How Our ABSN Program Develops Your Nursing Skills

Summary: Academic rigor and experiential learning go hand in hand at Northeastern University. When it comes to our 16-month ABSN program, students partake in advanced nursing simulations, quality clinical placements, and a comprehensive preceptorship in a concentrated area of practice. As a result, our nursing graduates are ready to lead the way in a complex, ever-evolving healthcare system.

Where learners become leaders - Northeastern ABSN student working with sim manikin

When you choose the 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Northeastern University, you’re not just investing in a quality education, you’re paying for nursing skills that will put you at the top of your game. This post explores how we combine rigorous online study with experiential learning to graduate nurses who go on to become leaders in the profession.

Eligibility Requirements
Before we get into how our ABSN program develops your nursing skills, it’s important to note that you need a non-nursing bachelor’s degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA to begin the admissions process. Plus, you must satisfy a series of prerequisite course requirements before you can start nursing school.

ABSN Program Overview

Comprising 67 credit hours, our 16-month ABSN program blends online coursework with experiential learning opportunities. And together, these learning components provide the academic foundation and clinical preparedness required to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®) with confidence.

Overall, the full-time program facilitates your progress from basic to complex nursing competence over four semesters. So by the time you graduate, you’ll know how to:

  • Provide competent, compassionate care to diverse patient populations.
  • Deliver care that meets the unique faith and cultural needs of patients.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professions to improve patient outcomes.
  • Demonstrate clinical judgment within evidence-based practice.
  • Apply leadership skills in the provision of patient-centered care.

Our ABSN program has two enrollment locations, with each one offering three start dates a year (January, May, and September). You have the option to accelerate your nursing career in Burlington, Massachusetts, which is near Boston, or Charlotte, North Carolina.

Online ABSN Coursework

Online ABSN coursework sets the foundation for your nursing education, focusing on the fundamentals and theories of the profession. It also brings a level of convenience to the rigors of nursing school. While assignment deadlines apply, you get to choose when and where you participate in class.

Two ABSN students studying online together

I liked the flexibility of online learning. You can study whenever you want and complete your coursework when it best fits into your schedule.
—Chanliny, ABSN Program Graduate

Keep in mind, however, that online learning can be a blessing and a curse—it really just depends on what type of student you are. The students who tend to be the most successful with online learning are highly organized and know how to manage their time wisely.

Our online courses consist of different learning modules. Within each course module, there are a series of assignments you must complete within a specified timeframe. Module components typically include:

  • Interactive activities
  • Patient case studies
  • Informational videos
  • Quizzes
  • Discussion boards

Learning online is just as effective as learning face-to-face in the classroom. While there isn’t a physical presence, there’s still a high level of virtual interaction and collaboration via our e-Learning platform. Not to mention, you’ll spend time with your clinical instructors and fellow cohort members at our program site on a regular basis.

Helpful Hint
Before you start nursing school, get your hands on a student planner that allows you to use the time-blocking method. When you can visualize your learning activities on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, it’s easier to get your study routine down to a science. Plus, you’ll feel a lot less overwhelmed.

Advantages of Experiential Learning

infographic - 4 Stages of Experiential Learning: Nursing skills labs, nursing simulation labs, clinical rotations, and nursing preceptorship

After learning about a particular nursing concept online, you then progress into the experiential phase for that concept by way of nursing skills labs, nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations.

While nursing labs facilitate your applied skills development in a controlled setting, clinical rotations give you a real feel for the diverse areas of nursing practice. Labs take place at our program site and clinicals occur in local healthcare facilities.

What Are Nursing Skills Labs

Featuring hospital equipment, medical supplies, full-body medical manikins, and clinical task trainers, our nursing skills labs provide a realistic backdrop for you to practice your skills without the fear of harming an actual patient.

Overall, these labs focus on the safe, effective application of core nursing skills, such as:

  • Hand-washing practices
  • Catheterization
  • Nasogastric tube insertions
  • Intermuscular injections
  • Physical assessments
  • Wound care

What Are Nursing Simulation Labs

Nursing simulation labs are safe, contextual learning environments where you and your peers integrate theory with practice while making clinical decisions in real-time.

These labs serve to develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills across the continuum of patient care. They also help remove the fear of the unknown, making it easier to transition into clinicals.

Each simulation supports a specific learning objective, with the scenarios getting more intense as you progress in the program. For example, your first few simulations will focus on the basics of nursing practice, while subsequent simulations require you to think on your feet in complex care situations.

Depending on the learning objective, a standardized patient (a trained actor) or a simulation manikin will carry out the patient roles. We typically use the manikins in high-risk scenarios such as cardiac arrest or severe hemorrhaging.

After each simulation, you meet with faculty for a debriefing session—the actual learning portion of the activity. During these sessions, you’re encouraged to reflect on the experience in an open setting and to express how you think you did. Whether a simulation left you feeling stressed, concerned, or confident, we need to understand your emotional state and help you resolve any unsettled thoughts.

We also keep grades out of nursing simulations because they would alter the learning dynamic. Students would focus on defending their actions instead of taking an honest, unbiased look at their performance during the activity. We use positive reinforcement to help improve and expand your skills. It’s important that you feel good about the process and approach every simulation eager to see how much you know and what you still need to learn.

Mistakes Happen
It’s perfectly fine to make mistakes during labs. 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.

What Are Clinicals

As an ABSN student, you’ll complete six clinical rotations while in the program, representing more than 430 hours of practical experience in diverse areas of nursing practice.

Your first clinical, which focuses on women and families, occurs within your first few weeks in the program. And throughout the program, we’ll introduce you to other patient populations that include:

  • Adults with common health problems
  • Individuals and groups with mental health issues
  • Adults in complex care situations
  • Children with acute and/or chronic illness
  • Public health and the community
Northeastern Charlotte ABSN Student, Ellen

With clinicals, you get first-hand experience and come to understand what it’s truly like to be a nurse.
—Ellen, ABSN Program Graduate

Clinicals are active learning environments where you shadow staff nurses and perform tasks they would normally do in a given situation. These tasks include developing care plans, performing health assessments, and taking vitals. In instances where you are not performing the patient care, you still need to observe and come to understand the clinical reasoning behind what’s going on.

Much of what you’ll see and do during your rotations comes from simply being in the right place at the right time. For example, let’s say your cohort is studying women and families. You go to one hospital and happen to experience an emergency C-section, while a fellow student at a different hospital may not.

Also, when it comes to clinicals, you can’t go into them with a student mindset; you have to go in as a nurse. However, that’s not to say you won’t feel nervous or uncomfortable heading into a healthcare facility for the first time. But once you get the lay of the land, your fears will more than likely subside. Plus, you’re not going it alone. You’ll be among fellow cohort members, and your clinical instructor will be there to answer any questions you might have.

As you navigate through the various clinical rotations, you’ll probably find something special you like about each one. You may even have difficulty trying to decide what area of practice to go into after graduation.

Comprehensive Nursing Practicum

During your final weeks of nursing school, you’ll complete a comprehensive nursing practicum, which is also known as a preceptorship.

Under the guidance of a preceptor, who is a registered nurse, you’ll gain concentrated clinical experience in a specific area of practice. You’ll work the same shifts as your preceptor, and as you refine your skills, you’ll take an active, if not primary, role in patient care.

Megan, Northeastern ABSN student

I loved every single one of my clinicals for different reasons. I couldn’t have asked for better clinical instructors or people to work with. I learned so much during my preceptorship. I got to work twelve, 12-hour shifts on the floor and took care of patients by myself.
—Megan, ABSN Program Graduate

Your preceptor reports back to your clinical instructor and the healthcare facility on your performance, so be sure to bring your A-game to every shift. Furthermore, the relationship you have with your preceptor can make or break your nursing practicum. And it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s a successful experience. So here’s what you need to know about the student-preceptor relationship.

Your preceptor:

  • Doesn’t always recognize when you don’t understand a concept.
  • Wants you to ask questions so he/she knows where your mind is at.
  • Can’t always tell when a situation is making you feel uncomfortable.
  • Needs your constructive feedback to become better at his/her job.
  • Can’t take a vacation or stand by while assigned to you.

You can also be proactive by starting to build a strong working relationship with your preceptor on day one. Tell your preceptor how you learn best and ask him/her to provide feedback on your performance at the end of each shift. And last but not least, it helps to get to know your preceptor on a personal level and let him/her get to know you.

What to Expect in Nursing Clinicals

Clinical partnerships at Northeastern University

Our clinical partners include a wide range of healthcare organizations, from large city hospitals to small rural clinics. While we do our best to accommodate students with their placement requests, we cannot guarantee we’ll be able to get you into your preferred hospital or facility.

There’s a lot that goes into scheduling student rotations, especially on the part of the clinical partner. Thereby, you’ll work with a program manager who will arrange the time and place of your clinical rotation.

While we try to accommodate your placement preferences, there’s no guarantee as to the schedule and location of your clinicals. Just know that each clinical practice day is six hours long and occurs in shifts from 7 am to 1 pm or 1 pm to 7 pm.

But no matter when and where you complete your clinicals, each rotation offers valuable insight into what it means to be a registered nurse in today’s multifaceted healthcare environment.

How to Get the Most Out of Clinicals

It helps to understand that it’s common for clinical environments to become tense and stressful at any given time. So if the staff nurse you’re shadowing gets irritable once in a while, don’t take it personally. He or she is trying to balance patient care with the added responsibilities of helping you meet your clinical goals.

Stay Productive

There are things you can do, however, to offset the frustration your staff nurse might present now and then. Whenever you experience downtime during a rotation, it’s important to make yourself useful. Ask your staff nurse where you can help and gladly accept any task no matter how mundane it may seem. If no one has any tasks they need you to do, use your downtime to study instead of checking social media. You could also read up on a patient or prepare for your next set of rounds.

Northeastern ABSN student sarah

Solicit Feedback

Halfway through a rotation, it helps to ask your staff nurse if there are any skills that you need to improve upon. After all, you don’t want to get to the end of a rotation to learn you were doing something wrong. By asking for feedback sooner rather than later, you can correct the problem, improve your grades, and talk about receiving a letter of recommendation.

Ask Questions

When shadowing your staff nurse, don’t be afraid to ask why he or she chose a particular medicine or treatment for a patient. By asking relevant questions, you’re showing you’re engaged and paying attention to what’s going on—just don’t pose these questions in front of a patient.

Network for the Future

Charlotte ABSN program

Making a good impression with healthcare employers doesn’t start with your job search, it starts during your clinical rotations. While there’s never a guarantee of employment, you should go into every nursing clinical with your best foot forward. You never know who might be a future reference or employer.

It’s also important that you network with as many healthcare professionals you can while in nursing school. Some students underestimate the power of building professional connections during clinicals, which can become a major disadvantage when pursuing RN employment. After all, many job offers, no matter the field of employment, come about because of who you know and who knows you.

Nursing Co-op

Currently available to ABSN students at the Burlington location, our nursing co-op combines academics with clinical practice, allowing you to put your skills into action and graduate with unprecedented firsthand clinical experience.

As a Burlington ABSN student, you can apply for the co-op program during your second semester of nursing school—just as long as you have a 3.0 GPA. Once approved for the co-op, you can apply to a variety of inpatient units at Lahey Medical Center, where you’ll work as a patient care assistant.

Nursing co-op experiences take place between the second and third semesters of the ABSN program. While you won’t be taking any courses during this period of time, you’re still registered as a full-time student.

Co-op Benefits:

  • Gain 32+ hours of direct patient care experience a week.
  • Grow your skills as a vital member of a health-care team.
  • Hone your clinical competencies and time management skills.
  • Earn between $15 and $18 an hour, plus differentials (no healthcare or PTO benefits).
  • Network with health-care staff and build your resume.

While not guaranteed, many of our nursing co-op students receive job offers from our co-op partners after graduation.

Jessica Conaway, ABSN student

Because of this co-op, I feel very confident in my skills and my ability to learn and grow in this profession. I think I will be more successful in my upcoming clinical rotations and better positioned to take full advantage of what they have to offer. I also have real-work experience and was able to make important professional contacts in nursing management.
—Jessica, ABSN Program Graduate

Words of Wisdom

Applying to nursing school is a major life decision that requires significant preparation. After all, it’s one of the most challenging education paths you can take. But if you’re passionate about the profession and committed to your studies, it’s totally doable. Here’s some advice from graduates of our ABSN program.

Chanliny, 2019 ABSN Program Graduate, Burlington

It’s a big commitment that you need to prepare for as much as possible. Upon getting accepted, I found it helpful to connect with individuals who were already in the program, which the school makes possible via its private Facebook group for ABSN students.

Erin, 2019 ABSN Program Graduate, Burlington

While you do have flexibility with the online learning component, you still have set time commitments while in the program. You need to be available for your scheduled labs, exams, and clinicals.

Ellen, 2019 ABSN Program Graduate, Charlotte

Getting all of your immunizations for clinical clearance can be stressful, so get moving on them as early as possible.

Miranda, 2019 ABSN Program Graduate, Charlotte

It’s really important to make friends within your cohort. My cohort was really close, which made all the difference for me, especially since I moved from California to attend the program. We would hang out on Friday nights and share study guides. Just being around others who are going through the same thing as you and being able to lean on one another for support is huge.

Final Thoughts

Experiential learning is the centerpiece for our university’s innovation in higher education. The integration of online learning and real-world experience makes our accelerated nursing program more responsive to the needs of today’s healthcare system.

Above all, our academic rigor paired with quality labs and clinical placements helps students grow as leaders and problem solvers—imparting the intellectual skills and entrepreneurial mindset necessary to advance the nursing profession.

Shaelyn, Northeastern ABSN student

It’s a great school and a great program. Employers are going to look at your application and know you have the right nursing education and that you’re prepared.
—Shaelyn, ABSN Program Graduate

Next Steps

There’s a lot of pride that comes with being a Northeastern nurse, and we look forward to helping you join the ranks of those who carry this badge of honor. Contact our admissions team today and start working toward an ABSN program start date in January, May, or September at our Burlington, Massachusetts, or Charlotte, North Carolina location.

Get Started Today

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