The accelerated nursing degree program, sometimes called the second degree BSN, is a compressed 12 to 18 month course of study specially designed for those who already have a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field. A set of prerequisites are required which parallel the first two years of a nursing program; the applicant’s undergraduate courses may satisfy many or all of these prerequisites. The content of the last two years of a regular nursing program is given in accelerated form in an intense, full-time format.
Coursework includes anatomy and physiology, nursing theory and practice, pharmacology, technology in nursing, ethics, and research. Some programs add courses and practice in critical thinking, communication skills and leadership to prepare future nurses for the broadening responsibilities of the professional nurse called for in current health care reforms. Clinical experience is provided in a variety of settings with different patient groups. Upon completing an accredited program, the graduate qualifies for taking the licensing NCLEX examination to become a registered nurse.
For the college graduate who seeks a field with an excellent job outlook which builds on past learning and experiences and which offers a variety of specializations, the accelerated nursing degree program is an attractive choice.
How To Find The Top Accelerated Nursing Degree Programs
How would the nurse aspirant find the best accelerated nursing degree programs among the 246 listed in 2012 by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing? There is no ranking of such programs, but the U.S. News and World Report publishes each year a ranking of the top graduate nursing programs in the nation, together with separate rankings for six graduate nursing specialties. These nursing schools would presumably have excellent facilities and faculty for the BSN program. State boards of nursing generally publish the number of graduates and NCLEX pass rate each year for every nursing school in the state. This will give an idea of the quality of the programs.
In identifying the best program for oneself, the aspirant would look at the cost and availability of financial aid, length of program, percent graduating from the program, and the number of graduates placed in jobs. Another consideration is the availability of different nursing specialties at the master’s and doctoral levels. A careful examination of the course schedule would give an idea of where the school places an emphasis in nursing preparation. Finally, a visit to the school to view the classes and laboratories will give a sense of the quality of instruction, and talking with students will help gauge the strengths and weaknesses of that program.
An example of an excellent accelerated program is the University of Pennsylvania BSN Second Degree program. Penn was ranked second in the U.S. News and World Report 2011 rankings of graduate schools of nursing, and was the only school placing among the top five in the six graduate specialties. The school has a reputation of a top notch faculty and selects applicants that represent a diversity in cultural and educational background. Another school to note is Baldwin Wallace University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This school’s “concept-based learning” approach features an integrated set of courses that build upon the learnings and experiences from prior courses to a higher level of understanding and application in multiple clinical settings. One of the best online accelerated nursing degree programs is the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Accelerated Nursing Option, which is a fast track program of 12 months. Cohort groups are guided by an instructor in online discussions in virtual classrooms. Three on-campus experiences provide laboratory training and clinical rotations. In addition, more clinical rotations are completed in the student’s home community.
Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online RN to BSN Programs
Careers and Salaries For Individuals With Accelerated Nursing Degrees
Second degree BSNs are in high demand among many employers because they are seen as bringing a broader background of education and experiences to the job. Different nursing school administrators have commented on the caliber of students in accelerated nursing degree programs, describing them as mature, motivated, focused, fast learners, and hard-working. Combining this with the projected job growth of 26% between 2010 and 2020 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the expected shortage of Bachelor’s level nurses leads to the conclusion that graduates of this program have every prospect of future jobs of their choice.
Job growth rates are highest for offices of physicians, home health care services, and outpatient care centers. Although hospitals hire the largest number of nurses, the job growth rate will be lower because patients are being discharged earlier and more services are being provided in outpatient care centers or physicians’ offices.
Accelerated nursing degree careers can be directed to a number of specialties: gastroenterology, geriatric, home health, gynecology, long-term care facility, orthopedic, pediatric, to name a few. Apart from direct patient care, registered nurses also work in business settings such as insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and managed care facilities. Excellent performance on jobs will lead to opportunities in administration.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2011 wage reports, accelerated nursing degree salaries can be expected to match the median annual salary of $64,950 for registered nurses. The lower 10% earned $44,970, and the top 10% earned $96,630. Industry comparisons showed nurses in physicians’ offices with the highest median annual salary of $72,890, followed by outpatient care centers, $72,220; general medical and surgical hospitals, $69,810; home health care services, $65,120; and nursing care facilities, $60,830.
Given this favorable outlook, becoming a registered nurse through an accelerated nursing degree program is a positive step which will open opportunities for learning, growth and leadership, and enable one to make a difference in people’s lives.