Questions to Ask Yourself Before Embarking on an Online Nursing Program

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Written By Charlotte Miller

Online nursing classes are a great way for working nurses to get higher qualifications, better pay, and a more fulfilling position. They’re also a great option for those who want to get into the field, whether they’re coming in fresh or they’re moving from another industry. They have significant differences from traditional programs, however, and you have to be prepared for them before starting. Let’s take a look at a few questions you should ask yourself before embarking on an online nursing program. 

Are Online Classes the Right Choice for Me?

The first thing you should ask yourself is if you have the personality needed to succeed with online classes. They aren’t for everybody and the type of program you pick will also make a difference. You have two main types of online programs: asynchronous and synchronous programs. With asynchronous programs, you get to follow classes on your own time within a pre-determined time period. With synchronous classes, you have to follow classes on a schedule.

Before you assume that asynchronous classes are the obvious choice, know that the differences don’t stop there. Asynchronous classes also mean that you don’t get to watch classes with other students and can’t directly interact with the teaching staff. That’s one issue. But they also require a lot more discipline.

It’s easy to procrastinate when you don’t have to attend class at a specific hour, and you can end up falling behind. These should only be an option if you’re highly disciplined and a great self-starter. They are also the better option for those with irregular work schedules.

You also have to be ready to lose some of the social aspects and camaraderie that comes with nursing school. This will be somewhat replicated through communication tools and you will get to see other students on clinical assignments, but it will not be exactly the same. So, if that was a major part of going to nursing school for you, you might have issues adapting.

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Is the School Accredited?

Accreditation should be the first thing you look at when picking a school. Choose one that doesn’t have the proper accreditation, and your credits along with your credentials will not be recognized. But more importantly, there is no way to know if you have received a proper education. This is why you need to look at not only the accreditation, but how well their nursing program is ranked. This is eventually what will dictate whether your degree will be accepted and how well regarded it will be.

If you are looking for DNP nursing programs, Baylor University’s program is fully accredited by the CCNE, which is one of the most prestigious and respected accrediting bodies in the industry. They were also featured on the 2020 U.S. News & World Report for Best Graduate Schools with their DNP program, which ranked in the top 10%. Going with a school like this will make sure that your credentials are respected by all. 

You should also know that no one can tell if a diploma was received through an online program. Only accreditation and the reputation of the school matter, so do your research.

What’s the School NCLEX Pass Rate?

Another thing that will help you tell how good a program truly is, is the NCLEX pass rate. This will give you a good idea of how well students are prepared to take their NCLEX test, which is essential for those who want to become registered nurses. 

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What Will the Logistics be Like?

Online programs can vary greatly in the way they’re dispensed depending on the school. The portion that will be given online vs on-campus will differ. You have to check what courses will be given on-campus, especially if you’re coming from another state. Another thing you should know is whether you’ll be able to communicate directly with your teacher. This isn’t always an option even if you take synchronous classes. Some programs will only allow you to speak with faculty advisors, so that’s something you’ll need to clarify from the beginning.

Do I Have the Credits and Pre-Requisites?

There is no point in researching programs if you can’t qualify for them. So, check what the requirements are and make sure that you understand them. Most nursing programs will have the same pre-requisites such as a minimal GPA requirement and specific policies for credit transfers. One thing about online programs, however, is that they tend to be much more flexible. They make it easier for people from unrelated fields to enter, and they also allow those with a lower credential to skip certain steps and get their higher credentials faster. So, don’t assume that you’re ineligible and ask for information instead.

How Good are the Clinical Partners?

The partners your school works with will make a huge difference in the quality of education you’ll get. You first have to know where you will be taking your clinicals and how well the institutions are rated. This is when you will get the most real-world experience before working, so you must pick a program with quality partners and plenty of hours.

Another thing you have to consider is where these partners are located. Part of the joy of online classes is not having to commute, so you shouldn’t have to drive an hour and back every time you have clinical assignments.

How Fast Can I Start?

If the speed of completion is important to you, you have to know how fast you’ll be able to start. Some schools will have you wait for a whole year before you can start, so this is something you will need to know now. 

Ideally, you should go with a school that allows you to start as soon as possible and will have multiple starting dates throughout the year. We also suggest that you look at what accelerated programs they have and if they have a waiting list.

If you want to opt for online classes, ask yourself these questions before making your decision. This will allow you to find a great school and get ready for the road that lies ahead.