Online BSN Completion Programs: Distance Learning Information

Mar 04, 2021

Essential Information

Candidates with a current Registered Nurse (RN) license can pursue a distance learning Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

These programs, which usually include a practicum in addition to online coursework, seek to expand and advance students' knowledge and skills in nursing; the curriculum often focuses not only on clinical practices and procedures but also research, leadership and community health.

In addition to being a licensed RN, applicants to an online BSN degree completion program are required to have an associate's degree or diploma in nursing. Some schools also prefer students who have a certain amount of work experience in the field. Due to the nature of their work, nursing students are generally required to undergo criminal background checks and provide documentation of their health history and immunizations. Certification in basic life support may also be required.

Common Courses

Completion of an online BSN requires approximately 120 credit hours, and most universities have general education and prerequisite requirements on top of the upper-level curriculum. RNs are typically able to transfer in a high number of credits from their previously earned degree or diploma, so they can earn the bachelor's degree in around two years or even less. Campus visits are usually not required in these online programs, but a practicum in community health nursing at a local facility is a common requirement. Standard nursing courses offered online include the following:

  • Nursing Research
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Care for Older Adults
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health Assessment
  • Leadership and Organization
  • Project Management
  • Issues, Trends, Economics and Statistics

While many schools offer RN to BSN completion on-site for those interested in face-to-face interaction, a majority of those institutions still provide a 100% online option. Because degree requirements for on-site and web-based programs are the same, course options are also very similar.

Learning Methods

Distance-learning options are especially useful to individuals working full-time in the healthcare field. Due to their work commitments, RNs may not have the same schedule from week-to-week and may not be able to adhere to set class times. While web-based courses make it easier for individuals to further their education without it greatly affecting prior obligations, those who choose the distance-learning option must be self-motivated with excellent time-management, organization and communication skills in order to be successful.

Online classes are often set up through online learning systems and do not have a set meeting time. Those enrolled must make the time to complete required readings, activities and quizzes according to the syllabus. Most distance-learning courses also require weekly participation through discussion forums, virtual chat or e-mail. Some courses may offer the course materials completely online, but most still require a textbook purchase.

BSN Career Opportunities

Completion of a RN to BSN program can open many doors for graduates. Aside from gaining a broader pool of knowledge, degree holders have the opportunity to advance into leadership roles within the healthcare field. Nursing degree programs are designed to enhance students' critical-thinking and research skills, preparing them for administrator roles in a variety of settings.

Medical and health services managers, for instance, earned a median annual income of $99,730, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2018. Employment is expected to increase by 18% during the 2018-2028 decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations. Individuals may also choose to move on to a graduate degree program for further development. Several schools offer Master of Science in Nursing programs online.

Online nursing bachelor's degree programs are available to students who have already completed a diploma or associate's degree in nursing and obtained the RN designation. These programs allow students to continue working while completing the online coursework and fulfilling practicum requirements.

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