The national nursing shortage has rekindled an interest in the nursing profession, in both the clinical and educational arenas. Applications to nursing schools are on the increase as prospective students realize the benefits and opportunities of becoming a nurse.
Many of those who are already members of the profession are returning to school to advance their nursing knowledge. These students are licensed professionals who work full-time and have family and financial responsibilities. This leaves little time to attend school and study; they are “spare time” students. These unique students have distinct needs that differ from the traditional beginning nursing student and require a non-traditional educational approach in order to achieve their goals.
Returning to school as a working adult is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Once this path is undertaken, student and faculty must work together, although they often have different employment schedules. This can be achieved through the use of computer technology. Courses of all kinds are now offered online by numerous accredited universities, providing unparalleled opportunities for education. Offering nursing courses online for those who already possess a license seems a practical response to the nursing shortage from a profession that is known for its caring ability. In fact, many consider nursing “the caring profession.” Teaching nursing courses online can be considered an act of caring performed by nursing faculty for their students.
Online course delivery enables students to attend school while remaining employed in the nursing profession; nurses do not have to leave the bedside in order to further their education. This situation benefits the patient and community as well as the nurse.
The RN-BSN program at Oklahoma Panhandle State University is based on caring nursing theory and practice, and is designed especially for the adult Registered Nurse who works full-time. The combination of caring nursing theory displayed through the practice of online course delivery is unique; online course delivery is considered to be a caring nursing intervention.
To meet student needs, courses are delivered not only online but also asynchronously; the student can attend class anytime, anywhere. Tests are also online. Clinical practicum takes place in the student's geographic area. Students have the opportunity to advance to a Bachelor's degree in nursing while working full-time, without physically going to campus. Faculty respond to homework within 24 – 48 hours, another demonstration of caring for the student.
Students say they find online courses more social than onground courses because interaction with classmates and faculty require more class participation. The focus is on learning rather than teaching.
Students have expressed a great degree of satisfaction with the program and method of course delivery. Students come from Oklahoma and the neighboring states, as well as Wyoming, Kentucky, Vermont, Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Traveling nurses find this type of course delivery fits their schedules very well.
Our desire is to create an online caring community that fosters lifelong learning, and where nurses can meet their learning needs. Online course delivery provides the convenience and flexibility necessary for working nurses who choose to pursue a BSN degree.
Rene Johnson is the Director of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program in Goodwell, OK. She holds a PhD in nursing from the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her nursing experience includes critical care, public health, correctional health care, home health, and psychiatric nursing.