An associate's degree is the quickest route to becoming a registered nurse (RN), with most programs requiring two years of study after prerequisites are met. While many courses in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program are available online, the clinical experience required means the degree can't be earned completely off-campus so a hybrid format is common.
Courses available online usually include general education courses and nursing courses in nursing theory, anatomy and medical terminology. The clinical part of the program takes place in on-campus labs or at nearby medical facilities.
All states require nurses to be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduation from an approved nursing training program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Associate in Nursing Degree
An online ADN program teaches students how to care for adults and children with injuries or illnesses. In most cases, before being accepted into a nursing program, students are expected to complete certain prerequisite classes, such as biology, anatomy and psychology.
Program and Computer Essentials
An online ADN program usually allows students to complete the lecture, reading and assignment portion of their education online. Students typically attend labs on campus and fulfill their clinical experiences in local hospitals, physicians' offices or health care clinics.
To communicate online with their peers and instructors, read lecture material and hand in assignments, students need a computer with a reliable Internet connection and a Web browser. Other software may also be required to read documents and work on spreadsheets or presentations. Some schools might also require students to install plug-in software on their computers to play video or audio material.
Typical Associate-Level Nursing Courses
After fulfilling the general requirements for an associate's degree and any nursing prerequisite courses, students move into higher-level nursing classes. Online nursing courses often have a lab or clinical component that reinforces the lecture or reading material. Students usually access class material online through a school's course management software or it might be sent via e-mail.
Students learn how to prepare and administer medication to patients intravenously, orally and through injection. The various drug classes, drug interactions and side effects are also covered.
This course is usually the first nursing course for students without a medical background. Covering basic nursing skills and processes, the subject matter includes assessment, documentation, hygiene, safety, nutrition and post-operative care. Students also learn about the registered nurse's role in a medical facility.
Caring for Adults and Children
Students learn the basics of caring for children in both community and acute care settings, covering such subjects as immunity and childhood illnesses. Topics in caring for adults with medical or surgical issues include electrolyte and fluid balance, respiratory management and the immune system.
Employment Opportunities After Graduation
Before practicing nursing, graduates of an online ADN program must pass the National Council Licensure Examination administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 12% growth in jobs for nurses between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average for other occupations (www.bls.gov).
Graduates can look for employment with physicians' offices, hospitals, nursing care facilities and home health care facilities. In November 2019, PayScale.com reported that the registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $63,393.
Future Educational Opportunities
Nurses with an associate degree in nursing can expand their nursing knowledge and skill set by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This additional education can open up new job opportunities, such as a specialized, administrative or supervisory position. Online bachelor's degree programs in nursing do exist.
Many courses in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs are available online, but clinical experience required means the degree can't be earned completely off-campus. Common courses include topics related to pharmacology, care, and assessment.