Students pursuing online nursing programs must be sure their programs are accredited in order to earn their license. Study the guide below to learn more about the importance of accreditation, trusted agencies, and the benefits of undertaking your nursing program online.
Understand the Importance of Accreditation
Whatever online nursing program you enroll in, it’s absolutely necessary that you check that the online program is accredited by a certified accrediting agency.
Accreditation is the process by which a body of certified education and industry experts ensures that a higher education institution and its offered programs meet designated standards of quality. Online accredited nursing programs have a guaranteed minimum level of excellence, from the faculty teaching the courses to the coursework itself. Unaccredited institutions, therefore, could have lower standards of education.
Accreditation doesn’t only affect the caliber of the program; it also affects what happens to you after you’ve earned your degree. If you graduate with a bachelor’s of science degree from one of the accredited online nursing programs you will have a better chance at finding a quality job or entering graduate school at a reputable institution. Employers and admissions personnel alike show preference to graduates with accredited online nursing degrees because these institutions guarantee to provide you with a rigorous and thorough education
Become Familiar with Nursing Accreditation Agencies
Two types of accreditation are recognized. The first kind of accreditation is bestowed upon institutions, the second, upon specific programs. It is possible for a school to be accredited but its program to be unaccredited.
It’s not always clear if an online school or program is accredited. Many unaccredited school websites will look like they represent accredited institutions but fall short of saying that they actually have accreditation.
There are two major accreditation bodies for nursing schools:
- NLN/NLNAC (National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission) – The NLN accredits LPN, ADN, BSN, and graduate nursing programs.
- CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) – The CCNE accredits baccalaureate and graduate level programs.
If your school or program is not accredited by one of these bodies, you place your future career at unnecessary risk. In order to become licensed and work as a nurse you must pass the NCLEX. To be eligible for the NCLEX your program must be approved by the state’s board of nursing. Accreditation, though not always necessary for board approval, is an important step taken by programs to validate the quality and rigor of their curriculum. In fact some states, like Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, require students to have graduated from an accredited nursing program before taking the test.
However, as long as a state’s nursing board approves, it is possible to graduate from an unaccredited program and take the NCLEX. Still, nurses with degrees from unaccredited programs and institutions face significant career and educational obstacles. Unaccredited graduates will have difficulty finding work with government organizations, such as federal prisons, the VA, and Department of Defense. And if you are interested in continuing your education, most BSN and MSN programs require ADNs to have graduated from a regionally or nationally accredited school.
It is in your best interest to ensure that your school has been approved by one of the major nursing accreditation bodies. Fortunately, there are a number of reputable sources that you can use to check the accreditation of an online nursing program should the information not be readily available. The American Association of the Colleges of Nursing and The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission both provide lists of accredited online programs. They also give the criteria for what exactly makes a higher education institution or program worthy of accreditation.
Understand the Benefits of Online Nursing Programs
Accredited online nursing programs offer a host of advantages over brick-and-mortar programs. They provide an alternative format of higher education that may appeal to you if you’re a driven and self-motivated person who can complete assignments on your own time. Without ties to a physical campus, you have the freedom to take your classes wherever you feel most productive, and do so at your own pace.
For example, in an online program you might complete the coursework for a nutrition class early to make time for courses that demand more of your time, like anatomy or pathology. This way you might complete your overall coursework much faster than if you were to take classes at a traditional brick-and-mortar institution. You don’t have to wait until the next class session to start your next assignment; you simply proceed as you complete work online. An online degree program also allows you to use the flexible academic schedule to accommodate hectic schedules at home. If you are already a nurse and you’re taking online classes to advance your education, you can still complete an advanced nursing degree on your own terms without worrying about falling behind in your career.
Though you complete coursework remotely for an online degree, you still have hands-on experience. In fact, most accredited online nursing programs either take students after they’ve had experience in a clinical setting or they offer their own clinical testing which involves working with healthcare professionals in real life clinical trials. These clinical trials, known as practicums, test nursing students on a range of skills from patient interaction to administering any number of medical services like vital sign metrics, insertion of IVs, and administering injections.
Learn What to Expect in Accredited Online Nursing Programs
No matter what type of online nursing program you apply to, you can expect to be tested in every aspect of nursing, from your theoretical knowledge to your skills administering to a patient. As a student, you will become well read in human physiology, anatomy, biology, and psychology among other fields in healthcare. You will learn to implement this knowledge to communicate effectively with patients when treating them. You will also be taught how to convey vital information regarding your patients to doctors, fellow nurses, and other healthcare personnel. Finally, you’ll learn to work competently in the fast-paced healthcare setting through numerous clinical trials, practicums, and real-life tests of your knowledge. Thus the online nursing degree program can be as much experience-based practical work as theoretical coursework.