Can You Earn Your Nursing Degree Online? Yes and No

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Is it possible to earn your nursing degree online? Yes and no. Yes, it’s possible to complete much of your coursework on an online learning platform. However, any program that confers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree must also include in-person components so that students can learn clinical skills.

woman sitting at desk typing on a computer

While there are several things you can complete entirely online, earning a nursing degree isn’t one of them — which makes sense because nursing is a hands-on, up-close-and-personal profession. So, what do universities mean when talk about offering a nursing degree online? We can explain as it relates to Northeastern University’s 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, as well as outline some of the benefits of online learning for nursing students.

Is a Nursing Degree Online Possible?

Our ABSN program students complete a blend of fundamental coursework, nursing labs and clinical rotations. While the coursework is 100% online, the in-person labs and clinicals provide the applied learning experiences required to become a registered nurse. Not to mention, Northeastern University prides itself on providing students of all majors with a world-class experiential education.

In short, you’ll develop comprehensive nursing knowledge while completing your online nursing coursework. During your in-person labs and clinical rotations, you’ll continue to expand your nursing knowledge while also acquiring crucial clinical skills. In addition, the clinicals provide opportunities to practice interacting with patients and delivering direct patient care under the supervision of experienced clinical instructors.

Online Coursework Component of the Northeastern ABSN Program

Our accelerated nursing coursework lays the groundwork for your education. These courses focus on the fundamentals and theories of professional practice. These include pathophysiology, nursing informatics, cultural diversity, and healthcare ethics. They also set the stage for the hands-on skills you’ll develop during your nursing labs and clinical rotations, which we’ll explore later in this post.

Northeastern University ABSN student using computer

You complete these fundamental courses via an intuitive online learning management system. Each course consists of different learning modules that help reinforce and solidify your retention of core nursing concepts. Assignments within each module may include:

  • Textbook readings
  • Informational videos
  • Patient case studies
  • NCLEX-RN® prep work

The Benefits of Online Learning for Future Nurses

Although a nursing degree online does require an in-person presence for hands-on, experiential learning, this blended approach to nursing education offers considerable benefits for future registered nurses (RNs). It provides greater flexibility, while still enabling you to benefit from interactions with your classmates and faculty members. Here’s a closer look at some of the main benefits of online learning.

student nurses working in sim lab

Find out what nursing school is like in this recent blog post.

The Flexibility to Learn on Your Own Schedule

The online portion of the ABSN program allows for more flexibility in terms of where and when you study. Since coursework is online, you can view lectures and complete assignments when your schedule allows. You can also study and submit assignments from wherever you choose. Your study area can be anywhere you find a computer and an internet connection.

However, the flexibility of online nursing instruction does not mean you can be lax about your studies or miss deadlines. As an ABSN program student, you’ll still have to stay on track with your course requirements and submit your work on time.

The Capability to Learn from Faculty and Peers

Interaction with your faculty and other students is a key element of the Northeastern ABSN program. While there is no physical location or face-to-face interaction with the online learning component of your program, there is a high level of virtual interaction and collaboration through the learning management system. Plus, you complete your labs and clinical rotations at the same time as your online courses, and those offer significant amounts of live feedback and interaction.

You use the learning management system to access course content and activities, like chat features and discussions. This format and information is organized the same way for each class, so students do not have to worry about re-learning how to navigate the learning management system each time they start a new online course.

Discussion boards play an extremely important role in online courses. In an online environment, all students have an opportunity to contribute to the discussion, and all students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of concepts.

nursing students standing in lab

In the discussion boards, students get a chance to know one another, challenge their beliefs, process information, and form new ideas. This social aspect of engagement helps foster interest, growth, and understanding. The discussion board is often the center of the course’s community.

The Ability to Adapt Your Education to Your Learning Preferences

Not everyone learns in the same fashion, which can create roadblocks for students in on-campus based programs. In traditional campus programs, a student attends class in a classroom. However, online ABSN coursework allows you to view and review lectures and course materials as many times as needed until you fully understand the subject.

Here’s how online courses appeal to different learning styles:

  • Images and graphics benefit visual learners.
  • Audio lectures appeal to aural learners.
  • Simulations and 3-D graphics benefit tactile learners.
  • The discussion forum benefits social learners.

In-Person Components of the Northeastern ABSN Program

The Northeastern ABSN program cannot be completed 100% online; in-person aspects of the curriculum that require students to live within driving distance of our ABSN program site and clinical placement locations. We’ll explore these components of the program below.

Northeastern nursing student working with sim manikin

Skills Lab in Nursing School: Develop Core Clinical Competencies

The nursing skills lab is where your applied learning begins. Our lab setting features hospital equipment, nursing supplies, clinical task trainers, and medical manikins to provide a safe, contextual environment for clinical skills development.

Throughout the program, you and your classmates will connect with your instructors at the lab to learn how to effectively apply core clinical skills, such as:

  • Hand-washing practices
  • Hospital bed changes
  • Catheterization
  • Intramuscular injections
  • Nasogastric tube insertions
  • Oxygenation therapy
  • Wound care

While in the lab, you’re bound to make a mistake — and that’s fine. Our instructors view errors as valuable learning opportunities. Just be sure to take advantage of our open lab hours to practice and hone your skills.

Northeastern ABSN student working with sim manikin

Learn more about the benefits of simulation lab.

Simulation in Nursing Education: Develop Critical Thinking and Clinical Judgment

Nursing simulation is a key to our experiential education model. These realistic learning activities allow you and your classmates to intervene in clinical situations that become more complex over time. Through simulation, we’re able to bring a human-to-human interaction component to the learning process without putting patient safety at risk.

Either an actor or a high-fidelity manikin carries out the patient role during a simulation. The type of patient we use depends on the learning objective. We use manikins in high-risk clinical situations, such as cardiac arrest or severe hemorrhaging. If a simulation involves a lot of interpersonal communication, we’ll have an actor play the patient role. Then, following each simulation, you attend a debriefing session with your instructor to talk about the experience.

It’s also worth mentioning that we keep grades out of nursing simulations. Why? Because they would alter the dynamic of these learning activities. Instead of taking an honest look at the situation, students would otherwise focus on defending their actions. We use simulation as a teaching strategy that uses positive reinforcement to improve and expand your nursing skills and clinical judgment.

Clinicals in Nursing School: Gain Practical Real-World Experience

Why is clinical experience important in nursing school? In short, it provides a roadmap for students to make patient care decisions and contributes to their professional development.

Northeastern ABSN student speaking with adult and child

We partner with diverse healthcare facilities to ensure our students receive clinical experiences that provide a broad perspective of the profession. As an ABSN program student, your first clinical takes place in the first semester of our four-semester nursing program.

During your rotations, you’ll perform health assessments, develop care plans, and take vitals under the guidance of an instructor. Overall, you’ll gain real-world clinical experience caring for the following patient populations:

  • Adults with common health problems
  • Adults in complex care situations
  • Childbearing women and their families
  • Children with acute and/or chronic illnesses
  • Individuals and groups with mental health issues
  • Public health and the community

During your final weeks in the ABSN program, you’ll complete a role transition experience in a concentrated area of nursing practice. You’ll learn under the guidance of a clinical preceptor (a trained registered nurse), working the same shifts as this individual and helping them take care of patients. The overarching goal of the experience is to get you to where you provide primary care to a full patient load.

What Is Accelerated Nursing School Like?

While meeting the admission requirements is one thing, the requisites to succeed in accelerated nursing school are another. Our ABSN program is a rigorous education path that combines online study with experiential learning. It’s an intense course load that requires focus and commitment to succeed.

To graduate from our ABSN program, you’ll need to:

  • Spend at least 40 hours a week on your studies.
  • Put certain aspects of your life on hold.
  • Stay organized and manage your time wisely.
  • Connect with your professors regularly.
  • Lean on others in your cohort for support.
  • Maintain a self-care routine and get enough sleep.

After earning your Northeastern BSN, you’ll be ready to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®) and enter the workforce as a practice-ready nurse.

Northeastern ABSN student smiling

In the end, nursing school is one of the most challenging education paths you can take. But know that we have a support system in place to help see you through. As an ABSN program student, you’ll have access to faculty, licensure readiness coaches, and other support staff.

Ready to Accelerate Your Nursing Career?

Now that you know all the intricacies of earning a nursing degree online, you can see how hybrid nursing program offers plenty of benefits for those with prior non-nursing college credits or degrees. Northeastern’s hybrid ABSN program offers program site locations in Burlington, Massachusetts, or Charlotte, North Carolina, and can help you accelerate into the nursing profession.

Contact us today to speak with an admissions counselor about the next steps.

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