A growing number of hospitals require nurses to have an advanced degree. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine calls for increasing the workforce of baccalaureate-trained nurses to 80 percent and doubling the number of nurses with master's and doctorate degrees.1
As more nurses decide to go back to school, many search for an online program as an alternative to brick-and-mortar schools. Here are some of the challenges students must overcome as they work to advance their career.
Students face time management challenges.
Many RNs continue working full time while going back to school, so they struggle to find a balance between work, school, and family. Finding time for everything can be difficult.
To overcome this challenge, the flexibility of an online program is often attractive. Students enrolled in the RN to MSN program at Sacred Heart University can create a curriculum road map that works with the obligations of life. Students can also take up to six years to complete their degree.
And, in some cases, students can take an accelerated program. Depending on the specialty chosen, a student may only need to take eight or nine classes rather than the typical 12.
Students sometimes feel programs lack support.
When a student enrolls in an online program, they sometimes feel isolated, with little support from the campus or faculty. To conquer this hurdle, it's important to ask questions about the kind of support offered to online students.
At SHU, students in the RN to MSN program are assigned a Program Manager, an Enrollment Coordinator and a Student Services Coordinator to help students from application to graduation.
Program Managers help students as they apply to the program by providing counsel on the application process and how to submit a strong application.
Enrollment Coordinators take over once a student is accepted and help with class selection and registration.
Student Services Coordinators work with students from the second they start classes to their last day when they accept a diploma.
At no time are students alone at SHU.
In addition, students should look for an online program that offers extensive faculty support. An RN to MSN program should not only have experienced faculty that weave their experiences into the course, but faculty that are also available for one-on-one assistance and only manage small class sizes.
Cost is a challenge facing most students.
Eighty-eight percent of students planning to attend college say cost is one of the most important deciding factors.2
Students must weigh the cost of the degree against several factors, including available budget, access to federal or state aid, qualifications for scholarships or grants, and availability of loan programs.
In addition, students must weigh the cost of the degree against their future earning potential, as many programs help nurses unlock higher paid positions.
Students should look for a program that offers specialized tuition rates for nurses too. For instance, students taking SHU's accelerated program pay undergraduate prices for a portion of their graduate program.
To learn more about SHU and the RN to MSN program, visit the university website.
1American Association of Colleges of Nursing. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-workforce
2 College Decisions Survey. https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/collegedecisions/