The growing need for nurses has continued to create pressure to find more ways to train new RNs, and to provide more ways for RNs already in practice to get more advanced specialized training. According to the most recent major report on supply and demand for nurses by The U.S. Department of Health (done in 2002) the demand in this specialty is expected to grow to a point in 2020 where there will be a whopping 29% shortage of nurses in the U.S.
Colleges across the range of community colleges, for-profit schools, private and state universities have stepped in to offer a wide variety of nursing programs online to fill this demand, particularly at the bachelor and master’s degree levels. And large hospitals and other health care facilities have become more welcoming to nurses with online degrees, as they’ve seen more and more job applicants with educational credentials earned online.
Nurses, for their part, have found that going back to a brick and mortar school to earn a bachelor or masters degree in nursing isn’t a realistic option, given the investment of time away from work required. Online RN to BSN, Master’s and specialty certificate programs that require just a computer, a modem and the desire to learn have grown in popularity.
Some reasons that online learning works particularly well for nurses:
Convenience:: Nurses no longer need to quit working in order to obtain a degree, or attend classes at a distant campus on the weekends or during the evening to earn a degree. Online classes can be taken on the kitchen table at home, without any interruption of work.
Savings: Online learning saves money, as there is no need to pay for parking, gas or transportation, food and other expenses associated with attending college or university. Beyond tuition, the only costs associated with online learning are the costs of books (though a few schools actually include books in the tuition charge), the cost associated with having an internet connection and any technology upgrades necessary.
Pacing: Nurses wishing to upgrade their education can do so at their own pace. If you are working and raising a family, the ability to work at your own pace is a bonus. It can also be nice to spread tuition costs over time by working at a gradual pace. Alternately, it can be possible to obtain a degree in a shorter amount of time, through an accelerated degree program.
Flexibility: The flexibility of online learning appeals to nurses on several levels. Nurses tend to be self-motivated, curious, and hardworking and generally enjoy the lifelong learning associated with being a healthcare professional — a specilty where practices are constantly changing. These attributes serve nurses well when it comes to online learning.
Technology Skills: More and more nursing tasks are driven by technology, and online learning can teach new ways of integrating technology into the learning process. Pursuing an online degree can help raise the student’s general comfort level, particularly with information technologies.
Collaboration: Nurses pursuing their degree online often have the opportunity to network with nurses from different backgrounds and cultures, through a variety of chat and forum applications used by online schools. In a traditional classroom setting, students are often from the same geographical area and will have shared many of the same experiences in terms of their careers; collaborating with students from around the globe online offers nurses the added bonus of learning from others who experience nursing in a completely different way.
Online learning may not be for everyone, but nurses tend to excel at this mode of learning due to common characteristics of this group, including self-motivation, a strong work ethic and a desire to be lifelong learners.