursing Programs Help Meet Demand for Highly Educated Nurses

New technologies, techniques, and medications are introduced every year, and, as a result, the United States health care system stays in a constant state of flux. Hospitals are continually challenged to not only deliver high-quality, cost-effective patient care but to maintain a staff of skilled professionals to provide that care. These challenges have resulted in an increased demand for BSN-qualified nurses as hospitals recognize that improving the quality of their frontline healthcare workforce can be accomplished only through the acquisition of educated, highly trained staff. Improved patient outcomes, greater job satisfaction, and lower nursing turnover rates are a few of the key performance indicators that hospitals experience by expanding the number of BSN-level nurses in their employ.

Understanding Accelerated Nursing Programs – The Basics

Accelerated nursing programs enable students who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline to complete a second degree in nursing in less than 18 months; in fact, some programs can be completed in as few as 11 months. Because the courses require full-time, intensive study, most schools that offer accelerated BSN programs encourage students to not work while attending school: Even a part-time job is likely to be too demanding. These programs are the fastest way for an individual to earn a BSN credential, which many of today’s health care organizations prefer.

Students who apply to an accelerated nursing program receive academic college credit for courses completed previously. This credit eliminates the need to repeat the coursework, although brief refresher courses are included in many degree programs. Patients benefit from the previous work experience obtained by these older students, even if their studies were in non-nursing related fields. Students in accelerated BSN programs typically graduate at higher rates than students earning their first bachelor’s degree. In 2013, 293 schools offered accelerated BSN programs, and 62 offered accelerated graduate degree programs, which typically take approximately three years of full-time study to complete.

More About Accelerated Nursing Programs

Accelerated nursing programs often are challenged with maintaining the quality and integrity of their nursing education while producing qualified nurses as rapidly as possible. To date, the reputation of colleges offering accelerated BSN programs remains excellent, which is one reason the enthusiasm for these programs continues to increase. Prospective nursing students are appreciative as well since they do not have to complete an additional four to six years of the college studies required for a typical bachelor’s or master’s program.

Students who enroll in accelerated nursing programs cite a changing economy and a desire to make a difference in the world as motivating factors. With no previous experience in nursing, students can become fully prepared to work as an RN in 18 months or less. Those who enroll in an accelerated graduate degree are eligible to become employed in a high-level nursing position in just 36 months. Since they were introduced approximately 25 years ago, accelerated degree programs have increased in popularity nearly tenfold. In 2016, these programs were on track to surpass the number of entry-level degree programs.

Employers value those who graduate from accelerated nursing programs because they bring a level of depth and a degree of maturity to the job. Graduates are typically better able to absorb new information quickly after doing so during their fast-paced education. Moreover, their clinical nursing skills are often stronger than RNs who have obtained a traditional RN degree. Because of the strong benefits they provide employers, many schools offering accelerated BSN programs now work with healthcare practices to offer tuition assistance and other incentives to attract highly qualified nurses.

Accelerated Nursing Programs – The Fast Track to a Nursing Career

By granting credit for previous college work, accelerated BSN programs prepare adult learners to move into a new nursing career quickly. Also sometimes referred to as a “second degree,” an accelerated nursing degree is an excellent option for degreed professionals who want to transition into nursing. The coursework in these programs builds on information learned previously. Moving at a fast, intense pace, the curriculum doesn’t allow time off for summer and holiday breaks as is built into an entry-level degree calendar.

Students in accelerated nursing programs are often more successful than those enrolled in entry-level degree programs. Typically, they are older and have significant previous work experience, so they are focused and self-motivated. Students are enthusiastic and often participate more in lectures and labs. These programs focus on teaching leadership skills, cultural sensitivity in patient care, wellness, preventative medicine, and evidence-based practices in nursing. Instructors often either work in nursing or have previous nursing experience.

The usual structure for an accelerated BSN program is through a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on instruction in a clinical laboratory setting. After completing all formal requirements, graduates of accelerated nursing programs are eligible to take state licensing exams as well as the NCLEX, the nationwide examination administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Passing these exams is essential to work in the field of nursing.

Students who are considering one of these programs should understand:

  • Accelerated nursing programs differ in both length and intensity from a typical degree program. Programs, offered on a full-time basis without breaks between each session, are faster and more concentrated. Intensive study means students in accelerated BSN programs obtain the same number of clinical hours in a shorter period of time.
  • Most colleges that offer accelerated nursing programs require a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average for admission.
  • Admissions counselors select students who will thrive in an intense, fast-paced environment. Because of the rigors of the curriculum, preference is given to students who have no plans to work while in the program.

Colleges have designed these programs specifically for students who have already achieved success in a college setting. These mature students know what to expect and are dedicated to completion of the program.

Online Accelerated Nursing Programs

In some ways, nursing schools have been slow to adopt online learning. Laboratory training is essential while studying for this degree, which renders online study almost impossible. Additionally, college administrators understand that accelerated BSN program students have obligations even if they don’t work an outside job. As a result, many schools now offer the option of completing some of the basic or core requirements online.

Accelerated nursing programs sometimes replace lectures and laboratory work with simulations of actual nursing work experience. Clinical rotations are required and an essential part of earning this degree.

Students enrolled in accelerated BSN programs have the flexibility of completing their assignments at a convenient location and schedule. However, they still must adhere to due dates and advance through the program at the same rate as other students. Classes typically don’t take place on campus every day.

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