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.