Simply earning a nursing degree and obtaining licensure isn't always enough to ensure a successful career as a nurse. In order to have the best possible chance of reaching his or her full potential, a prospective nurse needs to attend a program that offers a high-quality curriculum. Below are seven characteristics students should look for when selecting an online nursing program.
1. Industry Expertise of the Faculty
One of the most important characteristics to consider when reviewing various curricula is the competence of the faculty that will teach it. It doesn't matter how well-planned or carefully researched the curriculum is if the faculty members are not adequately prepared to implement it.
Incompetent faculty members may pass on inaccurate information, fail to properly assess the students' learning or neglect to provide the feedback a student needs to improve. Thus, choosing a program with reputable, experienced faculty is highly recommended.
2. Length of the Program
To properly prepare you for your career, a program must be long enough to cover all of the topics you will need to understand in order to be successful. Programs must also include enough credit hours to meet the requirements for state licensure and/or any desired certifications. Review these guidelines carefully before you select a program.
3. Depth of Topics Studied
According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, it is better for a curriculum to cover fewer topics in-depth than to attempt to cover a greater number of topics with less intensive study. High-quality nursing programs will devote a significant amount of study to each of the most important topics required for completion of a nursing degree. Courses will cover each of these topics in-depth so that students have all of the information they need in order to perform their future jobs well. All optional topics will be available to students in the form of electives.
4. Sequential vs. Stand-Alone Courses
When creating a curriculum development process, programs must often decide whether to cover each of the required topics individually or divide them into sequential courses that students must take during separate terms. For example, a program may teach everything a nurse needs to know about anatomy in a single course called "Anatomy," or it may spread the information over "Anatomy I," "Anatomy II," and "Anatomy III."
5. Various Modes of Instruction
Nursing programs should utilize a variety of instructional techniques and activities, including discussion, written work, group projects and more. In fact, the National Institutes of Health reports that the need for diverse instructional techniques in nursing programs was recently confirmed by research. If possible, choose a program with a curriculum that incorporates an array of instructional methods and learning activities.
6. Preparation for Required Exams
Following graduation from a nursing program, nurses must often pass licensure and/or certification exams before they will be able to begin working in the field. The best nursing programs are those that will prepare nurses to succeed when taking these exams.
7. Frequent Opportunities to Assess Learning
If a curriculum structure doesn't include regular opportunities to assess learning, students who are falling behind may not realize they are having trouble until the end of the course. On the other hand, when frequent assessment opportunities are available, struggling students are identified early and will have a better chance to catch up. Make sure that the program you choose offers regular opportunities to assess your progress.
Keep in mind that most employers are looking for nurses who are a good fit for their organizations and can make a valuable contribution, so even a nurse with the best education available can't expect to qualify for every open position. Nonetheless, graduating from a school with a curriculum that meets the qualifications above will certainly open more doors than a degree from a lower quality school. With a degree that commands respect, nurses entering the field are more confident, better prepared for their careers, and more likely to enjoy long-term success.