Pursuing an online degree in nursing provides prospective students with one of the widest arrays of degree options available for any subject. From certificate programs that can be completed in less than a year that provide entry-level access to the field, all the way to a doctorate degree that allow individuals to teach or participate in direct patient care, a degree is available for anyone interested in the field. Nursing aides, usually referred to as orderlies, provide basic care for patients such as bathing, dressing, moving, serving meals, and recording vital signs.
In most cases, a less-than-one-year certificate is needed. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), provide basic care that includes monitoring a patient’s health and blood pressure, changing bandages and inserting catheters, and recording a patient’s status for registered nurses (RNs) and doctors. In most cases, RNs can provide medical treatment in the form of administering medicines and treatments, set up plans for patient care, operate and monitor medical equipment, and are also called upon to speak to patients regarding their injuries and illnesses. RNs may complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), but may also become a registered nurse through associate degree programs.
One of the most important things for someone interested in pursuing a degree and career in nursing is to remember that all nurses who provide hands-on care with patients must be licensed in the state where they work. This typically includes LPNs and RNs. To earn licensure, LPNs must complete an accredited certificate program and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination, the NCLEX-PN. Registered nurses must also graduate from an accredited nursing program, usually at least an associate degree, and must pass another National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses, called the NCLEX-RN. Those working as nursing aides must become certified after graduating from an approved program by completing an exam administered by the state registry.
Nursing Course Work Basics
Online degrees in nursing are available at practically every level. A less-than-one-year certificate degree provides basic knowledge needed for an entry-level career as a nursing aid or orderly, while doctoral degrees are available for experienced professionals. Online diploma or certificate degrees in nursing provide essential knowledge to performing basic duties in nursing, such as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and basic clinical competencies like checking vital signs. Associate degree programs are similar, but provide more in-depth study into physiology and biology, while also requiring general education courses such as English, mathematics, and composition. Bachelor’s degree programs are rapidly becoming more valuable when it comes to finding a job. Bachelor’s degree programs have additional basic-level requirements, and provide students with a more intense study of modern nursing practices. All top online colleges for nursing should require some sort of supervised work experience, or clinical internship, before the completion of the program. Some common courses can include the following:
- Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing: This course allows students to explore the evolution of nursing theory and its advancement through the years. An emphasis is placed on the historical and philosophical foundation of theory development and its impact on nursing practice.
- Critical Issues in Nursing: In this course, students study shifts in health care systems driving by changing economic, demographic, and technological forces.
- Medical Ethics Issues in Modern Medicine: Students in this course examine contemporary debates involving topics like bioethics, informed consent, patient confidentiality, and application of scarce medical resources.
- Health Assessment: This course teaches students to learn patient interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and preventative health interventions that can be applied in a number of different clinical settings.
- Global Health and Policy Issues: Students in this course gain an overview of global health issues with an emphasis on understanding health policy development as it relates to global health issues, healthcare systems, and their effect on specific populations.
In most cases, post graduate degrees in nursing are more commonly available at the master’s level. However, doctoral programs are available for individuals seeking a career in nursing research, or as a college educator. Online master’s degree programs in nursing educate experienced nurses in advanced nursing practice principals, as well as management skills for overseeing other nursing professionals. Most programs seek to develop the skills of existing nurses by challenging them to take innovative interdisciplinary approaches to resolve healthcare problems.
Most master’s degree programs in nursing require students to choose an emphasis or specialty within the field such as administration, gerontology, acute care, or pediatrics. Master’s degree programs in nursing are most commonly sought out by nurses hoping to become nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners must possess an advanced knowledge of medical care by blending traditional nursing skills with primary care practices used by medical doctors. These nurses are able to carry out actual medical care, like examinations, diagnosis, and the prescribing of select medications.
Careers for the Nursing Graduate
The two main careers available to licensed nurses include working as either an RN or LPN, depending on the level of education and licensing of the individual. RNs provide and coordinate patient care, provide education to patients regarding various health conditions and treatment methods. They must be able to work well dealing directly with patients, while also being an effective part of a team of nurses and doctors. Most RNs working in hospitals will work with a specific group of patients or areas of the hospital such as an emergency or trauma nurse, diabetes management, or cardiac care nurse to name a few. According to the BLS, there were more than 2.7 million RNs employed in the U.S. in 2010 alone.
Additionally, the number of RNs in the country is expected to increase by 26% through the year to 2020, due to technology advancements, increased emphasis on preventative care, and a large, aging baby boomer population that will demand more healthcare services as they age. The BSL also reports that the median annual wage of registered nurses was $64,690 as of May 2010.
The other significant employment field for licensed nurses is as an LPN or LVN. These nurses are sometimes referred to as licensed vocational nurses (LVN), depending on the state where you work. An LPN can administer some care directly to patients, but will not have the same responsibilities as an RN, who also has the ability to administer medicine. LPNs mostly work in facilities like nursing homes, or extended care facilities, while another significant amount of LPNs work in hospitals, physicians offices, or private homes. According to the BLS, LPNs held approximately 752,300 jobs in 2010. Roughly 75% of the workforce was employed full-time. The BLS also reported that the median annual income for LPNs was $40,380 in 2010.