Years ago studying to become a nurse was a long journey, but today great strides have been made to make it far easier and the fastest way to a nursing career can now take just a few months. This is beneficial for both the nursing industry, which is suffering a great shortage at the moment, and for you as the potential nurse, who does not have a lot of time or money to make your dreams a reality.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a need for an additional 580,000 more registered nurses by the year 2018. This is an astronomical amount, and nursing schools around the country took note and realized that they had to make urgent changes in order to increase student capacity. The challenge to them was to be innovative and think outside of the box to create the fastest way to a nursing career whilst still maintaining the quality and integrity of the nursing education provided.
They have done this in various ways, including creating online courses and an accelerated degree program for non-nursing graduates, which is definitely the fastest way to a nursing career. The accelerated nursing program is offered at baccalaureate and master’s degree levels, and builds on previous learning experiences. These accelerated programs transition the individual with an undergraduate degree into other nursing disciplines.
LPN To BSN Bridging Programs
As accelerated nursing programs require that you have at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, you will need to start your career by in nursing off by getting one, and the quickest way to do that is to complete a Licensed Practical Nurse course first. Once you have completed the course, which should only take about six months to a year, depending on the program, you will have to write the NCLEX-PN examination in order to gain licensure. Once you have licensure you can apply to do the LPN to BSN bridge program, which is also a shortcut although it follows the same curriculum as the standard BSN program. The LPN to BSN degree will take you around a year to complete, and will make you infinitely more marketable to future employers and increase your salary substantially.
A BSN will also open the doors to the fastest way to a nursing career in which you will be able to specialize in the nursing niche of your choice such as:
- Geriatric Nursing
- Mental Health Nursing
- Neonatal Nursing
- Obstetric/Gynecologic Nursing
- Public Health Nursing
- Pediatric Nursing
The LPN to BSN bridge program can be done in a classroom scenario or online so that you can continue to work as an LPN and earn a salary whilst improving your knowledge and qualifications. Some nursing careers require a BSN at entry level, and it is a prerequisite for those wishing to earn a Master’s degree in order to become nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses.
Even thought this may not sound as if it is the fastest way to a nursing career, at this stage you will only have to take 18 months to two years to obtain a BSN, as opposed to studying to become an RN, which could take up to four years of full time study. From here on in it becomes even easier with the accelerated nursing program that nursing schools have designed to meet the need for thousands of new nursing staff in a relatively short period of time and with a shortage of classroom space and qualified educators.
The search for innovative ways to the fastest way to a nursing career are not new; they have been around for more than two decades, but they have been streamlined and have proliferated in the past year. In 1990 there were 31 accelerated baccalaureate programs and 12 generic Master’s programs offered around the country. Today there are in excess of 230 accelerated BSN programs and 65 generic Master’s programs being offered. Within a short time there will be an additional 33 new accelerated BSN programs and another 6 new generic Master’s programs. The prolific growth of these accelerated programs outstrips the pace of any other program offered by four-year nursing schools.
The Value Of Second-Degree Students
Students who take the accelerated programs, also referred to as second-degree nursing students, are lauded by employers as they find them to be older, more motivated and to have higher academic expectations than high school-entry baccalaureate students. Faculties also love those following the fastest way to a nursing career path as they find that they are more eager to gain clinical experiences and generally excel in class. They are more mature and are excellent leaders who are not afraid to challenge their instructors.
Graduates of accelerated nursing programs are also highly prized by employers, who value the many skills and deep knowledge that these graduates bring to the workplace. Employers value the fact that these graduates are more mature, grasp new tasks easily and quickly, possess strong clinical skills, and make all-round excellent members of any nursing team. It is to this end that many employers partner with nursing schools and offer repayment of their tuition fees to graduates as a way of recruiting highly qualified nurses. Many employers will also send their current staff on these accelerated courses and pay for them.
According to Nancy De Basio, PhD, RN, Dean of the Research College of Nursing in Kansas City, their accelerated students are a remarkable diverse bunch who come from a wide array of backgrounds, have a mean GPA of 3.3, and bring experience that enriches their nursing careers. She also states that the compressed program format of the accelerated programs that make them the fastest way to a nursing career, at only one year’s worth of studies, is one of the key motivating factors for enrolment. Susan M. Di Biase, CRNP, MSN, a faculty member at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, and a nurse-educator says that second-degree students often distinguish themselves as class leaders.
Janet B. Younger, PhD, RN, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University says that there is a steady increase in the number of applicants for their accelerated programs, and that those who were accepted into the program came with varied and very impressive backgrounds. She added that the second-degree students excelled in class and performed excellently post-graduation. Afaf Meleis, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, says that second-degree students are committed to their studies, are more often than not very involved in university organizations, and are actively engaged in research.
Accelerated Baccalaureate Programs
The reason that accelerated programs are the fastest way to a nursing career is because they are compressed. The accelerated baccalaureate programs accomplish program objectives in a shorter time frame than the traditional four-year programs through utilizing a combination of core content and bridge courses.
A brief overview of the program:
- Admission standards are high; there is a pre-screening process and a minimum of a 3.0 GPA is generally required.
- There is an interview process prior to being granted access to the program because the program is so intense that it takes a special kind of individual to flourish.
- There is ongoing mentoring offered throughout the program.
- Courses are full-time and the instruction is intense with no breaks between sessions.
- The course demands the same amount of clinical hours as the traditional programs do.
- Students with a prior degree are not generally required to take the liberal arts content that forms part of the traditional course.
- College transcripts are reviewed to ensure that all the prerequisites are met; most applicants do meet the arts and social sciences requirements but most do not meet the natural sciences requirements, including microbiology and anatomy. In order to resolve this problem institutions generally offer back-to-back prerequisite courses immediately prior to the start of the accelerated program.
- Accelerated programs require intense clinical experiences and a heavy credit load.
Generic Master’s Degree Programs
A generic Master’s program is the obvious next step for many graduates of the accelerated baccalaureate program. This program is also accelerated and can be completed within four semesters, including one semester of clinical internship that is a five-day week, three month long internship.
Yale University was the first to open its doors to college graduates who were not yet nurses, with their the Graduate Entry Pre-specialty in Nursing (GEPN) because they realized that there was no reason that individuals who were bright and committed could be prepared as advanced practice nurses even though they had no background in nursing. Students who are accepted in the direct-entry MSN programs are self-motivated, high-achievers, demonstrate good study habits, and have definite goals.
Because this program is generic, it produces some stunning results and is very diverse in nature:
- Students run the gamut from those fresh out of liberal arts programs to students holding PhDs and master’s degrees in other fields, to lawyers and various other professionals.
- One enterprising student who was a horticulture major wrote a paper on therapeutic gardens for health care settings.
- The program is challenging and students learn as much from each other as what they learn from the program.
- The diversity of the students on this program creates the potential that significant contributions can be made to nursing as well as to patients, their families and communities.
Many universities offer both the accelerated baccalaureate and the generic master’s programs with opportunities for students to apply credits to both degree programs. New York University offers a dual degree program, enabling BSN students to take a maximum of nine credits at the graduate level while completing the bachelor’s degree, thus accelerating the completion of an MSN. The School of Nursing at Pace University also offers a Combined BSN/MS Degree Program, which has been in existence since 1984 and says that their students “know what they need and aggressively pursue programs that best meet their needs: fast-tracked, competitive, and well respected.
Students who are attracted to the accelerated BSN program tend to be those who are unable to commit to the time or financial cost that a generic master’s program will take and are looking for the fastest way to a nursing career that will allow them to begin working in basic nursing practice as soon as possible with the potential of graduate education available as a possible next step.
Nurse employers recognize the value and skills that second-degree students bring to the nursing career, and this is patently evidenced by the growing amount of partnerships that are being forged to support these graduates. Healthcare institutions are also very aware of the value of second-degree students, and many of them are more than willing to sponsor the student’s studies in exchange for post-graduate work commitments. These sponsorships work well for all parties concerned; the schools get paid, the healthcare institutions get qualified and experienced staff, and the students have a job to go to as soon as they have graduated. To students in the accelerated baccalaureate program this means that they can start work immediately and go on to study for their Master’s at a later stage, possibly also with a sponsorship. It is a definite win-win situation all round.
With so many individuals looking for the fastest way to a nursing career, the demand for accelerated programs is growing and applications over the past few years have increased greatly year on year since they were approved by state boards, to a point where some universities are reporting virtually a 100% increase in applications compared to the previous year. There is huge support for accelerated programs from all sides, and the call has gone out for legislators to increase support for accelerated nursing programs as they are the fastest way to a nursing career and the best way of filling the growing need for new nurses.