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Consider These Six Factors When Choosing a BSN Completion Program

Directions for Choosing a BSN Completion Program

I work with a lot of associate degree nurses on a daily basis in the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program. As you may expect, many of them are looking at going back to school for their BSN or even a higher degree. This is necessary not only to reach our goal of getting 80% of our nurses to a BSN but more importantly for the reason that goal was made in the first place…patient safety. The number one question I get from nurses in the program is “What should I consider when picking a BSN completion program?”

As nurse leaders working with new graduate nurses that are coming from AD programs, it should be a top priority for you to get these new nurses thinking about and taking action towards continuing their academic education with a bachelor's degree. I get it…life is busy and there are many things that keep nurses form going back to school. We’re busy with work, life, families, kids, and other obligations. To top it off, the thought of even knowing where to start can be completely overwhelming. That is why we have put together this helpful guide for you to use when coaching your staff and helping them to decide what is right for them when it comes to choosing a BSN completion program.

There are many things to consider when deciding to go back to school. While time is usually a huge factor, your decision shouldn't just be based on the quickest route to your end goal, although as a working nurse that is often times the first thing we think about. For nurses looking into returning to school, here are six things to consider during the decision-making process.

Accreditation - You would think this is a no-brainer, but there are schools out there that are NOT accredited. Use this website to learn more about the accreditation status of those you are considering.

Rankings - There are a lot of for-profit schools that have the marketing budget to be in your face all the time. The thing is, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best program, but instead they just have a bigger budget. The funny thing is when you look at the top 5 BSN completion programs in the U.S., none of them are those that are flashing their money around with in-your-face marketing. The top five RN-to-BSN schools go like this:  1. University of Illinois (at Chicago) College of Nursing; 2. Indiana University School of Nursing; 3. Rutgers University School of Nursing; 4. University of Iowa College of Nursing; 5. Arizona State University.  What do these schools have in common? They aren't highly marketed schools that are running commercials on prime-time television. Interested in learning more about the top ranking schools?  Check out the 50 Best Online RN to BSN Programs

Tuition - Prices vary dramatically and surprisingly some of those heavily advertised ALL-online schools might actually cost a lot more money than those closer to home. Take some time to really explore the cost of tuition and what it will cost you to get your degree. Do you need to take out-of-state tuition cost into consideration? Some may be surprised to find out Colleges such as the University of Iowa College of Nursing does not charge out-of-state tuition for the RN-BSN program. Everyone pays the same, regardless of where you live. Also, find out if there are opportunities for scholarships or awards. We don't always think of that when we are going back for an advanced degree, but they do exist!

General Education Requirements - BSN and graduate schools will require some 'gen eds'. Be sure to ask what those are for you - and have your transcript reviewed. 3+1 agreements are a fairly new and innovative way to work towards your bachelor's degree while you are working to complete your general education requirements. For those reading this from within the state of Iowa, colleges such as the University of Iowa College of Nursing have 3+1 agreements with several associate degree programs across the state.

Length of Program - Time is important. Whether that is the time you have to give to the program or the time it takes to complete the requirements. Learn more about the plans of study and what you can expect for a time commitment.

Clinical Requirements - Most schools should and do require some sort of clinical or practicum time. One thing you don't always consider is whether they find the placement for you or if you must do it yourself. Do your homework and find out. A quality nursing school will do this for you. Are you looking for an extra special experience for your practicum? Some offer study abroad opportunities as clinical hours. For example, University of Iowa RN-BSN students have the opportunity to complete their 'practicum hours' through an immersion in eSwatini, Africa. This is a great opportunity for both in-state and out-of-state students to complete their BSN at the University of Iowa.  

Now, this might not be an all-inclusive list, but it will get you started. Once you narrow it down to a few, the final step is to compare. Use this website to do a side-by-side comparison on the things that are important to you.  

It is also important to note that associate degree nurses that have been through a nurse residency program have the opportunity to receive elective academic credit towards a bachelor's degree by completing our Nurse Residency Role Transition Seminar.  This first-of-its-kind online course allows the student to reflect on the experience of their first year and the role their transition-to-practice program made in their growth and development. New graduates that have completed the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program or any other CCNE-accredited program can participate in this exciting opportunity. Click here to learn more. 

Interested in the #4 RN-BSN program in the nation that is entirely online with no out-of-state tuition? It might even be in your own backyard.  Visit our website and get your transcript reviewed.

Nicole Weathers
Program Manager, IONRP

Posted On: 
Feb 18th, 2019