The nursing field is one of the fastest growing professions in the country. With The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipating a need for nearly 600,000 nurses by the year 2018, finding competent and qualified individuals to fill these positions is becoming increasingly difficult for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices across the country. In an effort to help fill the demand for educated individuals in this vastly important field, accelerated nursing programs are increasing in popularity.
Individuals who are seeking a change of careers are becoming increasingly interested in the field of nursing. The challenge lies in the fact that these individuals cannot spend years in a classroom, away from their current professions and salaries. Because of this, fast-track baccalaureate programs and masters programs are gaining momentum nationwide in an innovative attempt to get these individuals trained and into the nursing field.
An accelerated nursing program for an individual with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a field other than nursing takes approximately a year to a year and a half to complete. This includes all prerequisite programs, as many credits will transfer from the individual’s first degree of study. Upon completion, the individual is assigned a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree, allowing them to work in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices across the country.
For individuals seeking a higher level of education, moving from their current bachelor’s degree to a fast-track master’s degree in nursing takes approximately three years. Again, the original degree does not have to be in the field of nursing. There are approximately 65 accelerated Masters of Nursing programs across the country, and that number is growing every year.
While the time frame of these programs is condensed, the number of clinical hours is in no way reduced. This is essential because clinical hours are key to preparing an individual for the high expectations and stressful environment that a career in nursing often requires. Students complete their program without breaks between semesters, and full time admission is typically required. Bridge style classroom training and an emphasis in skills already obtained through the individual’s previous degree are often used to complete the necessary classroom work required for these programs.
Employers appreciate individuals who enter into accelerated nursing programs for many reasons. First, these employees often have a diverse skill set, allowing them to bring a higher level of customer service and professionalism to the industry. In addition, these individuals have proven a high level of dedication, since they often complete their degrees while retaining full time jobs. This dedication often results in an employee with a low rate of absences and a high rate of dedication to the company.
Accelerated nursing programs are currently offered in 43 states. The number of schools offering such programs has nearly doubled since 2011, further expressing the need for qualified nurses across the country.
While these programs are increasing in numbers, the application and acceptance standards remain high. In most cases, schools look for a previous grade point average of at least a 3.0, professional references from at least three work colleagues and an intense screening process following the application. The demands of these programs are high, especially considering the condensed nature of study that they offer, and students must show a high level of professionalism and dedication in order to prove their capability of making it through such intense training.
Because nursing school graduates are in high demand, many schools have partnered with professional agencies in their cities and states to provide students with guaranteed jobs following graduation. In addition, there is financial aid available to assist students in paying for their programs, as well as financially maintaining their homes and families while they are in school. This is important considering many students of accelerated nursing programs are working adults, typically older than the average student and with a higher level of personal responsibility that they must consider before re-entering school.
While accelerated programs are a great solution for many, road blocks do exist for some professionals looking to transition into the nursing field. For one, while financial aid is available, it is not always enough to sustain a family while the adult enters into a full time nursing program. When finances prohibit an adult from making this career change, it can sometimes be difficult to find a suitable remedy.
In addition to financial constraints keeping individuals from accelerated nursing programs, some adults find it difficult to transition back to a learning environment after being out of the classroom for so long. For some, many years might have passed since they received their first Bachelor’s degree, meaning they are like fresh, new students with a great amount of life experience that sometimes leads to a greater level of resistance to the structure of a classroom.
Schools continue to seek out innovative measures to combat concerns such as these, as they continue to recognize the importance of attracting adult professionals into their programs. Further, professional organizations who are in need of nurses continue to offer suggestions regarding these concerns in recognition of the need they are currently facing for educated and qualified nurses.
Some creative solutions that schools are now implementing include offering students part time learning options. The drawback of these options is that the degrees take longer to complete, but the upside of this solution is that adults can often remain in the work environment, at least part time, while completing their degree. Another solution involves offering some classes online. While participating in an online class does require a different level of discipline than does a traditional classroom, the advantage is that adults can more easily structure classroom time around family requirements and personal needs, making it easier for them to complete their degree.
Accelerated nursing programs continue to gain in popularity because of the continuing increased need for skilled nurses. These programs offer wonderful options for adults who are considering a change in profession. A growing number of universities are now offering these programs, increasing the potential that this country’s future nursing needs will soon be met.