Reasons for Accelerated Online Nursing Programs

There is a high level of job stability in the nursing profession as a result of the strong demand for nursing professionals, but there is also a high level of need for additional education. As a direct consequence of this trend, an increasing number of schools of higher learning now offer distance learning courses, particularly in the field of nursing. Online education makes it possible for nurses to receive a degree while working full-time.

It also enables nurses to gain access to higher education on their own time and to continue their education even when they are required to follow certain pandemic protocols and limits.
Even before the pandemic made it necessary for students to complete their education through remote means, it was becoming increasingly common for nursing students to enroll in online programs. According to the findings published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in April 2021, the number of students enrolled in master of science in nursing programs that are delivered via online learning increased by 13.7% between the years 2015 and 2019.

While nursing schools gradually transitioned back to traditional classroom instruction, faculty members continued to integrate increasing amounts of technology and virtual learning into their curricula. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the National Society of Boards of Nursing (NSBN) are two of the nursing organizations that have shown their support for distance learning (NCSBN). However, both virtual and hybrid learning require a significant amount of resources in order to function well. The spread of virtual learning in nursing education is being slowed down by a lack of financing for educational technologies as well as a nursing faculty shortage.

The Expanding Use of Online Education in the Nursing Profession

The COVID-19 pandemic is credited by many in the nursing education community with expanding the use of remote education in the healthcare industry. However, the pandemic did not kick off the proliferation of online nursing schools or the use of simulations to enhance or replace clinical practice. Both of these developments came about prior to the epidemic.

In nursing education, human simulation was introduced for the first time in the late 1990s. Midway through the 21st century, simulation became increasingly popular in the field of nursing education. This was due to the fact that students were able to utilize it to safely practice their skills, including critical thinking and clinical decision-making.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) conducted a study in 2008 and found that 917 nursing programs used either a mid-fidelity or a high-fidelity patient simulation. Because of concerns regarding the availability and quality of clinical experiences, state boards of nursing (BON) began to examine the possibility of enabling simulation to either completely replace or enhance traditional clinicals as early as 2009.

The COVID-19 epidemic compelled nursing schools to implement additional simulation and online learning opportunities in addition to those that were already available. Because of the pandemic, a plan was required to use simulation to help students working on nursing associate’s degrees and nursing bachelor’s degrees complete their remaining required number of clinical hours.

According to the data provided by Wolter Kluwers, in the year 2020, 87% of nursing programs utilized some sort of virtual simulation, and 93% of these programs utilized some form of virtual or online learning. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) all provide support for simulation and online learning, which helps to stimulate the expansion of virtual learning in nursing education. When nursing schools desire to expand their use of virtual learning, however, they face obstacles such as insufficient finance, a lack of available resources, and a nursing faculty shortage.

Regulations Regarding the Practice of Nursing Through Distant Learning

When it comes to nursing education, distance learning has the potential to have an impact in two crucial areas: the accreditation status of the nursing program as well as the nursing student’s capacity to finish their clinical hours. It is possible that you will not be able to take the NCLEX, transfer your licensure to another state, or find a job when you graduate if you attended a program that was not approved or if you were unable to finish your clinical experience.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) does not prohibit the use of virtual learning, but it does require nursing schools to fill out a “substantive change form” when using virtual learning for 25% or more of the curriculum. There are certain state BONs that impose its own standards on nursing schools and programs that want to function in their state. The state in which the nursing program is housed and any other states in which students are educated require that all nursing programs meet their requirements.

If they have the means to do so, nursing schools are strongly encouraged by the NCSBN to incorporate simulation into their teaching practices. However, only faculty members who have the necessary experience should teach simulation labs. Before beginning to teach simulation, faculty members are given a checklist that must be completed in accordance with the NCSBN Simulation Guidelines.

Before assessing how much of the clinical experience can be substituted with simulation, it is recommended that state BONs take into consideration a number of issues, including pass rates, retention rates, and the availability of clinical sites.

Regardless of whether they are enrolled in a program to become registered nurses or an advanced degree program, students are still required to complete a predetermined number of clinical rotations in person before earning their diploma. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) states that nursing programs can only replace up to fifty percent of their clinical hours with simulation for undergraduate nursing students.

Students working toward a degree as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) are not permitted to make up any of the clinical hours that are mandated by the nursing board in their state. APRN students at Texas Woman’s University were required to complete the full 500 hours of supervised direct patient care in order to graduate. The university could only substitute additional clinical hours if they were needed by the institution or were related to a specific class.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is quick to highlight the growing necessity of going digital, despite the fact that practically all nursing programs in today’s world combine online learning with hands-on experience. In some of the nation’s schools and universities, the traditional lecture format has been phased out in favor of more student-centered, interactive seminar-style classes for nursing students. Students enrolled in certain online nursing programs, for instance, have access to interactive workshops that are included in all of their nursing classes. Seminars have numerous uses.

First and foremost, they give teachers a forum in which to share information that has not yet been compiled into a textbook. In addition, teachers might use them to address concerns raised by students about certain subjects or to respond to inquiries about the material being covered in the class. Last but not least, the utilization of online seminars assists students in drawing connections between the assigned readings, the online conversation, and the written assignments.

The instructor fosters these linkages by providing clarity on ambiguous concepts or assisting students in engaging in more in-depth thought about a certain topic. Learners do not merely memorize content for the sake of subsequently “regurgitating” it on an examination when they go through this procedure. Instead, they are required to demonstrate that they have a command of the subject matter, which is evaluated by the faculty based on student contributions on interactive discussion boards and written papers. In less words, receiving an education through distant learning allows for a more intensive mental workout.

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