What are the benefits of studying an accelerated nursing program over a traditional course?

In the past, most people entered a profession and remained in it until they retired. The thought of changing professions during the middle of their careers never crossed their minds, but the situation is very different now.

In 2022, this phenomenon has changed so much that it is not unheard of for people to switch jobs a dozen times over the course of their professional lives. In 2021, 32 percent of professionals between the ages of 25 and 44 considered switching careers, and 29 percent of professionals have already switched professions since beginning their careers.

The reasons for switching careers stem from a range of reasons, from wanting to earn more money to working in an area of interest. Twenty percent of professionals who switched careers did so for upward mobility. Regardless of the reason, switching careers also means being trained in a new field.

For a professional who has already earned a degree, a career switch might mean having to earn another degree, which is not always possible for various reasons. For one, enrolling in another degree program might not be practical for a professional with familial or financial obligations. Also, the costs of attending a program might be too high. Most educational degrees are an investment in one’s future, but for the professional who is forced to choose between attending school for an additional four years or supporting their family, going to school might be impractical, regardless of the future financial rewards.

However, today’s healthcare educational landscape has become very accessible to people from all walks of life. Modern students have the choice of attending a traditional baccalaureate program or completing their entire degree program online, which allows for more flexibility. In the case of professionals switching professions mid-career, many university programs offer prospective students the ability to earn their second degree through an accelerated course of study, as is the case with many accelerated nursing programs.

What Is an accelerated nursing program?

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) gives a professional who has already earned a bachelor’s degree in some other discipline the ability to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) without having to complete the entire program. This pathway allows individuals to use the general education credits they earned as a part of their first program, putting them toward the second degree in nursing. Many of these programs can be completed in around a year and a half.

While a prospective nurse can technically get a registered nurse designation through a certificate program, many healthcare professionals prefer their nurses to obtain the BSN, which prepares the student for a registered nurse certification as well. This is because a bachelor’s degree provides nurses with the critical thinking, research, and leadership skills that many employers value.

Ultimately, the accelerated BSN online (ABSN) program allows the student to finish their nursing coursework and clinicals in a timely fashion. Most ABSN programs, such as the one at Rockhurst University, allow students to finish their second degree within between 12 and 24 months, depending on the number of prerequisites the prospective nurse needs. Furthermore, many program formats include the coursework that prepares the individual for nursing, a hands-on lab, and clinical rotations.

What to expect from an accelerated program

Accelerated programs move quickly, and before the student knows it, they have graduated and moved into their career. While in school, however, students can expect to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time. These programs sometimes split the 16-week semester into two eight-week terms. Accelerated programs also often use a quarter term format that offer courses year-round. Finally, some programs are scheduled three times a year, giving students more opportunities to finish their degree program. The programs also include clinicals, which allow student to apply coursework knowledge to the real-world setting.

What are the benefits of an ABSN?

An accelerated degree program that allows a student to enter the workforce sooner has one central benefit: students can begin working in nursing and earning a salary sooner upon completing the program and requisite certifications. However, ABSN programs offer prospective nurses numerous other benefits.

Experience is not a requirement

Most institutions do not require an individual to have experience to enroll in their ABSN program. At most, the program might require the individual to take prerequisite courses in preparation for nursing coursework. Beyond having the 60 credit hours or earning a bachelor’s degree, most programs do not expect students to enter the program with experience. In the traditional program setting, students must complete all the prerequisites to enter a program of study, which may take additional time.

Program flexibility

For students with a hectic life, many of these program course offerings are flexible, allowing them to take courses when it is more convenient for them. The online curriculum allows students to watch lectures and review course material when they have time during the day or after work. As long as they complete the coursework by the due date, students can work when they have time to sit and learn without distractions.

Degree versatility

The ABSN offers degree-earners a measure of professional versatility. Associate degrees in nursing do allow students to earn certification to become a registered nurse (RN), but with a BSN, students have more options in terms of career choice and advancement. An RN with a BSN can work in various fields outside of the hospital, such as leadership, public health, and research.

In a traditional university program, the degree a student earns generally allows them to work in a particular specialization. Without extra training or credentials, however, it is difficult to transition from one field to another within their specialization. Because of the breadth of fields in nursing, a prospective nurse has many options within this profession from which to choose. Upon graduating from a nursing program, a nurse can work in more than 100 areas within this field.

Use of prior knowledge and skills

The American Nurses Association reported that roughly a third of the people who choose to pursue a second career in nursing come from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The other 65 percent come from business, public administration, and the social sciences. According to the study, second career students pursuing a degree in nursing decided to do so based on the knowledge and skills they acquired in their first career. Moreover, they decided to use the skills they acquired in their former professions toward their careers in nursing.

An increasing demand for nurses

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of nurses working in healthcare settings has decreased due to the demands and stresses associated with the job. Additionally, more nurses are aging out of the profession than those who are choosing to enter nursing as a career. In response to the nursing shortage, the healthcare industry has called on college degree programs to recruit and educate students to enter nursing, specifically BSN programs.

Ultimately, having more nurses means offering higher-quality care. When a nurse’s patient load is increased, it makes it difficult to provide each patient with the high level of care needed. However, a healthcare program that can lower the nurse-patient ratio provides certain guarantees for those in their care.

While assisting physicians, nurses play a crucial role in the healthcare setting. Nurses are responsible for directing patient care, overseeing nursing management, establishing standards, and developing quality assurance, among other duties. In the healthcare community, nurses play an integral role in shaping each patient’s environment, so making sure there are enough nurses to help patients is essential.

Healthcare organizations need highly qualified, well-educated nursing professionals to meet the demands of the upcoming decades. For example, nursing will see an estimated increase of 49,800 professionals by 2030. The number of nurse practitioner positions that will need to be filled is 335,200, with a need for 8,200 midwives by 2030.

Return on investment

The educational expenses related to pursuing a second degree can be very high. Nursing, however, is one of the many occupations that delivers a return on an investment soon after the student has completed their degree program. The median salary for nurses is $73,000 annually, which translates to $35 an hour. In comparison to a nurse with an associate’s degree, an RN who has completed a BSN earns $15,000 more annually.

Because of the numerous pathways a nurse can take, the field also provides great growth potential and opportunities to earn other degrees and certifications. With greater skills, a nurse has more opportunities. Furthermore, an accelerated program allows a student to master their coursework quickly and enter the workforce sooner so they can benefit from their investment.

More options within nursing

The roles available to nurses with a BSN range from those in a hospital setting to supervisorial roles. A bachelor’s degree places a nursing professional within reach of advanced career options, such as being a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife. Furthermore, a BSN can be a platform for earning specialized certifications and degrees.

Specialized training

Many degree programs, such as the one at Rockhurst University, offer students specialized training that includes evidence-based practices that teach leadership, community, and population health. In addition to these practices, students receive training in simulated and clinical lab settings. Upon graduation, ABSN students are prepared to deal with the myriad of patient issues in healthcare today.

Cohort-based program

Accelerated programs often place students in groups to provide them with a support system while studying an intense discipline, and this can set the stage for lifelong friendships. The relationships formed as a part of studying can provide balance during some of the more challenging moments of nursing education.

No competition for classes

In a regular nursing program, students must compete with others for classroom space. If classes are filled, a student must wait an additional semester before they can complete the coursework. However, a cohort-based program will set up students’ coursework, allowing them to avoid the difficulties associated with securing a spot in a class that other students need. Because their seat is already secured, the student does not have to worry about extending their degree program another term.

Students become more focused

These accelerated courses require students to remain on top of their schoolwork. With limited time and a lot of course material to cover, nursing students are left with little choice but to focus on getting all the requisite material completed and submitted on time. Understanding and retaining information becomes a priority because before students can practice in a healthcare setting, they must demonstrate they understand the concepts imparted in the classroom and during the practicum. This sobering fact is enough to make them more focused.

Cost-savings benefits

Accelerated programs condense the degree program, which means students do not spend as much on tuition and other supplemental materials. Instead of taking courses in the spring and fall across several years, a student might take courses over three or four terms, depending on the program. In the end, students save money because they are not spending on more coursework. Conversely, the traditional school setting is structured so that a person finishes a bachelor’s degree in four years. When comparing attending an accelerated program to a traditional program, students save a considerable amount of money on tuition, books, and other essentials.

Support from professors

In compressed classes, students not only have the support of their fellow students, but their professors are also understanding. Professors in these programs understand the stresses that come with studying coursework that can be very challenging. In this respect, the professor can be a source of support and counsel when things get too difficult. At the same time, they can be there to help celebrate student victories.

Who might benefit from an ABSN program?

Anyone who has a desire to fast-track their nursing career can benefit from an ABSN, but the program is specifically geared toward a couple of groups: those looking to earn a second degree in a health-related program, those looking to transition themselves into a new career, those who have at least 60 non-nursing credits, and those who wish to enroll in a hybrid or online program. The ABSN program offers people in all these categories a quick way to complete coursework and clinical training in an exciting field.

The bottom line

Nursing is a rewarding career. Those who make the switch do so considering all the sacrifices they will have to make in attending a program. A BSN that culminates in a registered nurse designation is more attractive to employers because qualified educated nurses are in demand. Moreover, by the end of the decade, there will be numerous positions available, indicating the demand to train qualified nurses will increase as seasoned nurses age out of the field.

Those looking to get their BSN have two options. The first option is to apply to a traditional nursing program, one that might require a prospective student to take on more coursework and be in school for a longer time. This delays a nurse’s ability to earn money in their chosen vocation. If admitted to the program, there is the likelihood that the student will face competition when enrolling in their courses. In terms of cost, the student might incur additional costs related to paying tuition, books, and other supplemental material.

Conversely, an ABSN offers the student more flexibility, cost savings, and a better return on their investment. The coursework is flexible in the sense that it allows students to enroll in terms more than twice a year, unlike most traditional programs. At the same time, students can enroll in classes online and take them when it is most convenient, making it possible to work around other obligations a person might have. Depending on the program, a student might find that enrolling in a condensed program saves them money because they are not required to retake general education courses or those that are a part of the first 60 credits. By training quickly, the student can benefit from graduating and entering the workforce sooner, thereby being able to recoup any losses from their initial investment in their education.

Finally, if the plan of study is cohort-based, students in the ABSN program benefit from an optimal learning environment. They study and build relationships with students in their group who form the basis of a support network. They also benefit from relationships with their professors, who are professionals who understand the difficulties of studying in a fast-track program. Professionals looking to embark on a career in nursing have so much to gain by enrolling in an accelerated nursing program designed to prepare them for working in any of the many rewarding areas of nursing.

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