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Online College: The Myths, The Truth and Why It’s Absolutely for You

There’s a lot to consider for registered nurses who want to continue their education and receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

For many nurses, simply obtaining the RN designation positions them for a long and vibrant career. But a BSN degree can elevate graduates into a higher pay grade, make them eligible for exclusive career opportunities, enhance their level of patient care-giving and more.

According to the online social community NurseJournal.org, nurses with a BSN degree earned a median salary of $69,000 in 2014, compared to $39,100 for RNs.

The degree designation also is mandatory for individuals wanting to be considered for four of the highest-paying nursing jobs — nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist and clinical nurse specialist. Likewise, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses stipulates that anyone applying to own a professional nursing practice must have, at a minimum, a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Obtaining a BSN degree might seem daunting in terms of the educational requirements, but the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing has research available on its website that shows BSN-degree holders exhibit a noticeable difference in clinical care, including a lower patient mortality rate and lower failure-to-rescue rates.

Hospitals also have taken notice of BSN recipients, particularly if the facility wishes to obtain a Magnet designation from the American Nurses Association. One requirement for the designation is that a majority of the facility’s nursing staff — 75% of nurse managers and 48% of nurses — have received a BSN.

Online Myths

While studying for and obtaining a degree online has become more common in recent years, there are still a number of myths that continue to stigmatize the practice.

Major national publications, such as U.S. News & World Report and Forbes, have attempted to dispel incorrect and negative impressions of online education as inferior and lacking when compared to the traditional college experience.

Online is easier: Earning a college degree, whether at a brick and mortar school or from the comfort of your own home, isn’t easy. Students are responsible for learning the same information. They take the same tests. They can still fail if they don’t put in the necessary time and dedication. What online offers that traditional college doesn’t is flexibility, which can benefit the hectic schedule of a registered nurse.

Lower quality: Online academic standards don’t change just because the student is taking classes online instead of in a traditional classroom. Some proponents of online education believe that the quality of instruction may even be higher because the different format challenges instructors to communicate more effectively with a student than they might in person.

Lack of accreditation and/or transferable credits: Transferring credits from an online program should not be any different, and while issues can arise, they also can appear for students in on-site programs too. One way to avoid an issue with transferring credits is to thoroughly research an online program’s accreditation and make sure that program meets financial aid criteria and is recognized by specific employers.

Other common misconceptions: Some people believe that online students simply cheat to get good grades because they aren’t being supervised. But many online programs require students to take tests at a physical location, or while being viewed on webcam. Another common myth is that online students cannot meet one-on-one with their instructors. However, the opportunity for direct communication exists with chat sessions, Skype conferences and even by phone.

Real-life realities

The advantage of earning a degree online, especially for a working RN, is the ability to structure their education around work, family and other life obligations.

Flexibility, according to the website Minority Nurse, can enhance online learning by allowing working students to study at their convenience in a comfortable environment as opposed to altering their schedule to meet the more rigid demands of designated class times and specific class locations.

The online experience also can help broaden a student’s knowledge and contacts by putting them in touch with other peers studying in different cities and states, which allows them to share real-world scenarios and solutions, broadening their knowledge and better preparing them for situations that might arise.

Finally, when it comes time to meet face to face with potential employers, if questioned about their degree, online BSN graduates can provide examples of how their experience was, in truth, no different than if they attended a traditional school. Students who would like to learn more about how to approach communication with potential employers can find guidance through the JU Career Resource Center.

Before choosing any online degree program, registered nurses — like any other student — should perform their own due diligence to learn about the program’s accreditation, its graduate success rate and its length of time in awarding degrees.

Students should not be shy about talking to as many people as possible with knowledge of the online program, and asking any and all questions that come to mind.

But the benefit to receiving a BSN degree, especially for a registered nurse who wants to advance in salary, critical skills and job opportunities, is clear — whether the degree was obtained online or at a traditional school.

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