How Long Does it Take to Earn an Accelerated Nursing Degree?

While not a new concept, the accelerated nursing degree is getting a great deal of attention these days and with very good reasons. Between the advent of the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 and the aging baby boomer population, the current nursing shortage is only going to expand. This, in addition to the projected 32 million Americans expected to be accessing healthcare services sooner than the system in place is prepared to respond, the national call to increase baccalaureate-prepared nurses is paramount. It is no small wonder that nursing schools nationwide are exploring more expedient methods to increase capacity and attract non-nursing graduates.

Who is a Candidate for an Accelerated Nursing Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and reported by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing is projected to be the top growth field, with demand increasing 26 percent through 2020. Geared toward professionals who have already achieved their bachelor’s degree, the accelerated program is attracting the interest of second-degree students as a natural progression in their higher education. When you think about it, these programs present an ideal solution to career transition where the job market continues to be impacted by a changing economy. Further, the recruitment effort will remain strong within this currently thriving field. Prime candidates for an accelerated program include individuals who my have always wanted to become a nurse or those facing career changes from burnout, layoffs or difficulty finding placement in the chosen field of their first degree.

What Constitutes a Fast Track?

Largely, the fast-track approach to accelerated baccalaureate programs is intended for non-nursing graduates who already possess a bachelor’s degree. By building on this established platform of success from the senior college or university experience, previous studies of programs have proved successful at attracting, training and placing licensed registered nurses in positions in acute care hospitals and direct caregiver roles for 10 years and beyond.

The prerequisite of already having a degree is instrumental in the intense delivery of instruction in the accelerated programs. Designed to compress the clinical and didactic course work with no breaks between sessions, these nursing programs can be accomplished in as few as 11-15 months. Much of the didactic course work may be accomplished online. However, the clinical rotation requires the same amount of hours as devoted by students following a traditional path. This can be accomplished through collaborative unit-based partnering working the same shift as staff nurses during the clinical phase. The master’s degree program under the fast-track generally takes as many as three years to accomplish.

The Facts Bear Out

Reviewing the results of accelerated programs reveals students actually perform better academically than their traditional counterparts. In fact, standardized tests, such as the National League for Nursing Baccalaureate Achievement Test and the HESI Exit Exam, show students perform at a statistically higher level with higher pass rates. Further, most hospitals and health care facilities prefer hiring graduates of the accelerated nursing degree programs for their higher level of competency. In the overall, they demonstrate the ability to perform well among peer level groups, which means more flexibility to be assigned and work in any environment.

As with many situations that stem the tide, there are always great opportunities contained in what may otherwise appear as disaster. This is a prime time for those who can step up to make history, to contribute to the needs of the many and to respond to a great calling for our nation’s success and survival.