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Bachelors Degree Requirements May Change Nursing School Rules

Many working nurses might have to obtain bachelor degrees, and online nursing school offerings could very well be their means of attaining them. Requirements seem to be in the process of changing.

Some 18 states are considering laws requiring that nurses enroll in Bachelor of Science in nursing degree programs within 10 years of obtaining an associate degree, according to a February Inside Higher Education article. A recently released Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching report contends that all working nurses should hold a bachelor degree.

A nurse shortage has been reported for years. Now, rising numbers of students at all ages are showing interest in the field. The percentage of college freshmen planning to pursue a nursing degree increased from 1.7 percent in 1988 to 4.5 percent in 2008, according to a Higher Education Research Institute report cited in the Dallas Morning News. Mid-career professionals seeking job stability and an opportunity to fill the shortfall also are becoming interested in nursing, the Dallas Morning News noted. And the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in December released preliminary information showing that enrollment in entry-level nursing degree programs at the bachelor level increased for the ninth consecutive year and that enrollments in graduate nursing programs surged.

Its gotten so the demand for nursing programs at the college level is outstripping the supply and online nursing school programs are making up for a shortage of seats on traditional campuses, reports from the National League for Nursing and Dallas Morning News stated.

Colleges are moving programs in nursing online at a fast rate, the Inside Higher Education article noted. Of some 621 Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree programs overall, the number of fully online programs grew from 96 in 2007 to 129 in 2009, according to statistics cited in the Inside Higher Education article. And a 2009 Health Affairs report suggested that while the nurse shortage might end in the near future, large shortages can be anticipated as baby boomers age if educational opportunities arent expanded.

Technology has greatly changed the way nurses learn and work, and many nursing degree programs these days reportedly use videoconferencing, handheld devices and online learning strategies. Because of the greater use of technology, as well as a reported increased focus on seeing patients holistically, some health care students are tending to virtual patients. Clinical training is a requirement for nursing degree programs, and many online nursing schools accept transfer credits from students who already logged their required hours. Some online nursing degree programs come in hybrid varieties that combine in-person and Internet-based offerings. And some nursing programs, faced with clinical offering shortages, are experimenting with simulated clinical trials, according to the National League for Nursing.

Striving for higher academic standards for nurses is not new, according to a March report in the Journal of Professional Nursing. The profession since 1965 has considered requiring bachelor degrees, writer Ellen Olshansky, a Registered Nurse, reported. Optimum nursing care involves a greater need to understand and apply new technologies and put new findings into practice, Olshansky noted.

Yet the recent Carnegie Foundation report hasnt gone without controversy, particularly since some might find college tuition costs prohibitive. At least one non-profit college learned that its associate nursing degree recipients would continue toward a bachelor degree if the price was right and therefore charged a competitive $207 per credit hour, according to Inside Higher Education.