Overview of Accelerated Registered Nurse (RN) Programs
With the graying of baby boomers, the demand for registered nurses and other healthcare providers is escalating. For individuals looking at a career switch or going back to work after being out of the job market for an extended period, becoming a registered nurse (RN) might be an excellent choice. Accelerated RN programs are one option to obtain the required training.
The Job Outlook for Registered Nurses (RNs)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for RNs in May 2012 was $65,470 a year, or $31.48 per hour. During the same year, there were 2,711,500 registered nurses employed. The BLS projects that by 2022; there will be a need for 526,800 more RNs, a higher-than-average growth rate among U.S. occupations. RNs can work in a variety of settings: hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing care facilities, home healthcare facilities, summer camps, military settings, schools and correctional facilities.
Why Accelerated RN Programs Exist
The traditional route to becoming a registered nurse requires at least an associate’s degree. Some prospective nurses opt to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Those interested in teaching often go on to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
BSN programs have been highly competitive for years. Due to the increasing demand for RNs, nursing schools are looking for creative ways to train more students. One of the most popular is an accelerated program.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicates that an accelerated program is the fastest path to becoming licensed as an RN for individuals who have already earned a bachelor’s or a graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing. Accelerated programs are available to earn a BSN or an MSN.
Registered Nurse Program Basics
For students with a bachelor’s degree, AACN says the typical accelerated RN program lasts 12 to 18 months. Master’s degrees, also tailored to non-nursing graduates, can take up to three years. Students complete BSN work as part of their MSN program. During the first year, they take bachelor-level nursing courses. Graduate courses make up the curriculum for the last two years, according to AACN. In 2011, more than 14,000 students were enrolled in these types of programs.
Accelerated nursing programs are available in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. In 2011, nursing schools offered 235 baccalaureate programs and 63 master’s programs. AACN list accelerated programs on their website.
The basis of accelerated RN programs is accomplishing program goals quickly by building on prior learning experiences. Instruction is intense, and students receive the same number of clinic hours as those in traditional nursing programs.
Compared to entry-level nursing students, the typical accelerated student is older, is more motivated and has higher academic expectations. Most are eager to participate in clinical training. Faculty members describe them as highly competitive. AACN reports that they nearly always pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), the first time they take it.
Admission Standards for RNs
Most programs require at least a 3.0 grade point average and a detailed pre-screening progress. Nursing schools review applicants’ transcripts to determine which courses (usually liberal arts) they don’t need to take and how many prerequisite courses will be required. Students with degrees in arts or social sciences must usually complete prerequisite science courses like anatomy and microbiology. Typically, these classes are available before the start of the regular academic term.
Applicants for master’s degrees tend to have varied academic and employment backgrounds, among them are attorneys and horticulturists.
The Down Side of Accelerated Nursing Programs
Like any opportunity, accelerated nursing programs have some challenges that prospective applicants should consider, according to NurseTogether.
•They’re intense. Most baccalaureate programs take 12 to 18 months to complete. Usually, there are no breaks in between academic terms.
•The school might require prerequisites. Students with a degree that isn’t related to a science typically have to complete any prerequisites before enrolling in the RN program.
•The programs are extremely competitive. Some schools require more than a 3.0 grade point average. Lots of applicants have it.
•Money is sometimes a problem. While some employers – particularly hospitals – fund this type of training in order to have a pool of prospective employees, in general, financial aid is scarce. Due to the nature of the instruction and clinical experience requirements, going to school is a full-time effort.
Despite the high level of commitment required, accelerated RN programs remain a great option for many who want to change careers or re-enter the workforce as a nurse.