Online nursing programs: A flexible path to advancement
Working as a nursing professional offers a rewarding career with many different avenues to explore.
Of course, first there is a rigorous program of study to fulfill in order to qualify as a nurse. Then, continuing professional development is required to add extra knowledge and expertise to nurses’ skill sets and to ensure that as many career opportunities as possible are laid out.
To reach these goals, many pre- and post-graduate nurses are now choosing to study online instead of in a traditional in-person setting.
This mode of study offers many benefits, not least of which is a flexible path to career advancement. Online learning is especially appealing to candidates who are already established in their nursing career and are looking for a way to study that suits their existing routine.
We’re going to take a closer look at the advantages of online nursing education for working professionals in this article. We’ll explore the benefits it brings, as well as what you can expect from an online nursing program.
You’ll also receive useful study tips, understand the value of clinical placements, and find out where your online nursing course could take you in the future. Read on to learn more about this exciting pathway to career advancement for nurses.
The benefits of studying online
As we’ve already heard, many nurses wishing to advance their careers, perhaps working towards a role such as nurse practitioner or nurse educator, are opting for online rather than in-person courses, thanks to the many advantages they offer.
Perhaps the most obvious of these is flexibility, which comes in many different forms. To start with, there’s the flexibility to learn from a location that suits you, whether that’s home or a quiet space at your workplace. This option also cuts out travel to campus, saving you both time and the cost of transport expenses.
You also have the option to study at times that fit around your busy schedule, so there’s no need to give up work or other commitments in a bid to further your career—and in fact, if you’re already working as a nurse, then you can apply what you are learning to your day-to-day tasks, consolidating and reinforcing this knowledge.
You should also know that online courses often offer the option of studying either full-time or part-time, so you can either choose to progress rapidly through the course as a full-time student or build in some breathing space and take the part-time option.
It’s also good to know that online nursing programs offer the same material and standards as in-person courses. It means that as long as you choose an accredited educational institution, you’ll be studying to the same benchmark as any other student.
What can I expect from an online nursing course?
If you’re not sure what to expect from an online nursing course, rest assured that it’s designed to be just as positive and useful an experience as following a more traditional in-person program.
In many ways, an online nursing program is structured just like an on-campus course. It means that tuition is typically organized over two or three semesters per academic year, giving you a break in between each one to rest and reflect on what you have learned.
An online program will be made up of a number of modules or courses covering everything you need to know about the specialty you’ve enrolled in.
Many courses will also offer you the flexibility of finishing your studies in a shorter or longer timeframe, depending on whether you intend to study full- or part-time.
The content of your online course will be of the same quality and depth as any in-person course to ensure that it prepares you for the qualification you are working towards.
Of course, the difference will be in the delivery of the program material. On an online course, you will have access to your course material via the internet. It means that your learning is self-directed at times and at others; it takes the form of live video-streamed lectures, seminars, and discussions.
Even though you are studying online, you will still have the chance to interact with peers on your course and with faculty staff—in fact, they will never be more than a click or a phone call away!
You will also find that the tutors and preceptors assigned to you, as well as administrative staff, are available to offer you all the support you need, just as you would expect in an on-campus setting.
Finally, be assured that, provided you opt for an accredited program, your online nursing course will be recognized and deemed just as valuable as its in-person equivalent. It means that it will be attractive to potential employers and reflect your knowledge of and commitment to the nursing profession.
What about clinical placements?
Of course, when you’re studying to advance your role in providing direct care, you need to build in experience with patients in clinical settings to consolidate your learning and apply your practical skills.
Contact with patients, their families, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals is essential to nurturing the many competencies required for nurse graduate roles.
These include communication skills, the ability to work under pressure, decision-making, and the day-to-day practical expertise you need to develop in your nursing role.
You may be wondering how an online nursing course can offer you the practical skills you need to graduate from your senior nursing program and advance your career.
When you choose the right online course provided by an established institution such as Texas Woman’s University (TWU), you can rest assured that staff will match you with relevant preceptors and clinical sites for your nurse practitioner placement. For example, if you’re planning to specialize in older people’s health, then you may be matched to a nursing home so that you can get the most appropriate experience for your future career. Programs such as the online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program offered by TWU with clinical placement services built-in are ideal for busy working professionals undertaking additional study.
They negate the need to either find a preceptor and do clinical placement yourself, which can be time-consuming and detract from studies and other commitments, or payout for a placement service, which can be costly.
And because you will be matched with care and consideration, you are more likely to get the most out of your placement, learning the exact skills you wish to develop in the next phase of your career.
In one streamlined service, you will be deployed to a local placement, saving you the headache of having to organize this part of your studies yourself.
It’s good to know that an online nursing program like the Master of Science in Nursing – Family Practitioner program teaches you both the theory and practical skills you need to advance your nursing career.
Study tips for online nursing students
Your online course should yield the same results as studying in a conventional setting. However, you will need additional resources and an elevated level of self-management to succeed.
That’s why we’ve pulled together these study strategies for online learners to help you get the most out of your experience, should you opt to follow an online nursing course.
Be clear about your goals
As an online learner, you will have to rely on your own motivation more than ever. It helps to establish your goals as you embark on your course to keep your focus. So, if you’re gaining an extra qualification to enable you to work as a nurse practitioner, for example, you could break down your goals as building on your existing skills, learning new ones, enhancing your career prospects, enjoying new challenges, and contributing to the improvement of the patient experience.
Create a study schedule
As an online learner, you will likely be juggling your studies with a host of other commitments. That’s why you need to create a study schedule that flexes around your routine and maximizes any spare time you have for learning. Use whatever method suits you, whether it’s using an online project organization tool, a paper diary, or setting alarms on your phone.
Know your body clock
Some of us are larks who function best in the mornings, while others are night owls who use quiet time after hours to do their best work. Identify your own personal body clock to find the most productive time for you to study when you feel at your peak mentally and physically.
Allocate yourself a space to work
It’s important that you not only reserve your time but also a physical location where you can study undisturbed. It could be a quiet corner of your home or even in your local coffee shop—wherever you feel comfortable and can focus on your learning.
Many online learners have many other commitments besides their studies, and these often include responsibilities for family members. It’s important that your nearest and dearest understand boundaries that will enable you to study undisturbed. For example, let your kids know that if the door of your study is shut, that’s your own special time—you’ll be available for them before and after your session. The same goes for any adults in the household—be clear about what help you need from them and what you can and can’t do in addition to your studying.
Set up an online study group
Now that video calls are easily accessible to everyone, there’s no reason why you can’t establish a study group online. It’s a great way to bond with your fellow students, swap tips, and support each other as you progress through your course.
Make your learning active
Don’t expect to remember a fact or chunk of material just because you read or listened to it once. Learning is much more effective if you take an active part in the process. When you’re reading through a text, take notes about the subject. Find the confidence to speak up in seminars and ask any questions you have. Read around your subject and find out how the theory applies to the practical world.
Reach out for support
Just because you’re studying online doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Faculty and support staff should be easily contactable by a variety of means to help you if you need it. Remember, it’s in their best interests—just as much as yours—that you succeed, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Recognize the value of learning
And finally, don’t forget that learning is not just a means to an end. While completing an online course in nursing takes hard work and commitment, it will also enhance your life in many different ways by opening doors and leading you to pathways that you may not have considered before. It will help you maintain your focus as you progress through your course to reach your goals.
What can your online nursing course prepare you for?
Choosing to study online to enhance your existing nursing skills and learn new ones will open up many new choices and opportunities.
Students who have completed courses such as the online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program offered by TWU are prepared for a range of senior and leadership roles in this field.
These include the role of family nurse practitioners, highly skilled and respected healthcare professionals who care for patients from newborns through the elderly.
This wide-ranging role offers the chance to build rewarding relationships with patients, supporting them through all life stages and health challenges.
Family nurse practitioners frequently work in primary care settings and are often the first professionals patients consult with a non-emergency health issue.
It’s a hugely rewarding and satisfying role, thanks to the high level of independence and freedom to make important decisions about patient care.
Family nurse practitioners can carry out many tasks that traditionally would only be performed by doctors, such as ordering tests, diagnosing conditions, creating care plans, and prescribing medication.
They are also key in promoting good health and well-being and preventing disease by offering lifestyle advice and offering treatments such as vaccinations.
This role is also well-rewarded in terms of remuneration. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn a mean annual wage of $124,680. The Bureau has also revealed that the role of nurse practitioner is the fastest-growing occupation in the United States, with a growth rate of 45% projected between 2022 and 2032.
It means that studying online for a role of this kind will secure some great career opportunities, now and in the future.
The freedom and flexibility of online learning
Online learning has never been more accessible, and that applies to studying for senior nursing roles such as family nurse practitioners.
Studying in this way offers unprecedented freedom and flexibility, helping you to hit your career goals while balancing the other commitments you have in your life.
What’s more, if you choose the right course, you will benefit not just from the flexibility of learning your way but also from being supported in your clinical placements. These are a vital part of progressing your knowledge as a nurse and will enhance your understanding of the course material.
If you’re intrigued by the possibility of learning online to open up senior nursing opportunities, reach out to Texas Woman’s University to find out more about their flexible and supported programs. It could be the start of a whole new world of prospects and a long and varied career in your chosen profession.