We received a great question from a potential nursing student regarding online nursing programs and clinicals.
So many nursing students (or pre-nursing students) have questions, and we do our best to help answer your questions.
Here is a great question we received and selected to answer:
I have been living in Puerto Rico for the past year, and I will be here for another year and a half. I really want to get my BSN, but online school is my only option… I’m lost! I don’t know where to start.
Do you have ANY recommendations on a good online program to go through? Should the school be nationally accredited, or regionally? If I go through a state college in Georgia, would I have to perform my clinical courses in Georgia? (Because I have no idea where my husband will be transferred after his work here is finished.)
I would really like some objective advice! Thanks so much for this site, it has been a life saver 🙂
Thanks so much for your question. It can be very overwhelming trying to find a good nursing school, especially when you have to move around due to family or work circumstances. I’ll try to offer some encouragement and advice to the best of my ability.
BSN in Nursing
The first thing that jumped out at me about your question is that you said you would be in Puerto Rico for another year and a half. One thing that you may or may not realize about most BSN programs is that the first two years is often split up into a general education curriculum, and the last 2 years are usually the actual nursing program.
This general education usually includes basic courses such as World or US History, Art, English, and so forth. There may be a few “pre-requisites” you have to take to prepare for nursing school (such as perhaps Anatomy and Physiology, or similar classes), but the bulk of the classes in the first 2 years are usually of the ‘general’ nature.
The reason I point that out is because if you select a university with such an arrangement, it may be easier for you to work around the issue of clinicals (at least, until the last couple of years). So that may help you be more flexible, and perhaps at the end of those 2 years you may have a better understanding of where you will be located.
Another thing I would point out is that many universities will accept “transfer credits.” This means that if you went 1-2 years at one university, and then had to move, and started attending another university, most would probably be willing to accept your coursework/credits from your previous college or university. Many people at my school would sometimes attend a less expensive technical school in our area, and then transfer after a year or two. They mostly did this to save money on tuition, while still actually obtaining a degree from a slightly better school.
I just point that out in case you weren’t aware that, in the event you had to move, it may be possible that you could still transfer those completed class credits to another university.
Of course, each university may have its own requirements of what courses it will or will not accept as a transfer credit (and actual nursing curriculums can vary), so you would definitely want to make sure your coursework would be recognized if you did ever plan on switching, as well as the timing of when nursing classes must be taken within that university’s curriculum (most course advisers in the nursing programs would be able to tell you this).
Good Online BSN Programs
This brings me to the next part of this question: What are some good online BSN programs? This is a somewhat difficult question to answer for the simple fact that there are so many universities and programs across the U.S. that it can be difficult knowing which are good and which are bad (here is a list of general nursing schools for each state if you want to browse them).
I graduated from a local university, and it did indeed have a very good nursing program (East Tennessee State University). They also offered an online ADN to BSN (which one of my friends completed). I got my BSN the traditional way, but my friend (who did the ADN to online BSN program) did inform me that she did have to drive up for clinicals every so often, as well as in-class testing. The thing you have to keep in mind is that clinicals are usually a requirement set forth by the State Board of Nursing, so universities must be rather strict to ensure you will meet the State’s requirements.
Given the above information, you’ll probably want to make sure you can be within driving distance. In fact, if a university didn’t require local clinicals and so forth, then I’d probably be a little skeptical.
As I mentioned before, it also makes sense to try and pick a university with a close proximity to where you think you may end up living, as the job networking and job placement can be a big help. An online degree from some obscure online program may be a tough sell to a future employer.
There are definitely some criteria I would use to find a good online program, such as:
- Is the university well-known, popular, and active in its surrounding community? If so, local employers will probably respect it and consider it a valuable degree.
- Do they offer many degree types (both in nursing and other general degrees)? If so, it is probably an established university with a good program.
- How long have they been around? It is usually a good sign to have a university that has been around a few decades at least (some have existed for over a century).
- Do they mostly offer “classroom degrees” and only offer online degrees as an alternative (as opposed to only offering “online only” degrees). If the university offers classroom degrees, it is probably going to be taken more seriously than an “online only” degree from some random online program.
- Are they accredited and what accreditation do they have?
Personally, I would stick with a school that is accredited (we’ll get to that in a second), and also has been around for a while and has a reputation for a quality education. Also, it always looks better when you get a degree from a college/university that actually has a real curriculum and program (ie, physical classroom learning), and only offers online degrees as an alternative. I’d steer clear from “online only” type schools because you never know if it is a scam or not, and many employers may frown on these schools if they’ve never heard of it.
Lastly, as I mentioned above, a university that is very active in the community is probably going to have good network connections, good employment placement programs, and will probably be able to help you get a secured job (and clinicals at a potential future employer). In fact, there is a good chance that most workers (maybe even the manager reviewing your resume) may have graduated from that very university.
I was blessed enough to be able to get a job right out of college for those very reasons. After all, we have to remember that getting a nursing job is the end goal of a nursing program. The schooling is just the middle man in the process. So I find that it helps to think long-term about actually applying for a local job when considering schooling.
Which Accreditation is Best for Nursing Schools?
There are many different accreditation bodies, and some nursing schools may not be accredited at all by these bodies (and yet, still be considered approved by the State Board of Nursing). Generally speaking, the more accreditations, the better.
First Things First: You want to know whether or not that school’s program is recognized by the State Board of Nursing (for the respective state). We have a list of the State Boards of Nursing for each state on our website if you want to browse the website of the state you are considering attending. Once there, you can usually view the educational requirements to be licensed. You’ll want to make sure your school matches up with those requirements.
Since the State actually determines what educational requirements are to be licensed, it is VERY important to make sure your university will meet those requirements.
If it is, then you an also look to see which accreditations it has acquired (if any). The biggest criteria you’ll want to consider is this:
- Do you plan on going to grad school? Some may require an accredited undergraduate degree. Obviously, if you go to the same university for your grad school this shouldn’t be a problem (this get’s back to my point of choosing a school that offers many degree types).
- Do you plan on advancing to management positions? Some places may have an emphasis on an accredited nursing degree, but in my personal experience I haven’t witness this.
- Does the State Board of Nursing in the state you will reside in require a particular accreditation? The state board may name a certain accreditation, or may simply have a list of acceptable nursing schools. You’ll certainly want to meet those requirements to get your license.
- Will any potential employers require an accreditation? Again, if it is a local and well-known university, there shouldn’t be any problems with this, as most schools would do their best to earn accreditations to comply with employer preferences.
The particular university I went to did meet the State board requirements, and also had an accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which is a branch of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). To my knowledge, this was the only accreditation they held. Any accreditation is good, but many schools may be applying for accreditation, and it may take some time for them to be approved.
So again, the biggest emphasis is whether or not the State board will recognize your program as meeting their requirements for licensing. Beyond that, any accreditation is certainly a bonus, but it depends on your long-term goals in your nursing career as to whether or not this will be important for you.
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