Nursing is among the most respected professions according to public polling. For example, Maru Public Opinion calculated a Respect Score of 92.2 out of 100 for nurses in a 2021 report. For those considering making a career switch, however, the path to this fulfilling career can seem daunting when you’ve already invested so much time on another path.
Fast-track nursing programs are designed to turn experienced non-nurses into skilled nurses. These degrees focus on the skills and experiences necessary for patient care without general studies courses. Let’s look at four reasons why an accelerated nursing program might be a good fit for you.
1. Fill a Growing Need for Nurses
The United States will soon face a significant shortage of nurses if current standards of care are maintained. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there will be 276,800 more registered nursing positions in 2030 than in 2020. The American Organization of Nursing Leadership (AONL) identified staff shortages as the most pressing challenge in a 2021 survey of nurse leaders.
You may wonder “Why is there a shortage of nurses?” when learning about these trends. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) identifies the following causes:
- Waves of retirements by experienced nurses
- An aging patient population in need of more comprehensive care
- A shortage of nursing faculty
Graduates of fast-track nursing programs provide much-needed replacements for retiring nurses. Innovative courses and clinical experiences prepare second-career nurses for patients with complex needs. Accelerated programs — especially those conducted online — maximize the impact of faculty and prepare students for graduate degrees needed for teaching careers.
2. Expedited Paths to Nursing Careers
Educational expectations for nurses have increased from generation to generation. The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey found that 41.8% of nurses held bachelor’s degrees at the time of licensure. This figure increased by 5.8% from a 2013 survey because younger nurses favored bachelor’s degrees over diplomas and associate degrees.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees require more non-nursing courses compared with technical degree options. The BLS notes that a BSN takes four years to complete because of these additional requirements. Nurses who pursue graduate degrees for leadership positions can add two more years to their educational journeys.
The time needed to complete a fast-tracking nursing program makes it an attractive option for second-career nurses. Accelerated nursing programs typically require less than two years of enrollment because they focus on essential nursing skills. You get a quick start to your nursing career with the help of a fast-tracked degree.
3. Use Previous Education and Experiences as a Platform
There are multiple paths available to professionals interested in nursing careers. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) found that 32.9% of registered nurses in 2018 began their careers outside of health professions. One-quarter of respondents received their initial nursing degrees between the ages of 29 and 38.
The invaluable service provided by nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic led to increases in nursing program enrollment. AACN President and CEO Deb Trautman explained why this difficult time attracted talented professionals to the field:
“In the pandemic, we saw an increased visibility of nurses, and I think that’s been inspirational to many people…it’s a profession where you can make a difference.”
These experiences will become more commonplace in the future as vacancies are pursued by graduates of fast-track nursing programs. Universities with accelerated programs value your previous educational achievements by eliminating requirements that aren’t necessary for practice. Experiences in non-nursing professions result in new perspectives on nursing during courses and clinical hours.
4. Preparation for Certification and Specialization
Nursing students put their coursework into action during hundreds of hours of clinical experiences. Experienced nurses supervise students as they learn how to care for patients of all ages. Clinical experience requirements also develop the competencies necessary for success on certification exams.
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) for registered nurses is used for licensing by all 50 states. This test can be challenging because the Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) format presents questions based on user ability. National NCLEX passing rates by degree show the value of bachelor’s degrees with more substantial clinical requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree (88.97%)
- Associate degree (81.73%)
- Diploma (81.1%)
- Average for all degrees (85.69%)
Clinical hours show the many areas of specialization available to registered nurses. You can focus on a particular age group, disorder, or practice setting based on these experiences. The roles of nurse leaders and administrators also come into focus as future career options.
Fast-track nursing programs ask students for full-time study to ensure immersive experiences. An intense focus on coursework and clinical hours help you get the most out of these experiences. You graduate from an accelerated nursing program as prepared for certification exams and career choices as colleagues in traditional programs.
Preparing for Your Nursing Career at Elmhurst University
A degree from a leading fast-track nursing program starts your nursing career on the right foot. Elmhurst University offers two accelerated degree paths for second-career nurses:
The 60-credit online Accelerated BSN program can be completed in 16 months of full-time study. BSN candidates complete all of their work online except for two residencies at the University’s Simulation Center at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital. Elmhurst University requires completing at least 625 clinical experience hours prior to graduation.
The online MENP is the first online accelerated direct-entry MSN in the United States, with coursework online and clinical placements in your local area. MENP students complete 71 credits and prepare for registered nursing licensure and Clinical Nurse Leader certification. Additional requirements for the program include a 5-day residency and at least 800 hours of clinical experience.
Find out more about how Elmhurst University can prepare you for a nursing career on the ABSN program page.