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Why would an online degree appeal to busy working nurses?

Lifelong learning is part of the job for healthcare professionals. More advanced clinical skills and greater medical knowledge mean they provide a consistently excellent standard of care to their patients and support their colleagues effectively. There are also benefits for ambitious practitioners who continue their education, as they can take on leadership and managerial roles that command a higher salary. However, many nurses have little spare time and would prefer not to commute extensively, both of which can be a barrier to further education.

Career advancement that fits around a nurse’s life

Working nurses already managing a successful career with a busy home life often find that online learning is a logical choice. At Rockhurst University, the online post masters FNP programs 

offer clinicians the chance to earn an additional master’s degree in just fifteen months through remote learning. The coursework is completed online with one on-campus immersion, but students can still benefit from a local clinical placement, which allows them to expand their scope of practice.

In the last ten years, the growth of online educational services and the impact of COVID-19 have led to a huge surge in the popularity of remote learning. At one point, it could have been considered a niche trend, but now these accessible courses have been brought into the mainstream. From the additional convenience to the lower price point and the chance to connect with others on social forums, the benefits of online learning are so apparent that many people now prefer this option to a traditional university environment.

Nurses planning to advance their careers, but want their studies to have a minimal impact on their work and life, will find online education a great solution. Here is a closer look at why online programs work so well for nurses and what new students have to gain from this innovative way of learning.

Are online qualifications as valuable as traditional versions?

Yes, a degree or master’s earned online is considered as prestigious as a qualification from a physical university. Employers know that many nurses want to build on their skills and knowledge and enhance their career prospects but cannot commit to full-time study. Furthermore, courses are delivered by experienced professionals who are often working clinicians, as well as faculty members. Their expertise, combined with recent technological innovations, greatly enhances the learning experience in an online classroom.

Choosing online study does not mean students miss out on linking up with others, speaking to their tutor, or forming a meaningful cohort network. Throughout the educational journey, students are supported through a range of services supplied by the university. They will have access to online forums and groups to discuss their feelings about the course and share views on the topics being studied. Educators will deliver detailed feedback on their students’ assignments and help them develop their clinical skills even further. Remote learners can expect to be given the assistance they need to reach their full potential and achieve any career goals they have in mind.

How does an online nursing degree work?

Bearing in mind the practical nature of nursing, many people wonder how they can advance their skills online. Although the core of remote nursing programs, including the coursework, the assignments, and some assessments, are managed online, most have clinical practice requirements. That means nurses spend time in a clinic, a hospital near their home, or even a different department in their current workplace. Moreover, online nursing programs use new sophisticated techniques to deliver lessons and course materials. Through visualization methods, video conferencing, and AI, this form of learning is made even more successful.

The cost of online study is lower

Research has shown that online education is substantially cheaper for students than the traditional route. Nurses will always consider the financial implications of a course very seriously, and it is a huge determiner when it comes to choosing a university. Online institutions need to spend less on facilities, in terms of heating, air conditioning and maintaining physical spaces. Moreover, they do not need a crew of support staff to run the building or administrative personnel, as paperwork is processed online through the university’s automated system.

Therefore, these significant savings can be passed on to students who earn an equally valuable degree for far less. Along with more affordable tuition fees, learning off-campus has other financial benefits. As they study at home, students do not have to move to a new town and will not need to consider additional living expenses. They can also minimize their travel expenses, as they do not need to catch a bus or drive to attend a class in person. Learning materials and books are another area of remote study that offers savings because the majority of books, journals, and papers can be obtained in PDF form from an online university.

Programs are flexible and adapt to student’s needs

Combining personal responsibilities with professional commitments can leave nurses with unexpectedly hectic periods in their life. That is why many prefer an online course of study. Most remote courses have more flexibility regarding which modules can be studied, where clinical placements are located, and the timings of synchronous sessions. People searching for a course should also check that the module electives they need will always be available and that the weekly study hours can be adapted to suit their changing needs.

Additionally, online universities can also offer more flexibility when it comes to the duration of a program. Before enrolling, it is a good idea to check if this is an option, especially for nurses who may need to extend their study timeline because something has come up at home or work.

Learning is self-paced

The ability to learn at an individual pace, without the stress of keeping up with the rest of the class, is one of online learning’s biggest advantages. Online lectures can be viewed as many times as a student needs to see them, making life easier for people who struggle to take notes and those who prefer to process information over longer periods of time. Moreover, when students have difficulty with a specific topic, they can rewatch learning materials until they feel confident in their knowledge level. On a virtual learning course, students work through lessons and conduct research at a pace that suits their skills and existing competencies. They can move on to the next unit or lecture when happy to.

Study can be scheduled at a convenient time

Nurses are used to working shifts which can leave them wide awake and ready for learning at unusual times. A key benefit of online study is that it offers the opportunity to create a custom learning schedule. Early mornings before the start of a shift, lunch times, and late nights can all be good study times if that is how a nurse wants it to be. There are no restrictions and no requirement to be present at a certain time of day. Therefore, study times can be organized around what works best for the student, and with no commute to campus, there is even more time to devote to learning.

Students learn to manage their time effectively

Nurses are already skilled in time management, but online learning gives them a chance to become even more motivated. To fit everything in, they need to create a schedule that gives them enough time to learn effectively, stay on top of their monthly workload and meet the deadlines their tutor sets. Refining this skill makes them more proficient in dealing with schedule conflicts and adapting to last-minute challenges.

Virtual collaborations become the norm

For nurses in a modern medical environment, virtual collaborations are commonplace. They are part of the many technological innovations that are changing how nurses work, increasing efficiency, and improving the health outcomes for patients. Online study gives students experiences of virtual discussions and communication through forums and remote tutorials. Learning in a virtual setting with other people readies students for effective remote collaborations in the workplace. They develop their ability to work as part of a team, use advanced communication practices and can learn the skills needed to lead. From responding respectfully to the views of their fellow students in discussions to becoming more confident in sharing their ideas, online students can explore a great training ground for the senior positions they will later occupy.

Improved critical thinking skills

Researchers are confident that there is a link between online study and the development of enhanced critical thinking. There are several reasons why students who learn remotely are more stimulated when developing this skill. Primarily, the nature of a virtual environment differs from that of a classroom, in which a tutor provides students with the information and resources they need. Online there is an additional element of challenge because students often have to overcome obstacles, such as balancing their home, work, and learning commitments. Furthermore, because they are potentially learning with people from a wider geographical area, online students are exposed to a broader range of viewpoints and experiences. This grows their knowledge bank and means they are more capable of recognizing alternative perspectives in the future, as well as personal confirmation bias.

A student’s technological proficiency is refined

For nurses, technological skills are a key asset, and understanding the latest advances means they can perform well at work. They are often expected to interact with bedside point-of-care devices, as well as smart monitors and automated IVs. As part of a remote learning experience, students gradually improve their understanding of digital technology and online documentation to become more adept at using these innovations at work. Along with gaining better computer literacy skills, they become confident in managing their digital output and maintaining a high level of productivity. Back on the ward, this benefits nurses who need to document a patient’s progress, search for medical information, or access data from a person’s electronic health records.

Keeping track of learning materials is simple

In a paper format, storing, organizing, and retrieving information can be difficult. However, online study encourages students to use digital methods of notetaking and research, and these materials are simpler to access when needed. Annotating webpages, PDFs, and other documents is as easy as highlighting sections of text with a pen when students learn how. Moreover, most public research information can be downloaded in a different format or reformatted so it is compatible with a student’s other module materials.

Even if students prefer to take handwritten notes while listening to a lecture or carrying out research, they can save these electronically or use their phones to read and collate the data into a digital document. By having their own database of learning resources, students will find storing and organizing their course materials simpler. They can track where everything is and find what they need within a couple of clicks, so they can focus on qualifying rather than hunting around for that one page of essential notes.  

Learning at home is often more comfortable

Students can learn in bed, on the sofa, or at the dining room table if that is where they can take in most information. The ability to design and create an individual learning environment is a key draw for many who eventually choose an online route. As well as avoiding the need to travel, students do not need to sit in a packed classroom, and for many, this enables them to concentrate more fully. At home, studying can be done at quiet times, before anyone gets up in the morning, or late at night when the house is calm. Students can find the time of day that they feel most productive and then base their schedule around that. As it is delivered online, the course can even come along for vacations and breaks, so students never miss an important announcement, lecture, or discussion.

All personality types can find a way to participate 

Not everybody feels confident when speaking to a large group of people. A traditional classroom can make active participation a challenge and leave some people taking control of the discussion. In a virtual context, this is less of an issue because people can join in the debate from behind a screen which can feel less daunting. Additionally, students who are more reserved in social situations could turn to discussion boards, messaging groups, or video calls to add their input and express their views.

Resources are always accessible 

Students should always browse the digital resources offered by an online university before signing up for a program. Access to course materials and student services should be simple, with plenty of career advice, a full library, and a friendly faculty. Although remote students must work on their own initiative, the materials they are provided with must be engaging and suitable for the program. Good universities invest heavily in providing a wide range of learning resources that appeal to the learning style of every student. Furthermore, many include alternative resources, such as audiobooks and podcasts, in the study program. Students can seek out the various materials from wherever they are and at any time. So, if they are struggling to commit a certain idea to memory, additional help is always on hand.

Students can link up with a wide network of other nurses

Post-graduate degrees offer students the chance to meet people with the same experiences and professional goals. Networking is one of the most beneficial aspects of continued study. By choosing an online qualification, students enjoy the same opportunities to meet others and become part of a healthcare community. The best universities prioritize peer-to-peer interaction with virtual study sessions, group work, and collaborations which are useful to a nurse’s professional development. This network of people will move into their senior positions at a similar time, so they can continue to support each other throughout their careers. They can share news about new openings at their facility, interesting research opportunities, and more. In this way, the network students gain during an online program can play a vital part in their future careers.

Choosing an online route for nursing degrees

Nurses considering an online degree program, should think about how this type of study will fit in with their daily life. It can be a good solution for anyone who wants an affordable education but also needs to balance the demands of work and family. Moreover, remote study demonstrates mastery of many essential nursing skills, from time management to critical thinking and self-motivation. As such, it is an effective method of professional development that paves the way for better job satisfaction, a higher salary, and careers in advanced nursing.