In an effort to streamline their educational programs and graduate more nurses, many schools have begun offering online associate nursing degrees. These can be highly desirable to schools, states, and nurses alike, for a couple of reasons.
Online nursing programs can help prospective nursing students avoid being waitlisted for nursing classes.
They can help schools enroll and graduate more nurses, without having to find more nursing educators to teach classes in brick-and-mortar classrooms.
They can turn out nurses that are just as well-educated as traditional classroom-based nursing programs, so states get more of the healthcare professionals they need to fight the nursing shortage.
They are often less expensive than classroom-based programs, so students can save money, states don’t need to give out as much in nursing financial aid, and schools don’t lose students on the basis of them not being able to afford nursing classes.
As a result, online nursing education can end up being a win-win situation for everyone involved. But is it always worth it?
Accredited versus Approved
Every state has a governing body that handles all things related to nursing. Usually called the Board of Nursing, this organization comes up with educational requirements, licensure and examination guidelines, and approves nursing educational programs. While many colleges and universities are “accredited” institutions, this does not necessarily mean that their nursing programs are “approved” by their state’s Board of Nursing.
Before enrollment, every nursing student should contact the Board of Nursing for their state, so they can get a list of approved nursing programs in their area. Even though online associate nursing degrees might sound attractive, they won’t be worthwhile if they will not allow students to take their exams and practice after they graduate!
Nursing with an Associate’s Degree
Many states also limit what you can do with an associate’s degree in nursing. While most require a bachelor’s degree or better in order for students to take their National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, all states will allow students to become licensed practicing nurses with an associate’s degree. Becoming an LPN isn’t quite the same as becoming an RN, but LPNs are just as much in demand as RNs are. In many cases, LPNs that wish to become RNs can enter continuing educational programs later on that will help them facilitate getting their bachelor’s degrees and passing the NCLEX-RN.
Is Online Education Worth it?
If you live in a state where college or university online educational programs are on your Board of Nursing’s list of approved nursing programs, then yes. A lot of states are inadvertently contributing to the worldwide nursing shortage simply by having educational institutions that are not efficient enough to graduate the number of nurses they need, so they end up forcing students to wait on long waiting lists for classes. Even when students aren’t waitlisted, they often can’t take classes because tuition costs are steep, and a lot of financial aid programs are reserved for people pursuing their bachelor’s in nursing. If you find yourself in any of these positions, then online classes are definitely worth pursuing.
Be aware that any time that you’re required to spend doing hands-on lab practicals or having actual on-the-job time to meet your state’s licensing requirements will still have to be made up somehow. This won’t be an issue for all students, but state guidelines vary, so it’s good to contact your Board of Nursing to find out what you’ll need to do in order to take your licensure examination before deciding on what kind of class is right for you
The nursing shortage has driven all schools, everywhere, to try to find solutions to recruit more nursing students, get them into classes, and help them graduate faster. Online associate nursing degrees are just one of these solutions. Though online education has had a stigma attached to it in the past, new methods of online teaching allows schools to create nursing graduates that are every bit as well-educated as their classroom counterparts, and just as prepared to enter the workforce.