With new advancements in technology, it is now possible to study practically anything online without leaving the comfort (or safety) of your home. Individuals who are interested in entering the healthcare field are also in luck, as it is now easy and affordable to complete the theoretical portion of their degree online, too. If this is the career path that you aspire to follow, here is everything that you need to know before getting started.

What are the benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner?

There are countless benefits associated with becoming a nurse practitioner. The primary benefit is that it is one of the most fulfilling vocations that a person can undertake. You will be making a significant difference in the lives of others every single day, as well as playing a lead role in uplifting communities. There is an opportunity to help, meet, and interact with people from an array of different backgrounds.

Another notable benefit of following this career path is that you will enjoy a host of exciting employment opportunities throughout the years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment opportunities for family nurse practitioners will increase by 28% between the years of 2008 and 2028. 28% is a staggering amount of growth, considering that the average growth rate for most industries in the United States is five times less than that! This estimation is sure to provide aspiring nurses with plenty of relief and hope, especially when keeping in mind the instability of the local and global economy right now.

Finally, flexibility is another advantage of working as a nurse. You will be spoilt for choice in terms of where you choose to practice and in what you decide to specialize. For instance, you could work at a large community clinic, or you could select a small-town, homely doctors’ practice instead. You could decide to specialize in pediatrics and work closely with infants and young children, or you could work in the ER and focus your attention on helping patients who require critical care. Your unique career path is entirely up to you and based on your personal interests and strengths.

Are you a good fit for the role?

Certain personality types are better suited to the healthcare profession. Arguably, being a hard-working, dedicated individual is the most vital trait for success. All healthcare workers work long hours and often under immense pressure. There is no doubt that your job will be one of the biggest and most important aspects of your life. Due to the emotional nature of the vocation, it is also essential that nurses are able to separate their work lives from their personal lives, which can prove difficult in the beginning.

Empathy is another vital characteristic for aspiring nursing professionals. You will be helping sick people to recover on a daily basis, hence the need for an appropriate ‘bedside manner.’ Nurse practitioners will often have to communicate bad news to patients’ families, which requires resilience, kindness, and strength.

Finally, you always need to demonstrate professionalism. Nurses should be organized, boast excellent communication skills, and constantly innovate in terms of how best to improve their performance and the overall level of care that are able to provide.

Ultimately, if you are passionate about working with people and are a hard worker, many of the other skills required to leave your mark in this profession can be learned. For example, you can work on honing your communication, leadership, and logical thinking skills throughout your studies. Students can improve their communication skills by taking writing or speech lessons, and they can build on their leadership potential by seeking out a qualified mentor. It is possible to maximize logical thinking skills by spending time enjoying creative hobbies, socializing with intelligent individuals, and playing ‘brain’ games.

How do you become a nurse?

The first step towards becoming a nurse is to study towards a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree). A BSN program typically takes four years to complete. Those who wish to qualify and start practicing faster may opt instead to complete an RN (Registered Nurse) diploma, which can be completed in three years. However, research shows that BSN qualified nurses enjoy higher salaries and better employment opportunities overall.

Can you take your studies further?

Yes, you can. It is important to note that only BSN qualified nurses can decide to study further following the completion of their degree. You will have two choices in terms of the next steps should you decide to further your studies following the completion of your degree. You could opt to study an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) or go the extra mile and study a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). Nurses with an RN diploma will need to take a bridging course to obtain their BSN before they can go on to study an MSN or a DNP. You might be surprised to find out that you do not have to obtain your MSN before you are eligible to study towards a DNP. If you have a BSN under your belt, and you meet all of the other eligibility criteria, you can move directly from a BSN to studying a DNP.

What is the difference between an MSN and a DNP degree?

While a Master of Science in Nursing degree is extremely admirable, a Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest level of education that a person can attain within the nursing field. Obviously, this means that DNP-qualified nurses will generally have higher salaries and more responsibilities than their BSN- and MSN-qualified counterparts. For example, an MSN-qualified nurse may work in the emergency room, delivering quality care to individuals who require urgent assistance. On the other hand, a DNP-qualified nurse will do the same, all the while leading, mentoring, and managing the team of critical care nurses at the same time.

Aspiring nurses and RNs should ask themselves what they want their career path to look like when considering whether to study an MSN or a DNP. If they wish to fill a position of leadership in due course, studying a Doctor of Nursing practice is likely to be the right choice.

Keep in mind that another difference between the two programs is the fact that they take different amounts of time to complete. You can complete an MSN program in two-three years, while a DNP program could take three-four years. The total amount of credit hours and clinical hours also differs significantly between the two. Credit hours for an MSN are usually around 50, while they equate to around 70 for a DNP. Clinical hours for an MSN should be somewhere close to 700 hours, while a DNP often calls for 1000+.

Choosing the right university and course

Online programs are a fantastic way to gain your qualification. While looking for the right institute, it is vital that you conduct plenty of research into the various options available to you. The question is, what exactly should you be looking out for? Here is a quick breakdown:

  • Accreditation: Never sign up for an online nursing program that has not been accredited by the CCNE. The CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) is the commission that reviews the integrity and quality of the various nursing programs, as well as their unique curriculums in the United States.
  • Pass rate: Be sure to take a look at the university’s program pass rate for the last five years. Anything over 90% is promising and demonstrates that you will have a great chance of obtaining your degree in a timely manner and with minimal challenges along the way. It is also a good indication that the university has a functional support structure in place. Without adequate support from an online university, it becomes all the more difficult to pass.
  • Clinical placement services: It can prove tremendously helpful if the university that you select provides an inclusive clinical placement service to its enrolled nursing students. This placement service eliminates the stress and work required to complete this process from your life and ensures that all of the important details are properly taken care of a long time before you are due to put in your clinical hours.
  • Full-time or part-time: The beauty of studying nursing online is that you can do so on a part-time basis. Keep in mind, however, that the vast majority of DNP programs operate on a full-time basis, with just a handful of universities making it possible for students to tackle it part-time. Marymount University is one such university that offers online DNP FNP programs on a part-time basis only.
  • Cost: Cost always plays a role in decision-making regardless of what you might select to study. Just beware of letting the cost of the course sway you too much when searching for the right online university. While it might be tempting to save a few hundred dollars, that small saving is hardly worth it if the quality of the program on offer just is not up to scratch.
  • Admissions support: The more support on offer from the university in question, the better. Often, the admissions process can prove to be quite in-depth, and aspiring students may need a bit of guidance. This is where an admissions advisor comes in and saves the day. If the university on which you are keen does not provide admissions support, you may encounter a few challenges along the way, which could cost you time and money. If they do offer this, on the other hand, you will have access to help regarding more information about your chosen program, the application process as a whole, and key details regarding the extended student support structure following your acceptance.

Tips for successful online learning

As convenient and cost-effective as online learning can be, it is not a solution for everyone. It requires diligence, dedication, and copious amounts of focus. Here are some tips to refer to if you want to maximize your chances of making a success of it:

  • Create schedules: Procrastination is a big problem for students who embrace online learning, hence the reason why it is so essential to create a daily schedule. This schedule should outline all of the tasks that you need to complete that day, along with when you endeavor to work on them.
  • Eliminate distractions: The room in which you study should be 100% free from potential distractions, including televisions, gaming consoles, smartphones, and any other devices that aren’t necessary for your studies.
  • Take frequent breaks: Sitting in front of a laptop or PC for hours on end isn’t good for your physical or mental health – nor is it good for your concentration or productivity. Ensure that you take lots of breaks in between your study blocks. A good rule of thumb is to take 15 minutes for yourself for every hour of work that you put in.
  • Find ways to inspire yourself: There will be days when you simply don’t want to buckle down and work. When this happens, be sure to have some motivational material on hand to help perk you up. This could be a list of your career goals or the reasons why you are working towards becoming a better nurse, or it could be a list of the achievements that you have managed to rack up so far. If none of that seems to do the trick, treat yourself to something special, like an extra hour of me-time or a sneaky Starbucks coffee ahead of getting started.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help: Your chosen university’s support structure is there for a reason. If you are feeling challenged or lost, don’t think twice about contacting someone for more information or guidance. It is imperative that you solve small problems the moment they arise to prevent even bigger problems from developing over time.

With the correct mindset and a world-class program, online learning can be a wonderful blessing for aspiring nurses and many other professionals. Here’s hoping that you enjoy a positive experience as you begin this exciting educational journey.

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