If you’ve been thinking about investing in an online nursing degree, it may be time to seriously consider your options. Here’s a guide to making a clear and informed decision.
Like most things in life, investing in further education has its pros and cons, leaving you with a range of mixed emotions and numerous factors to consider.
In order to get a crystal clear idea on the path that’s right for you, perhaps it’s time to take a more structured approach to your decision making process.
Find Clarity with a SWOT Analysis
An analysis of a position's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) is often used to make business decisions, and can be an effective way to approach more personal conundrums.
A SWOT analysis is a structured planning tool that encourages users to evaluate a decision or initiative based on four key measures: your strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities available to you, and threats you could face.1
It’s basically a more in-depth approach to a pros and cons list, and it may help you decide whether an advanced online nursing degree is the right path for you.
Enrolling in the RN-to-BSN program: A SWOT Analysis
Let’s consider how to apply a SWOT analysis to your question about enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program.
First, divide a blank page into four parts and add each of the four SWOT headings to a part. Next you will want to take a moment to consider each of the four key measures, and then jot down some thoughts under each heading.
Think about both the internal and external factors that will propel you forward if you choose to enroll in an advanced RN-to-BSN program.
Can you list five personality traits or competencies that will empower you and help you manage a nursing school schedule?
Are you organized? Efficient? Motivated? Dedicated? If it's a struggle to come up with descriptions, ask someone who knows you well to nominate your strengths in this area.
What are the external things that will help you? Do you have a supportive partner or family? Are you financially secure?
Next, it’s time to look at the flip side. Can you list five personality traits or skills gaps that may possibly provide a barrier to going ahead with further education?
Are you already too busy and find yourself struggling to juggle everything? Are you lacking confidence?
Again, examine the external things that may prevent you from signing up or could make studying a challenge. Is your financial position unstable? Do your family members live too far away to provide support?
The Director of Admissions for Loyola University New Orleans, Ernesta Gerstenlauer, shares some common opportunities the RN-to-BSN program offers: “Students love the support and feedback from the professors, [who] all have experience in the field they’re teaching.”
“Students like the flexibility of the program and get excited that our faculty will come to practicums to do site visits. The support that is offered during the admissions process and afterwards with Seminole State College (SSC) after the first week of class is also a positive with students.”
For those struggling with work/life balance issues, Loyola University New Orleans allows part-time options that are tailored to individuals' specific requirements. The available programmatic options also include a less generalized course of study for those seeking a specific program or a specialization (such as pediatrics, gerontology, or neo-natal).
Ernesta says this flexibility is a hallmark of Loyola New Orleans. “Balancing school and work in the online nursing programs has been a challenge for many; the goal of students is to complete at a full-time pace, but it is not always realistic. So Loyola New Orleans allows them to pursue a part-time option that is tailored to the candidate."
Of course, further training can lead to a whole new world of career (and salary) opportunities. Investing time into an advanced degree means being degree-qualified with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, opening doors that may have been closed before.
One of the biggest threats to pursuing further education is the money factor. When deciding between programs — or deciding whether to go ahead at all — remember to also look at costs in a wider context.
Consider the value of the program, not just the cost. Does the course offer individualized attention, site visits to practicums, student support services? Have you investigated the ranking of the school compared to its competitors? Can the school provide examples of other students who have successfully found locations to complete the clinical and practicum program requirements?
Another perceived threat for many students are the questions they have around online education — especially if they haven’t completed any previous online learning. While the thought of taking online courses may be scary, speaking with an RN-BSN program representative and learning a little more information about the online format can help in determining whether that threat is real.
The courses at Loyola New Orleans are comprehensive and offer a network of staff to support engagement throughout the course. There are no requirements to log in to your courses at specific times, and a dedicated School of Nursing librarian is on hand if needed to help with assignment research.
Analyzing Your Path Forward
The great thing about a SWOT analysis is that it’s something you can come back to and reflect on at a later time.
After considering how things balance out, you may decide that now is not the right time to move forward. However, if pursuing an advanced online nursing degree is something you want to do, you’ll probably find yourself re-visiting this question again and again.