Improvement in learning technologies has led to a lightning-fast expansion of online options for those looking to continue their education through remote learning. A wide array of online nursing programs have emerged for those looking to get their nursing degree online.
Online nursing education can be perfect for those switching careers, offering flexibility, cost savings and a host of other benefits. These types of programs also appeal to future nurses who want educational options that go beyond what they have available in their communities.
However, choosing an online program can be quite a daunting prospect. The sheer number of online nursing programs can be overwhelming, and narrowing down the perfect program to suit your situation isn’t easy.
Here are some simple considerations to keep in mind when choosing where you’ll get your nursing degree online.
1. Online Nursing Degree Options for Non-Nurses
Choosing the best online nursing program for you depends largely on your professional background and goals. If your dream job in the nursing field requires a master’s degree, it helps to know before nursing school and make plans accordingly.
- Second-career nurses can get a head start on their nursing education through accelerated nursing degree courses if they already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. An accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing or ABSN, focuses on the essential skills for this profession without repeating introductory courses you may have already earned during your first bachelor’s degree.
- Direct-entry graduate programs allow non-nurses who want to become nursing leaders to earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). An online Master’s Entry in Nursing degree builds on your prior bachelor’s degree to prepare you for the nursing field while also emphasizing leadership and health care administration best practices.
2. Admission Requirements and Prerequisites
Nursing school applicants should check degree requirements before beginning their admissions journey. Online nursing programs with accelerated or direct-entry options often require bachelor’s degrees in any non-nursing field as part of their admission standards. An understanding of program requirements and prerequisites is helpful when narrowing down your program options.
Undergraduate classes completed as part of previous degrees may fulfill prerequisite course standards. When you are getting your nursing degree online, completing these prerequisites before admission demonstrates that you know basic principles that are essential in the nursing profession.
Online nursing programs, including those at Elmhurst University, require completion of the prerequisites before admission which may include:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Anatomy and Physiology I and II
- General Chemistry with Lab
- Intro to Psychology or Sociology
- Lifespan Psychology
- Microbiology with Lab
Admission departments use cumulative GPAs from previous degrees and courses to identify the most promising applicants. Completing prerequisite courses can help boost your cumulative GPA, and an admissions advisor can help you determine your required courses and eligibility.
3. How Long is the Nursing Program
In your search for the right online nursing program, you should consider how long it takes to complete the degree. Time is a valuable commodity for professionals, especially those who are switching careers. It is helpful to understand the typical time to graduation for traditional nursing programs for comparison.
Online nursing schools are great options for students interested in quicker paths to a nursing degree. Second-degree nursing programs are often designed for career changers with curricula focused on core nursing skills and can often be completed in as little as 16-20 months.
Before starting any nursing school degree, students should understand if they will be able to work for the duration of the program. Accelerated programs tend to be built around a robust curriculum that can make it difficult to keep even a part-time job. However, for students who are keen to enter the workforce as quickly as possible, shorter programs can be very appealing.
At Elmhurst University, programs are geared toward the professional who will be taking a break from work to pursue their education. With that in mind, both accelerated nursing degrees have been designed to be completed efficiently and quickly. The online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) can be completed in 16 months, while the online Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) can be finished in 20 months.
4. Virtual Learning Experiences
A key consideration when choosing an online program is whether courses are live or asynchronous. Live courses require attendance at specific times similar to in-person school. Asynchronous courses with online assignments, coursework and forums provide flexibility for busy students.
The best online nursing schools design their courses for virtual learning rather than repurposing standard lectures. They employ faculty members with clinical experience and proficiency in teaching online courses. These schools also assign dedicated advisors to students for guidance from admission through graduation.
“The support has been unmatched compared to my previous online learning. As everyone knows, COVID caused a lot of classes to go online, so part of my college years was in an online environment. Elmhurst faculty are always around to help. We have all their contact information, and they ensure we have the resources needed to succeed,” says Mia Fiore, an online MENP graduate.
Elmhurst University’s online nursing programs are meant to be rigorous and comprehensive. ABSN and MENP students are often advised not to work during nursing school so they can keep pace with the curriculum.
All coursework is designed for remote learning and is completed through an online learning platform. Some education takes place via live-streamed classes where attendance is taken. A student success advisor is available throughout both programs to offer check-ins, guidance and course selection advice.
Danielle Corliss, another online MENP graduate at Elmhurst, calls out the program for exceptional student support:
“Everyone is easily accessible and super friendly. Elmhurst faculty and staff constantly reach out to make sure we're doing okay and if we have questions. Initially, you have a million questions, and it’s great that they reach out to ensure you're comfortable. No question is a dumb question.”
5. Residencies and Clinical Placement Support
Nursing programs require hundreds of clinical hours to develop hands-on skills before students can graduate. Clinical requirements also prepare graduates for exams required for state licensing. Nursing students find out how coursework applies to real-world conditions during clinicals. Each clinical program is supervised by a licensed registered nurse (RN) and builds valuable experience with patients.
Searching for clinical placements on your own can be stressful given their importance to your education. Many online nursing programs have dedicated placement coordinators who identify clinical settings and arrange clinical placements for students. This allows you to focus on learning the intricacies of nursing without the added stress of finding your own placements that meet graduation requirements.
Elmhurst University offers clinical placement services to handle these logistics. The University identifies and secures clinical placements as close to your location as possible without any additional fees. It’s a program feature that students say is highly appreciated.
“I liked how Elmhurst finds clinical placements in your local area. I was excited to stay within my Minnesota community and was placed at a hospital with people I know and am comfortable with”, says Breana Sutter, a graduate of Elmhurst’s online MENP program.
Elmhurst also offers an opportunity to meet your fellow students in person, deepening your connection to your cohort. One to two short on-campus residencies hone your hands-on skills and build confidence ahead of clinical placements. Many students cite this as the highlight of the program.
“Something that made Elmhurst exciting to me was the residency program and the sim lab before going to clinicals. That hands-on experience being with a patient and getting to have a teacher, an instructor right there explaining every step of the way, really drew me towards Elmhurst,” says Elysa Katz, an online ABSN graduate at Elmhurst University.
6. NCLEX Exam Pass Rates
Nursing graduates need to pass licensing exams in order to practice in their communities and fill the gap of 510,394 additional nurses the United States estimates it will need by 2030. Prospective nurses should look for online programs with great track records of exam passage and job placement.
The National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses had an overall pass rate of 82.48% for first-time takers in 2021. The passage rate for the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification exam hovers around 70% from year to year. Online nursing programs with graduates who surpass these pass rates are ideal for new students.
“I felt like Elmhurst did an excellent job preparing me for the NCLEX for several reasons. The class-taking that we have to do helps us go through questions regularly, and we also went over test-taking strategies for general tips and how to tackle them. It helped to prepare us to get our mind right for how to answer and take on the test.” says Benjamin Boldt, a graduate of Elmhurst’s online ABSN.
7. Accreditations and Rankings
The value of an online nursing degree is confirmed when the conferring school is accredited. It is critical you choose an online nursing program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
This commission requires programs to complete the following steps to ensure graduates are ready to serve the public:
- A self-study report by school staff for CCNE
- On-site evaluation of program operations
- Completion of continuous improvement progress reports
You can also use U.S. News & World Report rankings of online nursing schools to narrow your search. This national publication has been evaluating universities across the United States since 1983. Their rankings explore aspects of the learning experience from value to faculty reputation.
The U.S. News & World Report ranked Elmhurst University in the following categories:
- No. 20 in Best Undergraduate Teaching
- No. 19 in Best Value Schools
- No. 13 in Regional Universities Midwest
- No. 20 in Best Colleges for Veterans
- No. 9 in Most Innovative Schools
- No. 8 in Top Performers on Social Mobility
Getting Your Nursing Degree Online at Elmhurst University
At Elmhurst University our online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) and online Master’s Entry into Nursing Practice (MENP) were designed for non-nurses looking to change careers with the rigors of the nursing profession in mind.
Our ABSN will allow you to build the skills necessary to provide exemplary care for patients from birth through old age. Coursework, two on-campus residencies and clinical placements can be completed in just 16 months.
Our MENP degree is the first online program of its kind in the United States and can be completed in just 20 months. Earn your MSN degree while preparing for Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification.
Our programs train you for your new careers as an RN with courses including:
- Epidemiology and Biostatistics
- Family Health Nursing
- Foundations for Professional Nursing Practice
- Technology in Health Care Education and Practice
Our clinical placement team will work closely with you to ensure your placements meet University and national guidelines. They will handle the logistics of identifying and securing quality placement sites, allowing you time to focus on your coursework. This level of personalized learning is one of many reasons why Elmhurst is a regional leader in higher education.
Take your first step to a rewarding career and learn more about Elmhurst University’s online nursing programs.