What to expect from an Online Masters in Nursing?

Learning Model for Busy Nursing Professionals

Once you’ve made the decision to further your education, you are challenged with adapting to a new lifestyle. Deciding how and when to fit studying and attending classes into your busy schedule is a big adjustment. But when you opt to pursue an online masters degree in nursing, you are choosing a learning model designed specifically for working professionals like yourself.

Though learning online is somewhat different than learning in a classroom, the core attributes of both types of masters in nursing programs are the same. You can expect a curriculum that is aimed at challenging you to think in new ways and prompting you to explore avenues of nursing with which you hadn’t previously been too familiar.

You can also expect coursework that can be completed at your convenience–as it fits into your work schedule. This convenience is the main difference between learning online and in the classroom. As long as you have access to your computer and the Internet, you will be able to complete coursework from wherever you feel most comfortable.

Admission requirements for online masters in nursing programs vary depending on which route you’re looking to pursue. Typically, schools require a bachelor’s degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and a state RN license. Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores, college transcripts, resume, reference letters and an essay are also part of the admission requirements. If your background is in something other than nursing, the masters program will have specific requirements.

The important thing to note is that the admission process takes into consideration all of the above requirements, assessing your comprehensive ability. So you should not get bent out of shape if you have one low course grade or a test score not up to your own standards. Masters in nursing programs are ultimately seeking well-rounded professionals who have displayed a strong work ethic and desire to learn.

Depending on which online masters in nursing program you pursue, there may be specific prerequisite courses. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check with the school to see what such requirements entail.

Specific curriculum also varies. Ultimately masters in nursing degrees provide you with a basis of knowledge to catapult your career in new directions whether it be as a nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, certified clinical nurse specialists, clinical nurse leader, certified nurse anesthetist, or a position in nursing administration or education. With more than 330 masters degree programs accredited by the CCNE or the NLNAC, there are many options from which to choose when broadening your professional knowledge.

Because most students choosing to pursue online masters in nursing programs already have professional nursing experience, the curriculum typically focuses on more than just core principles. Instead, courses take you into the clinical practice realm, where you are given the opportunity to apply learned principles as well as breakthrough research findings.

Due to ongoing innovations in health care and technology, research has come to play a prominent role in masters in nursing programs. Keep this in mind as you pursue your online program. Know that the more you immerse yourself in research methods and findings, the better understanding you will have of the material.

Online learning does not mean that you are learning alone. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Though you are free to complete coursework independently, there is a collaborative atmosphere that often includes instant messaging, chats, email correspondence, message boards and more. Sometimes you can even get one-on-one time to chat with instructors. This learning model encourages interpersonal communication and collaboration to get the most out of your learning experience.

Class sizes are typically small to further encourage collaboration. This enables you to work closely with fellow classmates and get the appropriate level of interaction with your instructor.

Each online nursing program has its own technological requirements so be sure to check with specific schools. Programs typically offer some type of 24-7 tech support so that you don’t have to worry about falling behind due to technology mishaps.

Masters in nursing programs typically take 2 or 3 years to complete, and each requires a specific number of clinical practice hours that are evaluated in conjunction with a faculty of nursing advisor. You can complete the required hours at a health care facility close to your home. Check with your school to learn the requirements for the specific program you’re pursuing.

No matter which type of masters in nursing program you choose to pursue, online learning is beneficial to working professionals. These types of programs are designed especially for people like you. And while you get the benefit of flexibility in completing coursework, you also get the chance to apply learned practices in your everyday professional life.

Though masters in nursing programs differ, they each aim to do one, or a combination of, the following–prepare nurses to think in innovative ways, contribute to making positive changes in health care operations, increase efficiency, incorporate research methods into daily practice, enhance patient care and create better patient outcomes.


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