4 Things to Consider about Online Nursing Programs

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Written By Charlotte Miller

When you are working as a nurse, there are constant opportunities to advance and expand your career. Online nursing programs offer the ability for practicing RNs to study to become nurse practitioners while continuing to work at their current jobs. NPs are a valuable part of any medical team and specialize in a certain area of nursing. The online bsn to np programs could be the perfect option for you if you are looking to boost your career and study in a flexible way. Even if you are not sure where you would like to specialize yet, looking at the options available when it comes to NP roles can help give you some idea of the range of roles available and their different requirements. Here are just four things to consider about online nursing programs before taking the plunge:

Choose the right course

The online bsn to np programs are MSN programs that will prepare you to become a nurse practitioner in your chosen field of nursing. You will gain the clinical expertise to prevent, assess, treat, and manage acute and chronic diseases within your specialty. These can include gerontology, pediatrics, or mental health. The online bsn to np programs are designed for practicing RNs who want a flexible study option that fits around their life and shift patterns. Depending on the pathway you chose, the programs can take between 24 and 30 months to complete. The pathways available are:

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Degree, 30 months to complete 
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
  • Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner Degree, 24 months to complete

The pathway that you choose will define your specialism and the career options that will become available to you. In each program, there are different courses such as Theoretical Perspectives for Advanced Practice and a Moral and Ethical Decision-Making residency. These courses can be studied one at a time, on the 7-1-7 model, meaning you can study a course for 7-weeks, break for 1-week, and then study the next course. 

If you aren’t yet at the point in your career where you are eligible for this level of study, it is still important to look at the requirements for both the jobs you want to do and the courses you will need to take in order to do them. This can allow you to be prepared and give you the best chance to gain the job you want.

Know the career outcomes

The online bsn to np programs can help you work in various areas of advanced nursing as an NP. Nurse Practitioners are mid-level practitioners who, in some states, can practice without the supervision of a physician. They also take on many of a medical doctor’s diagnostic and clinical functions, despite not being trained as one, making them non-physician clinicians. For NPs, there is a large focus on educating their patients in order to promote wellness, regardless of their area of expertise. 

Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner 

AGNPs can focus either on primary or acute care, and this online bsn to np programs trains you to work in the former. This means that you will be providing primary care to those who are young adults and upwards and who are not usually ill. The tasks of primary care AGNPs can include promoting and encouraging healthy life choices to maintain health, assess caregiver competence, manage transitions between care settings, and educate the patients and their caregivers. 

Family Nurse Practitioner 

FNPs understand the importance of family-centered healthcare and have a diverse role with many different tasks. FNPs treat patients of all ages and genders across all body systems and diseases. They also work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, community centers, and areas with historically long waiting lists for physicians, such as rural areas. Their responsibilities and duties can include educating patients to promote health, prescribing medication, assessing and diagnosing patients, and managing treatment plans.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

PMHNPs are trained to offer a range of mental health care services to individuals, groups, or communities and can be either generalists or specialists in areas such as psychotherapy or forensics. The tasks of a PMHNP can include managing patient care, providing emergency psychiatric services, prescribing and managing medication, assessing and diagnosing patients, and conducting therapy.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner 

PNPs specialize in the care of patients from birth to around age 21 when the patient is considered a young adult. PNPs focus on primary care but can also manage acute and chronic illnesses. Their tasks can include preventative health, growth, development, physical assessments, developmental check-ups, treating various illnesses and injuries, and providing valuable emotional support and advice to patients and families. 

These are the areas in which online bsn to np programs can prepare you to work in. Once you have completed your msn, you will need to undergo different certification and licensing exams in order to begin looking for roles and careers. These can vary depending on your state, in a similar way to the RN license, so it is important to consider where you want to be practicing.

Have the right skills

There are numerous technical and personal skills that a nurse will need to utilize every day. If you are already a practicing RN, you will have many of these qualities. However, they can always be developed, and online bsn to np programs can give you the opportunity to do this and teach you how to apply those same skills in the different roles and situations you may find yourself in as an NP. Some of these skills are:

  • Advocacy – patient advocacy is at the heart of the Hippocratic Oath. This means speaking up for your patients when they cannot, making sure that your patients’ rights are protected, keeping their best interests at heart, keeping patients safe, and providing the highest quality of care.
  • Stamina – both physical and emotional stamina is required to be a nurse. You can be on your feet for the majority of your shifts and will also be moving and lifting patients and equipment. Being physically fit can help prevent you from tiring easily and can help you deliver better care to your patients. Being emotionally strong is also vital for both your and your patients’ sakes. It can help prevent against things such as compassion fatigue and can also help you create good boundaries. 
  • Communication – nurses have to have excellent communication skills, and this includes speaking, listening, and observation. You will be communicating with a wide range of people such as the public, other medical professionals, or law enforcement. It is important to understand that not everyone has the same level of medical understanding as you, and therefore you will need to adapt your communication methods to fit the situation and individual. 
  • Teamwork – even though NPs can work independently in some places, you will often be part of a multidisciplinary medical team, and therefore collaborating with other members of the health care team is vital. This will help you work together to find the best solutions while also advocating for your patients. 
  • Willingness to learn – nurses have to be able to adapt to changes in methods or technology, as these are always developing in the medical industry. Regardless of your role or how long you have been practicing, adaptability is essential to ensure that you are always delivering up-to-date care to your patients.
  • Attention to detail – as a nurse, you need to be paying close attention to work and patients in order to provide a high level of care, keep people safe and avoid making mistakes. Being detail orientated, even when working in a hectic environment, is incredibly important.
  • Compassion – this means feeling sympathy and the desire to fix whatever is causing pain or distress and is one of the core characteristics of a nurse. Being compassionate and caring can help you make a patient feel safer and more comfortable and at what can be very stressful times in their lives.
  • Empathy – this means putting yourself in the place of your patients to understand their emotions and thoughts, as it is unlikely you will have firsthand experience of every situation a patient presents. However, you still need to make meaningful connections with them, and display empathy can help you do this.
  • Critical thinking – when you are a nurse, you will constantly need to use your critical thinking skills to make the best decisions, sometimes quickly and under pressure. Judgment, problem-solving, and decision-making skills are also very important traits when it comes to being a nurse. 

These are just a few of the many skills you will need to use and constantly develop throughout your career as a nurse, no matter what role you work in.

Study online

One key element of the online bsn to np programs is that they are taught using a combination of in-person and digital techniques. This is called blended learning, and it has many benefits, one of which is to make the course more accessible and flexible. Other benefits of online courses include the lack of location barriers, reduced costs, and the ability to develop important personal skills. 

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Studying can be very expensive, and the costs and time that studying takes can seem unnecessary if you already have a job and a degree. However, in nursing, there are constant opportunities to learn and advance your career, and so investing in more qualifications can be worthwhile. The online bsn to np programs can help you save money, as not only do they allow you to continue working while you study, you can also do a lot of the learning from home. Students have to pay for many things, such as travel, campus accommodation, tuition fees, and educational resources, but online learning can help reduce or remove some of these costs. For example, when learning from home, you won’t have to commute to classes every day or worry about renting accommodation on or near your campus. This is one of the ways in which online bsn to np programs can be more cost-effective and a good option for you.

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Online learning can also give you the opportunity to develop important personal skills while you study. You will, of course, learn many skills from the content of the program, but the process of distance learning can also help them thrive. Soft skills are transferable, non-technical skills such as communication, organization, self-motivation, and conflict resolution. You will be able to develop these when you learn online, overcoming challenges to help you become a capable and efficient independent learner. 

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If your local college or university does not offer the courses you need, then this can delay your career plans. Alternatively, they may offer you the courses, but not in the flexible way you require to continue working. Online learning means your physical location can be less of a barrier, giving you access to the programs you need in order to advance to the next step of your nursing career. Also, the ability to work at home lets you have more control over your environment, pace, and the techniques you use to learn. This is very valuable as not only can it help you enjoy the course more, it can also help you develop healthy learning habits that you can use in the future whenever you need to learn new information. 

Online bsn to np programs can help you develop the technical and personal skills required to work in your desired area of nursing. It can also help prepare you to continue your education to dnp level, again opening even more career opportunities. NPs are incredibly skilled and valuable medical professionals who deliver a range of health services to many different people. If you are passionate about helping others in a specific field or area of nursing, then online bsn to np programs can help you achieve this.