Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nursing Shortage and Distance Education Nursing Programs

Distance education nursing programs could help alleviate the nursing shortage in the US. We are currently experiencing a critical nursing shortage that is stretching healthcare to its limits. You would think we could alleviate the shortage by training more nurses, but therein lies the problem. There are plenty of qualified applicants for the available spots in nursing schools. We simply don't have enough nursing educators to teach them.

Nursing is a scientifically rigorous discipline with the added requirement of hands-on technical skills. Nursing education has a classroom component and a clinical component. Distance learning nursing programs have been available for years, but providing the clinical component of the curriculum continues to be problematic.

The minimum degree for a nursing educator is a masters in nursing (MSN). Distance learning programs that prepare existing nurses to be nurse educators could be the solution to the nursing shortage.

There is currently little incentive for BSN prepared nurse to continue their education. Graduate education in nursing is expensive and rigorous. It is very difficult for a working nurse to find the time, energy and resources for school. And he has little reason to do so; BSN prepared nurses have most of the same opportunities as MSN prepared nurses, and make about the same amount of money. Education is one of the few areas that they can't find employment in, and most nursing educators make less money than BSN prepared hospital nurses.

There are two ways that distance education nursing programs can help.

RN to MSN Programs

RN's who do not have a BSN do have limited career opportunities. It is more difficult for them to advance into management and specialty areas, and this is an incentive for them to go back to school and get a degree. RN to BSN programs make it relatively easy for working nurses to get a degree. Many are available as distance learning programs, and they are configured for working adults.

RN's who apply for those programs could be encouraged to enter RN to MSN programs instead. RN to MSN programs already exist. We could use those programs to prepare more nursing educators by making it easier to complete them and by recruiting more nurses into them. When an RN expresses interest in an RN to BSN program, perhaps he could be offered entrance into an RN to MSN program instead.

BSN to PhD Programs

There isn't a lot of incentive for MSN prepared nurses to teach. Perhaps that means that we should recruit more nurses into doctoral programs. PhD prepared nursing educators do have more opportunities and make more money than MSN prepared educators. Perhaps we should recruit BSN prepared nurses into doctoral programs instead of trying to convince them to pursue a masters degree.

Preparing more nursing educators is the only answer to the nursing shortage, and distance education nursing programs for graduate study are a viable way to do that.

Dean Iggo is the webmaster of a Online High School Courses website where you can find the best online learning programs and degrees to suit your needs including online math courses and more.

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