By Megan M. Krischke, contributor
July 11, 2013 - The Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report set a goal for 80 percent of nurses to obtain a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree by 2020, and an increasing number of employers are showing a preference for BSN-prepared nurses. One way for nurses to accomplish the IOM goal and boost their own careers is to complete a BSN degree online.
Rachel Doornbosch, assistant dean at Kaplan University School of Nursing, says time management is the number one key to success in an online degree program.
“An online degree is especially advantageous for nurses who are often working 12-hour shifts on varying schedules. An online degree program means you don’t have to show up in a classroom. Though you have deadlines to meet, you can study when it works into your schedule,” explained Rachel Doornbosch, MBA, Kaplan University’s assistant dean of students for the school of nursing.
When searching for online nursing programs, Doornbosch emphasizes that it is important to research schools that fit your learning style.
“At Kaplan, we place a big emphasis on discussion boards and papers and assignments. So, you are interacting in written form. Some other programs are based more on recorded lectures, taking notes and passing an exam,” she explained.
“There are two major advantages, in my mind, to an online degree program,” began Clark Crowell, MSM, vice president of education solutions for The College Network, which partners with leading universities to offer associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs.
Clark Crowell, VP of education solutions for The College Network, says that nurses have an ever-increasing responsibility for patient care.
“First, in a traditional classroom, the material is presented once and then I have the opportunity to ask questions,” Crowell said. “In an online classroom, the material is provided in a format that I can review multiple times until I understand what was gone over.”
“Second,” he continued, “today’s world is increasingly using technology. Through an online program, I am learning to use it in meaningful ways. I grow in my understanding of the business side of technology and gain a respect for what it is able to do for me professionally.”
Learn the keys to success
Both Crowell and Doornbosch caution that those pursuing online degrees must be self-motivated and willing to protect and honor the time that they set aside to study.
“I would recommend creating a calendar and putting it somewhere visible like on your refrigerator,” said Doornbosch. “You have to treat it like your work schedule. It seems simple, but is harder to do than you might think.”
Online nursing students should realize that they are not in this process alone, but that they have access to the professors and other university resources to assist them as they complete their degree.
“To maximize your online education experience, you need to understand that reading isn’t learning.” Crowell commented. “If all you are aiming to do is memorize and regurgitate, you haven’t gained much from the experience. You need to go through a process of looking at the content, questioning the content and expounding on it.”
“Ask yourself: What was it about, and why does it matter, and where is it connected to other pieces of information that I have been learning? What are the more important aspects of what is being taught? Do I understand those aspects and how they are interrelated?” As Crowell explained, “This isn’t just about attaining a degree, it is about making a commitment to improve.”
An online program offers unique opportunities to network. While it may require more intentionality to develop relationships, an online program creates connections with people all over the country, whereas a local college, while providing face-to-face interactions, typically will only connect a nurse with the local network.
Remember what your BSN degree can mean
“Completing an online program communicates to potential employers that you are motivated, self-directed and have the courage to overcome obstacles.” Doornbosch noted.
“Completing a BSN is a significant career move because hospitals seeking Magnet status are looking for nurses with that level of education,” Crowell pointed out. “Perhaps even more important is that nurses are playing a larger role on the health care team for each of their patients--they are truly responsible for the overall care of their patients and coordinating between the clinicians. What success and greatness looks like is changing as more and more responsibility is being placed on nurses.”
“The point at which you no longer are trying to improve in your career is the point at which you will start to diminish in your ability to perform,” Crowell stated. “There are new innovations in nursing daily and if you don’t learn about those things you are going to be left behind.”
“When starting an online degree, it is important to know what it is you hope to gain from it and to maintain focus on that goal as you go through the program,” he concluded.
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