Both traditional and online
nursing degree programs offer aspiring healthcare professionals the
needed educational opportunities and training for gainful employment.
Additionally, the programs provide those who are already nurses to receive
additional education and training so that they can seek greater employment
opportunities and additional income. As in many other professions, there are
varying designations for nurses that vary depending on the amount of education
and training the individual receives. Most people are familiar with LPNs
(licensed practical nurses) and RNs (registered nurses). LPNs receive about one
year of education and patient care training. A designation known as LVN
(licensed vocational nurse) receives a similar amount of education and
training. Both the LPN and LVN are restricted in their patient duties and
responsibilities. In contrast, a registered nurse has earned some type of
degree or diploma and passed the National Council Licensure Examination
(NCLEX-RN). The diploma may come from a hospital’s nursing program. By
enrolling in one of the many nursing degree programs, a student can work toward
a two-year Associate of Nursing (ADN), a four-year Bachelor of Science in
Nursing (BSN), a graduate Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a post-graduate
doctorate degree. Because the NCLEX-RN is a national exam, the qualified RN can
be licensed in multiple states.
Whether an aspiring nurse or a professional who wants more education, the prospective student will want to consider several factors when evaluating nursing degree programs. Only accredited educational institutions should be considered because these schools have proven to an accreditation agency that they have met certain requirements regarding facilities, faculty, and resources. The reputation of the educational institution should also be carefully considered. The cost of the program, including tuition and fees, may also be a factor when choosing a specific program. A public school in the student’s home state will probably have the least expensive tuition. Out-of-state public schools almost always have higher tuition fees for out-of-state students than they do for their own state’s residents. The tuition at private schools is usually higher than public ones because they don’t receive as much, if any, government funding. Because of lower in-state tuition fees, the location of the school may be an important factor for some students. But a student should not despair if the number one school on her short list is far away. Many nursing degree programs offer online classes that provide accessibility for students who don’t want to relocate. An online program also provides flexibility to nurses who work irregular hours and would have difficulty scheduling traditional classes around the job schedule.
The decision process can be daunting, but several websites have been set up to help narrow down the choices. Prospective students can research the degrees and specialties offered at numerous educational facilities across the country. Some sites also provide information on the profession, including potential salaries, statistics on nurse shortages, and career profiles. Additionally, the prospective student can find nursing degree programs that assist an RN achieve the BSN or MSN degrees. Many experienced RNs want to gain this additional education to improve their career opportunities, to receive a salary increase, or to receive skills in a specialty, such as midwifery or forensics. A professional nurse may want to get a graduate or postgraduate degree so that she can move into a supervisory or teaching position. Those who are interested in health care management can work toward an MBA or Master of Science in Nursing. Many of those who enter nursing degree programs do so, not for financial gain, but for the reward of helping others. Gifted nurses often seem to have a calming presence. Luke, the writer of the third gospel, records that Jesus once said of himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). Though nurses don’t perform miracles, their patients benefit from the caring and compassionate touch.
As expected, the higher educated professional has a higher salary potential over those with less training and experience. An LPN or LVN will not have the earnings potential of an RN. Neither will he be expected to have the same amount of knowledge or given the same level of responsibility. Yet both LPNs and LVNs provide important care to patients and are valued professionals. The prospective student needs to consider how much time and money to devote to education and weigh that against the potential rewards. Many students are eager to get through their nursing degree programs quickly and with relatively little expense. They want to begin a rewarding career caring for those who are hospitalized or who need in-home care. Others take the longer path and the additional responsibilities. Of course, more education equates to higher costs. Prospective students may be eligible for grants or scholarships that will help defray educational expenses. Student loans are provided both through federal programs and private lending institutions. Some nursing online degree programs may offer a work-study option that provides practical hands-on experience in conjunction with educational training. Still another option is for the prospective student to apply for loan forgiveness through a federal agency known as the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. One of the objectives of this agency is to recruit nursing professionals to meet a forecasted shortage, especially in particular areas of the country. A professional nurse can have a student loan forgiven by fulfilling an agreement to work with an underserved population.