Nursing Programs - Bridge Programs |

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Nurses can choose from several different education paths to start their careers. These include diploma programs as well as associate and bachelor's degrees. While nursing has traditionally been studied on-campus, advances in technology have allowed many nursing schools to take their programs to the virtual world. Some of the education credentials you can now pursue online include:

  • Nursing Diploma
  • Associate of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Science in Nursing

In addition, some schools offer certificate programs that allow you to specialize in a specific area such as gerontology or administration.

If you want to enter the workforce as quickly as possible, a diploma or associate degree program may allow you to complete your education in two years or less. However, if you invest more time, a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing could lead to greater employment opportunities and increased income potential.

Can you pursue a nursing degree entirely online?

The answer to that depends largely on your previous experience in the field. Current registered nurses who are returning to school to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree may be able to complete their education without setting foot in a classroom.

Those who are brand new to the field will mostly likely have clinical requirements that can only be completed in-person. When you register for an online nursing diploma or degree program, be sure to inquire into the clinical requirements and ask how the school helps students fulfill them.

Fortunately, many nursing schools offer hybrid programs that allow you to complete the majority of your coursework online. Then, clinical classes are scheduled at one of the school's campuses.

Choosing the right nursing school

With so many nursing programs available to nursing students, you can choose one that fits your schedule and learning style.

When selecting an online nursing program, check the type of classes offered. Will you be able to complete class work on your own schedule or must you log-in at specific times to take part in classroom discussions and lectures?

In addition, if you are applying for a nursing scholarship from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, be sure the school you select has the proper accreditation.

Whether you want the convenience of learning online or prefer a traditional campus setting, you can find a program that works for you. Start your research by requesting program information from some of the nursing schools listed below.

Those in the know understand that being a "nurse" can mean many things. The nursing profession is broken up into a handful of levels and specializations — each with different responsibilities, and in turn, salaries. In order to move up the ladder (and the pay scale), many nurses return to school to work toward a specific career transition. No matter if you’re an LPN wanting to be an RN, or an RN looking for that MSN title, nursing programs are available to get you there — learn about them here.

One of the best parts about a career in nursing is the opportunities for advancement. Nurses are needed at all levels, from entry-level caregivers who focus on patient comfort and hygiene to advanced practitioners who diagnose and treat medical conditions.Nursing degree programs at many schools are designed to help you move from one level of nursing to another. These so-called bridge programs can help nurses pursue the next degree on the nursing ladder and move into more advanced positions. Many bridge programs are designed for working nurses who already have clinical experience, and a number of these programs offer fully online options.

At the entry-level in nursing, certified nurse assistants are trained to monitor vital signs and help patients eat, dress or bath. Training programs can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months, depending on your program, and nurse assistants must typically pass a state exam.

Licensed practical nurses, or licensed vocational nurses, are licensed nurses who have completed a training program that lasts about one year and passed the NCLEX-PN. LPNs perform basic nursing functions such as inserting catheters or starting IVs.

At the next level, registered nurses perform a wide variety of nursing functions, including assisting with diagnostic tests, recording medical histories and providing patient education. Registered nurses typically need either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) and must pass the NCLEX-RN. Nurses with a BSN generally have more career opportunities, and a number of bridge programs exist to help nurses move between the LPN, ADN and BSN levels.

Registered nurses can go on to pursue a master's of science in nursing (MSN). With an MSN, you can qualify to become an advanced practice nurse such as a nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist. Advanced practice nurses operate with more autonomy than registered nurses and can prescribe medication in most states. RN to MSN bridge programs are available for working RNs who want to take the next step in the nursing career ladder.

Finally, a doctor of nursing practice, or DNP, degree is available. The DNP degree may be required for nurse educators and researchers, and increasingly, advanced practice nurses are opting to pursue a clinical DNP degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has recommended that all new advanced practice nurses have a doctoral degree by 2015.

Whether you're starting on the nursing ladder at the entry level or looking to move to a higher rung, a career in nursing can offer a range of opportunities.

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