Is an Online RN to BSN Program the Right Decision for You?

By: Joseph Poole Jr. MSN, RN, CNE

Is an online RN-BSN program right for me? According to Lucy Megginson MSN, RN (2008), a limited study demonstrated that RNs returning to school for their BSN, whether online or on campus, faced many of the same challenges. These challenges or barriers include time, fear, lack of consideration for educational and life accomplishments, and negative treatment by peers.

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Consider the time required for completion of an online BSN degree. When choosing a school, research the statement about convenience. Many state they are convenient for the working nurse; however, they may require up to two years of study, taking 1-2 courses every 6-8 weeks with very little time off between semesters or quarters. Another consideration is whether or not previously completed course work is transferable to a particular school. Megginson stated that one of the participants in her study discovered she would have to complete 4 more years of study because her credits did not transfer.

Time is a true consideration, but it is not insurmountable. Organize your time. School has to be considered a second job. Although there is not the traditional classroom, there are still assigned due dates for homework. So you have to set aside time each day to study and complete course work. This may require a shift in your family dynamics. Other family members may have to take on some of your responsibilities.

Many students have expressed fears about returning to school. Fear is a realistic concern. Many of these fears stem from previous negative experiences in nursing school, either a problem with an instructor or lack of academic support. Also, there is financial fear, whether it is a change in work hours because of school or the need for financial aid, which may be an unfamiliar process. Some RNs may not consider an out of state institution that meets their needs because they lack the financial resources to pay for the education. However, some schools offer in-state tuition as an incentive to online learners. Finally, there is the fear of technology, especially among older ADN nurses. Since many schools use online tools such as Blackboard, the returning RN must overcome this fear.

Remember the BSN program is not your old ADN program. You are starting something new. Before enrolling, research the financial aid that may be available. Also, speak to the human resources department at your workplace. There may be money or a reduction of hours available for returning to school. Then after your BSN classes begin, email your professor and ask questions about what type of academic support is available, just as you would in the traditional classroom setting. Also, before enrolling in an online BSN program, you might want to take a computer class to get used to using technology. Once you realize that you will not destroy the internet, your confidence in your abilities will grow.

Another barrier to consider is the lack of perceived recognition of the RN’s educational and life accomplishments. Many RN-BSN programs do not give academic credit for years of experience and previously obtained nursing knowledge. However, greater job satisfaction may result from a BSN because research demonstrates that there are improved patient outcomes when the patient is cared for by a BSN.

Although your chosen program may not give you college credits for your experience, remember you are an advocate for your patient. What is the best way you can advocate for your patient? By being a BSN.

Finally, some RNs perceive that they will not be supported by their peers for returning to school. Actually, Megginson’s research demonstrated the opposite is true. Many RNs feel supported by their peers, especially by those who have completed their BSN. So rely on your peers for support. This can also be accomplished online. Many RN-BSN instructors encourage online socialization. You can use the discussion boards and email to ask questions about homework or how to handle building a support network at home to help you be successful.

After considering the perceived barriers and some possible solutions, is an online RN-BSN program right for you? Only you can decide. Explore a comprehensive list of CCNE and NLNAC accredited online RN to BSN programs to learn more about your options.

Reference: MEGGINSON L.A. (2008) Journal of Nursing Management 16, 47–55
RN-BSN education: 21st century barriers and incentives