Summary: In this blog post, we discuss what you need to know about online nursing education, including how it’s an effective learning tool when used to complement the hands-on portion of your professional training. We also explain how an online nursing education is much more interactive than you might think, plus how to determine if it’s the right path for you.
The news of nurses caring for patients during the recent COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the bravery and courage of those working on the front lines of healthcare every day. It may have also compelled you to want to make a difference and enter the nursing workforce yourself.
By the same token, you may also be wondering how enrolling in nursing school is even possible. Nursing is a hands-on profession, after all. Not to mention, nursing school requires a set number of in-person clinical and lab hours. Plus, some programs only offer in-person instruction options.
Luckily for you, Misericordia University launched its accelerated online-based nursing program in Pittsburgh in 2019 and already has experience with educating students in a hybrid nursing program format.
Our full-time Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is designed specifically for non-nursing students with at least 60 college credits who wish to enter the profession in as few as 16 months. It combines online coursework, onsite skills labs, and clinical rotations at top area hospitals and clinical agencies.
The Misericordia ABSN program is a great option if you’re a motivated self-starter who’s eager to enter the field as soon as possible. To help you determine if an online-based nursing program like ours is the right choice for you, we’ll take a deep dive into what you need to know about online nursing education.
We’ll also explain the benefits of and tips for online learning for nursing students and answer the most commonly asked questions we hear about how online learning works in the Misericordia ABSN program.
How Online Learning Works at Misericordia ABSN
The first thing you should know about the Misericordia ABSN program is that it’s not 100% online. The online learning platform we use in our program offers a great educational experience, teaching you the foundations of essential nursing theory concepts. But it’s only one part of our hybrid curriculum.
All three parts of our hybrid nursing program take place simultaneously:
- Online coursework builds the nursing knowledge you’ll reference in all other aspects of the ABSN program.
- Skills and simulation labs teach you how to apply the nursing theory concepts you’ve learned about in your online coursework in a mock clinical environment. Here, it’s safe and 100% OK to make mistakes before you practice them in real-world patient care settings.
- Clinical rotations take place at top healthcare facilities throughout Pittsburgh, including within the Allegheny Health Network. They allow you to experience diverse patient care scenarios in real-world environments.
So how does the online learning component of the Misericordia ABSN curriculum work together with the hands-on portion of our program, exactly? It helps by first calling out some of the key features of Canvas, our intuitive e-Learning platform.
Streamlined Course Design
Leading instructional designers took into account students’ various learning preferences when creating an easy-to-navigate portal that combines interactive course material with simulated case studies.
Above all else, they wanted to create an online learning portal that you can trust and not really have to think about using, so you can get straight to the business of studying nursing theory concepts.
While every learning module covers different concepts, each one features the same user-friendly, intuitive layout. They contain everything you’ll need to stay on course with your studies. In each course module within Canvas, you’ll find:
- Reading and study materials
- Discussion forums
Interactive Learning Modules
To complement the hands-on portion of the Misericordia ABSN curriculum, some course modules feature interactive learning objects. They’re certainly not intended to replace the textbook reading, hands-on labs, or clinical rotations you’ll experience in other portions of our ABSN program. Rather, our virtual learning modules are a great supplemental learning resource to reference as you encounter real-world nursing scenarios.
Others feature rich 3D graphics and animation and are meant to help you understand specific nursing concepts. A few examples of what you can expect these modules to highlight include:
- Adventitious breath sounds
- Bed and patient positioning
- Personal protective equipment
- Electrocardiography (EKG)
Simulated Clinical Scenarios
In addition to animated diagrams and interactive nursing demonstrations, some learning modules will include more in-depth animated case studies. These are designed to help you apply what you’ve been reading about in your textbooks to virtual simulated patient care scenarios.
These highly interactive learning objects put you in the proverbial driver’s seat, allowing you to act as the virtual nurse responsible for making key patient care decisions. For example, in one case study, you’ll take on the role of a nurse assisting with an elderly stroke patient.
That said, we understand nothing beats real-life human interaction. That’s why these simulated case studies are a great way to enhance what you learn in labs and clinical rotations as you progress through the program.
How Online Learning Works in the Misericordia ABSN Program
If you want to learn more about the Misericordia ABSN online classroom, watch this demonstration video. You’ll see what the virtual classroom looks like and how you’ll stay engaged with the material from start to finish.
Commonly Asked Questions about Online Learning
Now that you know how our online learning platform works, you may still have some lingering questions about an online nursing education and if it’s the right fit for you. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the online learning component of the Misericordia ABSN program.
Can I really become a nurse exclusively online?
Perhaps the biggest misconception about online nursing programs is that you can complete them exclusively online, without ever having to step foot inside a hospital or lab. This may be the case for those who already have their nursing degree entering into programs such as an RN-to-BSN route. But for students with non-nursing credits looking to earn a quality BSN, it’s simply not true.
As we mentioned earlier, in the Misericordia ABSN program, you’ll attend regularly scheduled labs at our program site in Robinson. Also, nursing is by its very nature a hands-on profession. That’s why it’s vital that anyone pursuing their BSN have many opportunities to apply the nursing theory and skills learned in other parts of the program in a real-world health care setting during clinical rotations. Doing so will give you the confidence to care for patients when you enter the nursing workforce.
Are online nursing courses easier than classes offered in a traditional classroom setting?
Actually, in some ways, the opposite is true.
The Misericordia ABSN curriculum covers the same amount of material you’d study in a traditional, campus-based program. You just complete it in a shorter timeframe: 16 months versus four years. An online nursing education also requires as much studying and class participation as its in-classroom equivalent. The primary difference with online learning is how you’ll submit assignments and communicate with instructors and classmates.
You’re not taking any shortcuts with your nursing education by completing your nursing theory coursework online, either. Online nursing courses must meet the same high curriculum standards as their on-campus counterparts.
What should I look for when researching online nursing programs?
In general, accrediting agencies hold online programs to the same high standards as on-campus programs, according to U.S. News and World Report. So it makes sense to take an approach similar to how you would scope out traditional nursing school programs when researching the quality of online nursing programs.
Misericordia University and its ABSN program in Pittsburgh have met all standards of accreditation. The University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), while the baccalaureate degree program in nursing (including the ABSN program) is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and meets the approval of the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing.
Can I work a full-time job and complete an online nursing program?
Pursuing an online nursing program is not a decision you can make on a whim. It requires too much preparation, time, and energy to take lightly. For that reason, we generally don’t recommend working full-time while enrolled in online nursing school.
Part of what makes the Misericordia ABSN program so accessible — the compression of rigorous nursing curriculum into 16 months — is what makes it such a concentrated effort. Between online coursework, hands-on labs, and clinical rotations at top health care facilities around Pittsburgh, you can plan to spend up to 40 hours a week — the equivalent of a full-time job — studying, completing assignments, responding to discussion boards, and more.
Researching Online Nursing Programs: Do Your Due Diligence
It’s unlikely a state’s board of nursing will accept credits obtained from a non-accredited program, which can affect your ability to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), what you must pass to work as a nurse. So no matter the type of nursing school or program you’re considering — online or campus-based — it behooves you to verify its accreditation with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the Department of Education before you apply.
Benefits of Online Education for Nursing Students
As we mentioned earlier, through the Misericordia ABSN program, you’ll receive the same quality instruction in a virtual classroom as you would in a traditional one. But there are some unique benefits to online nursing education that you won’t experience in a real-world classroom setting. Online learning is especially great for accelerated nursing students because it allows them to:
Control when and where they study
While you still must adhere to instructors’ deadlines and come to the ABSN program site to sit for exams and attend labs, one of the great things about online learning is that it grants you the freedom to complete your nursing theory coursework when and where it’s best for you. So long as you have an internet connection, you can study in an environment you know works for you and manage your lessons around your schedule — no matter if it’s the local library in the afternoon or your home office after you’ve put the kids to bed.
However, just because you can choose to engage with course materials as often as you’d like, you’ll still be completing two and half years’ worth of nursing education in 16 months. Because the course material is so challenging and the pace is rigorous, it’d be in your best interest to prioritize your studies and not save it all for the last minute.
Interact with dynamic content designed for all types of learners
We understand each student enrolled in the Misericordia ABSN program has a unique learning style. Some may prefer to review charts and diagrams while others excel when they have the opportunity to talk through an especially challenging concept.
That’s why our instructional designers crafted course materials that cater to all types of learners. Whether you best understand new concepts visually, aurally, verbally (by reading, writing, and speaking), or kinesthetically (by doing), we’re confident you’ll find learning resources that work best for you in our e-Learning platform:
It’s also important to note that while our online learning platform features cutting-edge virtual nursing education resources, traditional learning materials are just as important in the Misericordia ABSN program. These interactive activities will coincide with lectures and assigned textbook reading materials.
What’s Your Learning Style?
If you don’t know what your unique learning style is, our dedicated ABSN success coaches can help you develop a study strategy catered to how you learn best. You can also take an online VARK Learning Style Assessment quiz to determine how you best retain and synthesize information.
Connect with classmates, instructors, and support resources
Even though you’ll be “attending class” and submitting assignments through our e-Learning platform, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to interact with your instructors and classmates. You can still connect with them off-line and through the online learning platform by:
- Participating in real-time study sessions to prepare for exams.
- Emailing and video conferencing whenever you have questions.
- Forming in-person study groups with your peers, since you’ll all live in the same area while enrolled in the ABSN program.
- Posting to discussion boards to demonstrate your understanding of nursing concepts.
Additionally, should you find yourself struggling to get into the groove with a study schedule or need any extra support to get you through a tough course, our success coaches are available to help. Not only can they offer a listening ear whenever you’re stressed but can also point you in the right direction for study and time management resources.
Is Online Nursing School Right for You?
One of the greatest benefits of online learning — accessibility — is also the one that some say makes online classes challenging. Without an in-person class to attend or instructor to listen to — not to mention the distractions of studying and working from home — it can be difficult to stay on-task and motivated.
All that to say, we understand online nursing school isn’t the best fit for everyone. In general, though, we’ve found people with the following traits tend to achieve success in our online-based accelerated nursing school more so than those without.
Organized and knows how to manage time
The online coursework portion of your accelerated nursing studies will demand of you even more organization and time management than what you’d need for traditional classroom-based courses. Yes, instructors are there to help you understand complex nursing topics and answer your questions. But they’re not there to remind you when it’s time to “go to class”, study for exams, or turn in your final paper that’s due next week.
To keep pace, some students use timers and smartphone alerts to make sure they put in a consistent amount of time each day on their classwork. While our easy-to-use online learning management system (LMS) features a built-in calendar to help you stay on track, many students tell us they keep more than one calendar. Planning tools like calendars and smartphone alerts to track assignments and labs and clinical rotation schedules are also a great idea.
It takes a great deal of self-discipline to stay on top of your accelerated nursing studies as a Misericordia ABSN student. There’s simply too much complex information to keep up with that builds upon itself as you progress through the program. You can’t cram the night before and expect to succeed.
Not only does an online nursing education provide students with the knowledge they need to excel in the field, but the process of learning online also fine-tunes skills that create hirable, driven, and effective professionals. For example, as a nurse, your supervisor will expect you to know what you need to accomplish, then be able to organize your schedule to complete those tasks. He or she likely isn’t going to prompt you every time a patient needs to take medication or have vitals checked.
Willing to ask for help
In nursing school, you can’t fear reaching out if you need help or don’t understand a concept. Nursing knowledge and skills build upon each other, so failure to grasp a concept early on will set you up to fall behind later in the program. Not to mention, as a nurse, you’ll need to ask patients questions every day, so getting into this habit early also paves the way for your future professional success.
But where you might easily raise your hand to ask a question in a traditional classroom, it’s on you to initiate a conversation with your instructor or a tutoring session with classmates if you’re struggling.
In some ways, though, you may actually find communication to be even more accessible than a traditional classroom setting. Our online learning management system’s built-in discussion forums, video conferencing, and chat features make it convenient to reach out as soon as you need clarification on a tough nursing concept.
You can also contact your instructors by email, phone, or in-person via office hours at our ABSN learning site, where you’ll complete your skills and simulation labs.
With all of the online coursework you’ll need to keep up with during accelerated nursing school, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed or defeated. That’s why the power of positive thinking stands to serve you so well during your studies, especially when it comes to self-talk and believing in your ability to overcome difficult or stressful tasks.
Yes, it’s also important to be realistic and do everything in your power to stay on top of your coursework. But maintaining a positive outlook can prevent you from sabotaging your best efforts by boosting your self-confidence and preventing you from second-guessing yourself — both of which you’ll need to excel when you enter the nursing workforce.
Discover Online Nursing Education at Misericordia ABSN
Online learning is just one part of the Misericordia University ABSN program, but it offers so many benefits to nursing students. It complements the hands-on components of our ABSN curriculum, while also helping nursing students develop a sense of self-motivation and organization that will serve them well in their future nursing careers.
If you’re ready to learn more about online learning for nursing students, reach out to our admissions team today.