Mid-career nurses who have gone back to school for BSN or MSN degrees generally report that they had a positive experience. One focus group study designed to measure nurses’ satisfaction with their RN-to-BSN program found many of the participants said they had been transformed—personally and professionally—by education. Yet one factor stands out over and over again in studies that assess nursing perspectives about going back to school. That factor is the online format for learning.
For many nurses, online education allows them to overcome the time barrier as they juggle school, work, and family life. For example, researcher Teresa Leonard surveyed a group of 143 RNs who were enrolled in an RN-to-BSN online degree program in Alabama. Nearly 90 percent of her respondents said that flexible scheduling figured heavily into their choice of a school and 56 percent said the online format was the deciding factor. Leonard wrote:
The majority of the students said that they chose an online program because scheduling is much more flexible than in a traditional program. One student related, “I would not have been able to complete the degree in a traditional setting due to work and family obligations.” Said another, “the convenience of ‘going to class’ when it was good for me made all of the difference in the world.” Another said, “Online courses give you more flexibility with your time…Because there is no set time to attend class, I was able to rearrange my time as needed to fit changes in my life.”
It’s clear that the online learning model decreases stress for students as it erases time and space challenges. It has streamlined the education process by putting the focus on knowledge and eliminating what is no longer necessary—like a long commute to campus, parking problems, and the constraints of the traditional semester schedule. Here’s what U.S. News & World Report says in its school rankings issue:
Advances in technology have made online education a rich, visually engaging experience for students. Virtual lectures, multimedia content presentations, and graphic depictions of content make learning online more enjoyable. Email, chat rooms and message boards make it easy to network with fellow students and interact with instructors. And you’ll meet like-minded, career-focused people from all over the world, not just individuals from your own home town.
Many nurses are initially reluctant to go back to school because they fear being plunged into a foreign culture—a classroom filled with young nursing students right out of high school, for example, or stern instructors ready to pounce on any error. The good news is, with the current push for nurses to advance their education, large numbers of nurses in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are returning to school—so online programs have evolved to meet the needs of nurses like you. The best of them, including American Sentinel University, use an adult learning model. At the basic level, this means we provide an online orientation session and many resources to assist adult students, such as one-on-one guidance from an advisor, student discussion forums, and a virtual librarian.
But an adult learning model also means that your work experience and existing bedside skills will form the foundation for learning new academic concepts related to nursing—so you won’t just be memorizing facts for the test. On an experiential level, you’ll be able to immediately relate to your course work and apply it to your current job. And you’ll be able to collaborate with other BSN-bound nurses, through group discussions that allow you to share your own thoughts and benefit from the experiences of others. Researchers have found this interaction with students from around the world contributes heavily to nurses’ satisfaction with online learning. Teresa Leonard writes:
Students listed the most pleasant aspects of their education to date. Overall, they found the sense of accomplishment rewarding and the exposure to new people, places, and knowledge extremely satisfying. One nurse reported, “[I enjoyed] talking with other students, some from across the world, eight hours away. I enjoyed hearing about what types of practice they were in and the class discussions. I’ve really enjoyed this semester and looked forward to logging on and seeing what was new for the day.”
You’re also likely to have an immediate connection with your instructors, since you are all dedicated, experienced nursing professionals with a love of learning. Today’s online nursing degree programs are designed to help you develop critical thinking skills, confidence, and expanded career opportunities. With an adult learning model, you’ll never feel out of place and you’ll be able to see the difference right away, in terms of how you practice nursing and advocate for your patients.