Online and Fast-Track Nursing Programs
There is a nursing shortage in the United States, and the need for qualified nurses who have completed nursing programs continues to increase with each passing year.
Nursing, like many other medical careers, is expected to grow 26 percent by the year 2020. Due to technological advancements, online nursing programs, and the ability to treat diseases and conditions which previously could not be medically treated, the demand for qualified nursing professionals is not expected to decrease anytime soon. The “baby boomer” generation also is living longer – but not necessarily in a healthy overall condition – and more people from this generation are requiring medical care.
There are other reasons why nursing is experiencing a shortage.
“The average age of nurses in the field today is 46 or 47,” said Karen Aul, an M.S.N. and professor of nursing at Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania. “In a few years, they will be bowing out of the profession, and without qualified replacements ready to take their place, it will only make the shortage worse.”
Diane Ratti, M.S.N., R.N. and professor of nursing at Butler County Community College, added that the need for qualified nurses has ebbed and flowed over the last two decades, with a nursing glut actually occurring during the 1980s. When the nursing job market became flooded with new graduates, it affected the enrollment in nursing schools in the 1990s, which produced the current nursing shortage being experienced today. She said the media focus on the nursing situation often has contributed to these gluts and shortages, either discouraging potential students from enrolling or producing a run on new applicants enrolling in nursing school.
In addition to enrollment figures, there is another hidden reason behind the nursing shortage – a lack of qualified nurse educators.
At a minimum, most nursing schools require their nurse educators to possess a Master of Science in Nursing, or M.S.N. degree, in order to teach. Some institutions even are starting to require doctorate degrees in order to teach.
“So in some cases, it’s not that there are not enough students willing to enter the field,” said Aul. “It’s that there are not enough qualified educators to train them all, so there is an influx of applicants, but not all of them get in.” She urged more nursing students to consider pursuing the kind of advanced degrees that would permit them to teach if the future need arose.
Educator shortages also are part of the driving force behind the insurgence of online nursing degree programs. Many institutions now are offering degrees that can be earned in part or in full online, with some of those being labeled as “accelerated nursing” programs.
Accelerated programs are designed to fast-track students who wish to earn a bachelor or master degree in nursing. A bachelor degree is required in order to become a licensed R.N. Accelerated programs for this kind of degree generally take 11 to 18 months to complete, which includes all prerequisite and required courses. Accelerated nursing programs for master level degrees take roughly three years to complete. There currently are 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, which offer accelerated nursing degree programs.
Some of the online and accelerated nursing programs are designed to train nurse practitioners, or N.P.s. An N.P. is a registered nurse who has received special training to treat routine and minor illnesses and injuries. They also can perform some tasks which normally would be performed by a doctor. Several nursing programs offer online options for becoming a nurse practitioner, including Duke University, which is one of the highest-ranked nursing schools in the nation. The majority of the program can be completed online, with students being required to attend a physical gathering on campus only three to four times per year.
Other popular nursing programs being offered online or at an accelerated pace are nurse anesthetist programs. Nurse anesthetist programs are considered graduate-level or doctorate programs and train nurses in the administration of anesthesia. Many institutions offer anesthetist programs online, making it easier for nurses already working in the field to advance their existing training.
Articles & content by Shari Berg, NursingSchoolFinder.org
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