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Online Learning Programs for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses must undergo rigorous educational and training programs in order to practice their profession. Typically, the educational requirement for RNs is achieved in one of three ways: a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from a community college; a Diploma in Nursing, often from a two- or three-year, hospital-based program; or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree offered by a four-year college or university.

Regardless of which RN program is undertaken, graduates also must successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the exam is a requirement for graduates in all states and U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The NCLEX-RN “measures competencies needed to perform safely and effectively as a newly licensed, entry-level nurse” and a passing grade is accepted by every state as an indicator of minimum competency for practice.

RNs also have opportunities to advance their career by attaining a higher nursing degree such as a BSN or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, as well as by completing Continuing Education (CE) programs, either in a classroom setting or online.

Earning an RN to BSN Degree Online

About 6.1 million students took one or more online courses in fall 2010, according to a survey of more than 2,500 U.S. colleges and universities, both public and private.

That represented a 10% growth rate for online enrollments over the previous year compared with 2% growth in overall student population, the survey by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board found.

Online RN to BSN programs appear to be following this general trend as nurses with an associate’s or diploma take advantage of the convenience and quality of online education to earn a four-year degree. Typically, the online bachelor’s programs offer flexibility as to when and where nurses complete their coursework assignments.

Some programs provide the nurse with an advisor or representative to guide them through the degree process. The programs may also offer RNs the opportunity to maintain contact with faculty and classmates through online chat rooms, email and message and discussion boards. This can speed communication and allow for the quicker resolution of questions and concerns.

Earning an MSN Degree Online

For those nurses seeking to gain advanced skills in management or other areas, earning an MSN online can be an excellent option, offering the same convenience and flexibility found with BSN online programs.

Attaining an MSN degree typically leads to higher earning potential, given the nurse’s expanded knowledge in management, education, development and technology, for example. Those higher-level graduates likely also have demonstrated the ability and desire to lead, mentor and educate other nurses.

Such skills and qualifications can lead to positions such as nurse administrator, director of education, clinical nurse specialist and chief nursing officer (CNO).

Earning CE Credits Online

Registered nurses in many states are required to complete continuing education (CE) credits in order to renew their license, as well as for certification or specialized training.

Nursing degree programs offered online may include CE courses, including free courses, to assist RNs with career building or with complying with licensure requirements. Earning CE credits in a specialized field allows an RN to stay current in terms of knowledge and skills, potentially leading to greater professional growth and better patient care.

Becoming an RN requires years of hard work and dedication. For those nurses looking to advance their education while balancing work, family and school, earning a BSN or MSN degree online may be a viable option.

An advanced degree can boost professional opportunities for an RN, including increased wage potential, higher-level nursing positions and the prospect of greater job satisfaction.

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