Whether you wish to enroll in a diploma, associate or bachelor program, nursing courses will prepare you to begin a career that is in great demand, not only in this country but around the world.

Nursing course options

There are several nursing course options to become a registered nurse. These options include diploma programs, associate’s degree programs, and bachelor’s degree programs. Each will provide the necessary preparation to begin a career as a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) However, graduates of diploma and associate nursing courses may find their advancement opportunities somewhat limited. In most cases, advancement into senior or supervisory positions will require a bachelor’s degree as the minimum education requirement, with many employers now preferring a master’s degree to advance into administrative roles.

Nursing courses within diploma programs may be completed within a one year period and are best for those who seek a program that offers the shortest time frame for completion.  Diploma programs are typically offered within hospital settings. Nursing courses that are part of associate degree programs will take two years for completion if you attend on a full time basis. The first year of study will be devoted to liberal arts coursework with the second year focused on nursing courses exclusively. A bachelor’s degree is the preferred credential for many employers and will require 4 years of study if attending full time. The first two years will be devoted to liberal arts study with the remaining two years of study focused on nursing courses.

You may also wish to enroll in a one year program to become a licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse and pursue registered nurse certification while you work. Before deciding on a program of study, take some time to evaluate your goals and priorities. For example, do you need income sooner rather than later? If so, starting your nursing career as an LPN/LVN may be the best option.

Another option, especially for those working, is to enroll in online nursing courses offered at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Nursing courses offered as part of online programs may be applied toward certification as an RN, and are also appropriate for those seeking to become an LPN/LVN. The primary benefit of online programs is that they permit students to “attend” classes a time most convenient for them in light of their work and/or family responsibilities. All nursing courses and exams are offered online. However, you will need to participate in hands-on training within a health care setting to fulfill the clinical training component of all online programs.

Nursing courses are also available in accelerated nursing program that permit students to take classes at a faster pace than in traditional programs.  Accelerated programs do not offer semester breaks so that you can earn your degree in a shorter period of time.

Breakdown of Nursing Courses

Although there are a variety of academic programs, there are several nursing courses that all students will need to pass whether they are on an RN or LPN/LVN track.  These nursing courses range from basic sciences to advanced clinical practice.

Prerequisite nursing courses

Before being admitted into a nursing program, students are typically required to have completed certain courses to include biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, mathematics, communication skills. In both associate and bachelor’s programs these courses will be completed during the first year or two of study.  This coursework will provide a solid foundation for further study. Below is a brief description of what to expect in each course:

Biology: study of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that cause disease.

Anatomy and Physiology: provides a review of human anatomy including skeletal structure and major bodily systems (circulatory, nervous, motor, digestive, respiratory, etc.)

Chemistry: Fundamentals of basic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry and how these are related to the onset and progression of various diseases.

Mathematics: Depending on the program, students may need to enroll in algebra, statistics, or both.

English communication skills: Introductory writing and speech courses so that students may develop the ability to effectively communicate with their peers and colleagues.

Orientation Nursing Courses

Once students have been accepted into a nursing program, they will often take foundation courses that serve to introduce them to the theory and practice of the nursing profession. They learn about the history of nursing, nursing theory and practice, and the job duties of staff nurses across a variety of settings.  Also covered will the ethical and legal issues of health care; e.g.  patient confidentiality as mandated in the 1996 Federal Health Information Patient Privacy Act (HIPPA). Foundation courses also cover the various career options within the nursing profession as well as practice settings (hospitals, private physician offices, nursing homes, home care, etc.)

Titles of nursing introductory courses:

  • The Fundamentals of Nursing
  • The Foundations of Patient Care
  • Theory of Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Knowledge and  Skills
  • Professional Standards

Diagnostic Nursing Courses

These clinically-based nursing courses teach students how to observe patients for signs of illness, take vital signs, and evaluate patient history and its impact on his or her current medical condition. Students learn to recognize the signs of heart attack, stroke, or other emergency conditions and also the importance of taking a holistic view of patients (age, race, gender, lifestyle stresses, etc.) when diagnosing and caring for patients.

Diagnostic nursing course titles include:

  • Foundations of Nursing Assessment
  • Patient Assessment and Nursing Skill Development
  • Nursing Practice for Adult (Pediatric) Patients

Pharmacology Nursing Courses

These courses provide students with an understanding of drugs and medications. Topics covered include drug classification, how to administer proper dosages as per physician instructions, drug interactions and how to determine which drugs cannot be given together, and how drugs may interact with the patient’s condition. These nursing courses will require a great deal of memorization of drug names (generic and brand), classification categories, and terms.

Pathophysiology Nursing Courses

These nursing courses involve the study of disease. Students learn how the body reacts to different types of disease, proper medications to effectively treat the disease, and how the body heals from disease. Students will learn how to detect and evaluate various diseases and how treatment methods are decided.

Medical-Surgical Nursing Courses

These courses teach students how to effectively treat hospitalized patients or care for patients pre- or post-surgery.  Students learn how to become generalist practitioners prepared to treat the variety of medical conditions that result in hospital admission.  Advanced medical-surgical nursing practice focuses on caring for patients with serious conditions, such as those admitted to the ICU (intensive care unit) or CCU (cardiac care unit).

Specialty nursing courses

Most nursing programs will require that upper level students take courses that focus on treating special populations.  The four most common areas of practice include:

  • Pediatric nursing (patients up to 18 years of age).
  • Maternity nursing
  • Geriatric nursing (caring for the elderly)
  • Mental health nursing

Students will learn the specific skills necessary to care for each of the above populations. For example, in maternity nursing, students learn about reproductive health and how to care for woman during and after pregnancy; pediatric nurses learn how children’s bodies react to illness and disease differently than do the bodies of adults and how treatment should be altered to accommodate these differences. Geriatric courses teach how various bodily systems change with age. Mental health nursing courses teach students about various mental health disorders as described in the current edition Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM).

Community Health Nursing Courses

In these courses, students learn how to communicate with various patient populations. The primary focus is on patient education regarding health and wellness, disease prevention, and developing coping strategies when illness does occur. Students learn how to explain delicate and sometimes complex information with compassion, and in such a way that the patient and his or her family can understand.

Community Health Nursing Courses

  • Health Promotion and Wellness in diverse patient populations
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Community Nursing

Clinical Nursing Courses

Many programs require a clinical component in which students will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills gained during classroom study in work with patients. Clinical work may be integrated into other nursing courses. For example, a student may be enrolled in a pediatric nursing course and attend lectures two days per week and work out of a pediatric clinic on a third. Both the classroom and clinical experience will count toward the final grade for the course. Most clinical assignments take place during regularly scheduled business hours, but in many RN programs, the final semester includes a capstone course during which students will follow an RN as s/he goes about their duties. This may mean working evenings or weekends, depending on the nurse’s schedule.

Nursing Postgraduate Courses

Nursing postgraduate courses are the courses available to nurses that already have a bachelor’s of science in nursing. These courses are designed to help registered nurses advanced their careers, and provide them the opportunities to become Nurse practitioners, Nurse anesthetists, Nurse midwives, Forensic nurses, Psychiatric nurses and Nurse educators.

These are only a handful of the career possibilities for nurses with advanced degrees. Some schools have postgraduate programs that allow nurses to specialize in different ways, while others just offer master’s or doctorate degrees in nursing, and certificate programs in specialized areas.

The Nursing Shortage’s Impact on Nursing Postgraduate Courses

There’s a nursing shortage going on, and it has impacted literally every area of the industry. Experts predict that the world will be short roughly one million nurses by 2020, and 580,000 of those will be needed in the U.S. alone. Schools and state organizations have been working overtime to help crank out registered nurses and licensed practical nurses to meet hospital demand, but many nursing postgraduate courses have suffered as a result. A lot of nurses are choosing to go work for hospitals that can offer big sign-on bonuses, instead of staying in school to teach. As a result, a lot of postgraduate nursing courses are seriously shorthanded. Many of them have even had to be suspended as a result, until schools can find enough teachers to fill them.

Though nursing postgraduate courses aren’t always easy to find, they’re worth looking for. Nurses with postgraduate degrees earn more money, and have far more employment opportunities than nurses without them. If nurses choose to enter a postgraduate program, they can help fight the nursing shortage by practicing nursing after graduation, or working for a school as a nurse educator, to help turn out more qualified nurses.

How Nursing Postgraduate Courses Can Expand Your Scope of Practice

Every level of nursing has a scope of practice determined by a state’s Board of Nursing. The more education a nurse has, the more he or she is allowed to do. Advanced practice registered nurses can do more than registered nurses, and registered nurses can do more than licensed practical nurses. Postgraduate nursing courses give nurses the educational backgrounds they need to advance their careers, and have a larger scope of practice.

Nurse practitioners can actually function as a person’s primary care provider in many states, just like a regular physician. Nurse midwives are able to provide reproductive care to women from puberty to menopause. Both of these nurses can do everything that a doctor can, with the exception of surgery. Without a postgraduate degree, such a wide scope of practice isn’t possible.

Finding Worthwhile Nursing Postgraduate Programs

Not all postgraduate programs are worth enrolling in. Most nurses are already familiar with their state’s Board of Nursing, which will make finding a good postgraduate program easier. The sad fact is that some schools choose to misrepresent themselves as having Board of Nursing approval, even though they don’t. Since it’s hard to find teachers qualified to teach a Board-approved course, this means that a student can end up unwittingly enrolling in classes that won’t actually allow her or him to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

To avoid falling into that trap, always cross-reference any nursing postgraduate courses with your state’s Board of Nursing’s list of approved programs. Most Boards of Nursing have the attitude that it is up to a student to research their nursing courses before enrollment, so they will not be responsible for students that end up graduating from a useless program.

Nursing postgraduate programs give nurses the opportunity to do more with their careers than be RNs or LPNs. Postgraduate programs cover a variety of fascinating topics, from psychiatry, to forensics, to oncology, and allow nurses to decide exactly what area of medicine they want to devote themselves to. After becoming APRNs, nurses can command higher salaries, be eligible for more advanced positions, and have larger scopes of practice. Though it may not always be easy to find a good postgraduate nursing course, the end result is worth the search.

NCLEX Preparation Course

The National Council Licensure Examination is the examination that all nurses have to take in order to practice. Just like high school students attend SAT preparation courses in order to do well, many nurses use an NCLEX preparation course to hedge their bets when it comes to passing this all-important exam. An NCLEX preparation course helps nurses improve the odds that they will do well on the test itself.

It achieves this by:

–        Reinforcing the information they are likely to encounter on the NCLEX.

–        Using practice questions developed from older exams.

–        Providing a review of the points covered in their original nursing degree or diploma program.

Registered nurses take the NCLEX-RN, while practical nurses take the NCLEX-PN. Therefore, there are different test prep courses available for these two groups, since their exams are somewhat different. Both of them help the same way, by giving nursing students the chance to review material and take practice tests before sitting for the NCLEX proper.

Why is the NCLEX so Important?

The NCLEX is the test that determines whether a nurse is a nurse or not. Without a passing grade on an NCLEX, graduates of nursing programs are just graduates, not nurses. In all states, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses must have passed an NCLEX in order to practice legally. If they are caught practicing without having passed the test and received a nursing license, they may face fines and jail time, and can even be prevented from practicing medicine in the future.

The Rundown on NCLEX Prep Courses

An NCLEX preparation course isn’t a requirement to take the NCLEX, so it isn’t strictly necessary. Many nursing programs also have excellent pass rates (some are as high as 100%), so students of these programs aren’t likely to need a preparation course before their exams. For students who allow some time to elapse between graduating and taking their exam, and students that don’t feel confident in their ability to do well on the NCLEX without help, a preparation course can give them the assistance they need to get themselves licensed.

State Boards of Nursing regulate who is and is not eligible to take the NCLEX in their state. In some states, registered nurses must have a bachelor’s degree before sitting for it. In others, a nursing diploma or associate’s degree is sufficient. No state allows nursing students to take the NCLEX after just an NCLEX preparation course. They must always have graduated from some kind of Board-approved nursing program first. These preparation courses only serve as a way for students to review material before taking the exam, they do not allow people who haven’t graduated from a nursing program to take it without completing the required core coursework.

NCLEX Preparation Course Providers

There are plenty of good NCLEX prep courses available, many of which are offered by online schools like Kaplan, or test review sites like Hurst Review Services. Unlike actual nursing degree programs, it isn’t necessary for an NCLEX prep course to be Board-approved. So, students can choose whichever one they are the most comfortable with, and that they think will be the most help to them. To find a good preparation course, look at the percentage of their students that have passed the NCLEX. If a course doesn’t offer these statistics, try to find one that does or at least one with a money-back guarantee.

Don’t compare an NCLEX course based on price. Since they aren’t required to be Board-approved, some unscrupulous NCLEX courses have cropped up that look like deals, but aren’t actually any good at helping students pass. Avoid review sites that try to pass themselves off as official NCLEX sites- only the NCSBN homepage should be treated as a reputable source of examination information.

Taking the NCLEX is the event that all nursing programs lead up to. Without it, a nursing graduate can’t practice. With it, a nursing graduate finally becomes a full-fledged nurse and can interact with patients in a clinical setting. An NCLEX preparation course can help you become more confident in your ability to pass the licensure exam, no matter whether you’re an aspiring registered nurse, or licensed practical nurse.

rn refresher course

Who Do RN Refresher Courses Target?
Registered Nurse (RN) refresher courses are not only meant for inactive registered nurses who have not been practicing, but also for active Registered Nurses who want to acquire continuing education. For nurses who work in states that demand contact hours for license renewal, RN refresher courses are a great option.

RN refresher courses also targets RNs who wish to expand their nursing scope in the search of better paying jobs. Such can be the case when a RN is seeking employment from a state different from where they received their initial nurse training.

Objectives of a Typical RN Refresher Course

Refresher courses, just like the name suggests, are meant to re-introduce an already learnt skill to a registered nurse. This means that it is a kind of ignition for nurses who are re-entering the nursing profession having stopped to practice for a while. The refresher course aims at bringing back into light the skills that were trained during a Bachelors or Associate degree in nursing.

RN refresher courses are also used to train the re-emerging nurses with new nursing concepts and practices that might have come up during their nursing inactivity. Such includes the use of hospital equipment, new medications, new technologies that will help a nurse re-enter the field with confidence.

Course Information for RN Refreshers

i)        Didactic Portion

Usually, RN fresher courses start with standard theoretical classes on all nursing concepts. This part of refreshing, also known as didactic portion ensure nurse students engage in group discussions, instructed lectures and submission of individual assignments. These lessons have great emphasis on novel therapeutic approaches in the health care system and developments in general medical knowledge. For RNs who are taking the refresher course to fulfill the contact hours for license renewal, the refresher course will cover any new state laws governing the nursing profession.

Lecture Topics For the Didactic Portion

Refreshing RNs take lecture sessions from the following nursing topics:


  • Novel Medications and Terminology

This is meant to keep the nurse abreast with any new medications that have come to the market and how they are used in treatment. The course also informs the RN of new approaches to disease management and any drugs whose use have been banned.

  • Diagnostic methods

The refreshing of how to use medical laboratory equipment and how to carry out diagnosis is a must for the inactive RN. Training on how to use new medical equipment, and digitized medical technologies is done.

  • Patient care and management

This includes nursing units ranging from the advanced care of patients to new medical ethics in medical care. RNs may be informed of new medical approaches and new strategies and decision making processes in health care.

  • Documentation and charting of patient records

RN refresher courses must re-instill to the inactive RN the trending methods of medical documentation, billing and medical coding collection of patient records.

ii)      Clinical practicum portion

This part of the RN fresher involves re-assessing the hands-on-skills of the nurse. RNs must have a supervising instructor who leads them into the clinical sessions. This forms the great disparity between RN refresher courses from other forms of nursing continuing education units; which usually do not require direct patient contact.

Just like in normal nursing school, students are expected to show their abilities of working in a real hospital or clinical setting. It is important to note that RNs are only allowed to undertake the clinical practicum lessons only after successfully passing the didactic course. In short, theses two parts of refresher course do not go hand-in hand like normal nurse training.

Duration for RN Refreshers Courses

For RNs who have been completely inactive in nursing, the refresher course takes a relatively long time as compared to those who take the RN refresher course to get contact hours. In the former case, it takes between 3 to 6 months for a nurse to have the ability to re-enter nursing. For those who only require contact hours, 3days to a week is ideal for a particular refresher topic.

The usual requirement to complete the course is to have a minimum of 120 classroom/ didactic hours and an additional 100 hours for the clinical portion. This brings it a total of about 220 hours with variants on both sides depending on the nursing school and the state.

Free Nursing Continuing Education Courses

As a nurse you know that you are required to renew your license periodically and that in order to do so you must have a certain number of continuing education courses known as CEUs or continuing education units. As you know from your education to become a nurse, courses can become costly.

The good news is that there are free nursing continuing educations courses that can help you meet your requirements and save money at the same time.


The first place to look for free courses to earn CEUs is online. You can find many websites that offer webinars and videos with related information that qualifies as continuing education credits. The only downside to some of these is the number of CEUs earned per course is often small. On the other hand, since they are free and accessible via the Internet you can do them in your own time and accumulate your credits over time.

Medline University: This is an online resource for clinical resources, training programs and medical products. There are many courses and webinars available at no charge once you register. You can sort through available courses based on theme and whether or not it offers CE credits.

American Nurses Association: This organization offers many free continuing education courses for nurses who are members. The organization also offers many low cost courses for continuing education.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nurses can create an account and the search the CDC’s database of courses. After registering for the course and taking it, an evaluation of the course along with an examination are presented and when complete a CEU certificate can be printed.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Nurses can earn 7 CEU’s with an online course in asthma management and education.  The course is approved by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center‘s Commission on Accreditation.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: This division of the USHHS agency provides may continuing education courses that can be taken online. These courses are presented as PowerPoint presentations or slides and are accredited courses for earning CEUs. Topics available include breathing conditions, cancer ADHD and developmental delays, diabetes, muscle bone and joint conditions and many more. Many of the courses are provided to the agency by well-known medical schools such as Baylor University.

The Epilepsy Foundation: This online training course provides 1.5 CE hours and was developed in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The course was designed to educate people about the important of quick response time to seizures and is an accredited course for healthcare workers and law enforcement personnel.

Nurse Oncology Education Program: This program provides nurses with education on cancer and offers many free courses. Topics you can choose from include Cancer Survivorship, Cancer in Ages 15-3, Nurses Guide to Genetics and Cancer, Ovarian Cancer and many more. These CEUs are recognized in nearly every state; however, before you invest your time make sure your state will accept them.

ESP – Emerging Solutions in Pain: This site is dedicated to pain management for medical professionals and as such offers free online course for nurses that can help fulfill their CEU requirements. Classes are generally centered on pain and treatment options, topics include advances in pain and addiction, managing opioid use, addiction and many more topics centering on pain.

The National Healthcare Institute: This institute provides free courses such as a HIPPA course that covers the HIPPA privacy laws. The courses are accredited and approved by most all states. Courses offered vary from time to time and some have expiration dates so you need to check frequently to see what is being offered.

Nursing Schools: You should also check with any of the hundreds of nursing schools to find out if they offer free courses for CE credits, for example, Jacksonville University School of Nursing offers these occasionally. You should sign up to receive alerts when classes are available.

These are some of the many free nursing continuing education courses that are available on the Internet. As you can see, some are sponsored by specific agencies of medical conditions, such as the asthma and allergy courses or the epilepsy course and many are offered by government agencies. This is an excellent starting point when searching for CEUs without having to spend a fortune.