Online Certified Nursing Courses Overview

There are many online nursing programs available, including certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs; associate, bachelor's and master's registered nurse (RN) programs; and graduate certificate programs for nurses who wish to upgrade their skills.

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Online Courses in Nursing

Here are course descriptions for some commonly offered online certified nursing courses.

  • Certified Nursing Assistant Course: Students learn to perform basic patient care tasks and work with registered nurses. Online certified nursing assistant courses often include a lab section that may be held at an on-campus or a clinical location. Some programs also require students to work in a clinical setting to gain hands-on experience.
  • Introductory Professional Nursing Course: This course is generally taken in the beginning of a student's nursing program. Students participate in online discussions about common perceptions of nursing. They also learn about the general demands of the nursing profession and the different types of careers available for nurses.
  • Health Evaluation Course: This course may be taken in the beginning or middle of a nursing program. Students usually learn about how to assess a patient's health and what kind of information they might need to record. Instructors may give students online exams or quizzes about all the variables that affect a patient's health, such as diet, exercise or genetics.
  • Nursing Research Course: In this beginning-to-intermediate course, students learn about the need to stay up-to-date on current nursing and medical information and technology. Instructors may ask students to participate in online discussions with their peers about their research methods and findings.
  • Communication in Health Care Course: This course helps students to understand the importance of effective and professional communication in the nursing environment. Instructors may schedule online meetings for students to discuss how to vary their communication style depending on whether they are talking to a doctor, another nurse, a patient or the patient's family. Some courses ask students to participate in online role-play scenarios via video chat.
  • Medical Law and Ethics Course: A medical law and ethics course is generally taken toward the middle or end of an online nursing program. This course provides students with a general introduction to state and national health law. Instructors often emphasize the importance of ethics in nursing.
  • Nursing Informatics Course: This core course teaches students the basics of using computerized nursing and health care systems. Students learn how to integrate information technology into their practice and administrative responsibilities. Course topics include retrieving and reviewing available materials, as well as computerized organization and data manipulation.
  • Pathophysiology Course: In this advanced course, nurses learn about how diseases and disorders affect body systems. The curriculum usually focuses primarily on the most common human pathophysiological conditions and how they disturb the functions of major organs.
  • Pharmacology Course: This course provides an overview of the way that drugs work within body systems to treat diseases and disorders. Students learn about the therapeutic uses of various drugs, as well as potential contraindications, side effects and interactions.

Program Information

Due to the hands-on nature of nursing, most programs require an in-person component, but online courses are becoming more available at all levels. Students interested in nursing have a wide range of choices, from entry-level CNA programs to MSN programs. Many schools also have programs designed for advanced practice nurses certified in a range of areas, such as a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist. Graduates of online nursing programs can become nurses in hospitals, clinics or doctor's offices. They also can find careers as administrative nurses, heads of nursing departments, teachers, nursing aides or certified nursing assistants, depending upon their level of education.

Licensure is required for all nurses, and requirements vary by state but typically entail completion of an accredited education program, clinical experiences and a licensing exam. Some programs, including some master's degree programs, require that the student already hold a valid registered nurse (RN) license.

Aspiring and experienced nurses can find relevant educational offerings online, but fully online nursing programs aren't common as hybrid options are. In addition to licensure preparation, nursing programs help nurses build expertise in both the administrative and scientific aspects of medical care.

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