Accelerated nursing programs are intended for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in another field who wish to transition to a nursing career. Typically lasting between 11 and 18 months among the fastest NP program offerings, these programs offer rigorous nursing curricula that prepare students for nursing licensure exams and hone their knowledge and skills in various fields of nursing.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 annual median pay for nursing occupations was $77,600, with the total number of nursing-related jobs at 3,130,600. It is expected to grow by 6% in 2021-31, with an approximate change in employment of 195,400 in the same period (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2023).
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With the great demand for nurses worldwide, more universities and learning institutions have started offering Accelerated RN to NP programs and accelerated nursing programs online, and many students have started studying for these degrees. Utilizing the latest statistics and data from the most up-to-date sources, our research team at Research.com has compiled the best online accelerated nursing programs currently available in the United States.
Nursing is one of the most in-demand occupations in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, with 4 million practicing nurses, of which 3 million are registered nurses, 676,000 are licensed practical or vocational nurses, and 211,000 are nurse practitioners (Statista, 2021).
However, it is also one of the most prone to churn or leaving of professionals. Many institutions are putting in much effort to produce more nursing graduates to cover staffing shortages in hospitals and healthcare facilities.
In 2021, a report showed that nurses intending to leave their position within the next six months were at 35% of emergency department nurses, 32% of long-term care nurses, and 30% of intensive or critical care nurses. Most of the other nurse types were above 20%, with school nurses the least likely to leave at 9% (American Nurses Foundation, 2021). These figures are quite alarming, as a 20%-30% reduction in the nurse workforce will further weaken the already short-staffed institutions requiring their expertise and patient care skills.
Source: American Nurses Foundation, 2021
One attractive solution is to offer accelerated nursing programs to increase students in this field and accelerate their career path to becoming nursing professionals in a much shorter time. The proliferation of online accelerated NP programs (ANPs) attests to this, and some programs even offer completion in one or two years, such as direct entry nurse practitioner programs and online MSN to DNP programs. Many students have taken these opportunities to pursue nursing careers, although programs and the students they produce may vary widely in quality and licensure passing rates.
Nowadays, getting a degree completely online is pretty standard and, depending on the program, maybe the only way to complete it, especially if one is working or is located very far from the university.
It is no longer an issue for employers and peers whether a degree was obtained online or otherwise, even if it is online LPN programs or MBA MSN dual degree programs we are talking about, as long as the skills and competencies are met. The main proof would be passing the NCLEX licensure exam, which undoubtedly weeds out the weak ones and affirms those who are competent and skilled to become licensed nurses/RNs.
Although some accelerated nursing programs are completely online, they are the minority so far; a physical/face-to-face component must be accomplished in the clinical hours requirements of state and national accreditation boards. Students typically intern or work at healthcare facilities and get hands-on experience in handling patients, preparing their medication, and monitoring them. Online accelerated nursing students complement online studies with hands-on clinical experience, for example, in the best online nursing degree programs available today.
Employers used to be wary of purely online degrees, but the widespread acceptance of degrees regardless of program delivery mode has changed the minds of many on the validity of all degrees. For accelerated nursing programs, the most important factor is passing the NCLEX licensure exam, which proves that the student is more than capable of doing his/her job in the nursing profession.
On the practical side, employees realize that there are very few nurses per person, even in major cities, so it is not surprising that they look at more than just the online degree but at the clinical hours and experience of the potential employee, and whether or not he/she passed the licensure exam.
It may be surprising, but even the most developed countries have very low nurse densities. For example, out of 1,000 people, Germany has the most number of nurses at 12.1, followed by Australia and the U.S., both with 11.7. These are indeed very low densities and explain why nurse shortages are everywhere. Worst are China at 2.7 and India at 1.5 nurses per 1,000 people.
Source: Statista, 2020
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Generally, online degrees are recognized all over the world. Many institutions of higher learning have pushed for more program offerings online since the 2019 COVID pandemic, as evidenced by a 2018 survey showing that 61% of HR leaders believe that degrees earned online are generally equivalent in quality to those completed in face-to-face classes (Northeastern University, 2018). Acceptance has only grown much more since then. Even online medical office training has been accepted by employers.
Another important fact is that U.S. universities mostly do not specify how their degree was obtained in their diplomas and grade transcripts. They just show the degree title and graduation date. There is a caveat, though—one must ensure the degree is offered by accredited universities and programs. Beware of online scams that lead to non-recognized degrees. Check details that are crucial to nursing degree offerings, including costs, requirements, and job opportunities.
Accelerated nursing programs seek to prepare students to become registered nurses (RNs) in a shorter time than traditional nursing programs, typically in as short as two years. Consequently, accelerated nursing programs usually cover the same material as traditional nursing programs but within a shorter time frame. This is the fastest pathway to enter the nursing profession for people with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.
This is accomplished by taking advantage of the combination of all the various advantages of technology, internet connectivity, course delivery convenience, asynchronous study, video demos and lessons, instant feedback on quizzes and exercises (computer-graded), anytime, anywhere access, and many more factors. These are often unavailable to traditional face-to-face students, although many programs combine the best of both worlds in hybrid course offerings.
Accelerated degrees will hopefully help quickly fill the gaps in nursing shortages in hospitals. The 2021 U.S. hospital registered nurse vacancy was 7.5% for 62% of all hospitals, with only <25% of hospitals with a low vacancy rate of <5% (Statista, 2021). Such high percentages of RN vacancies negatively impact hospitals.
The accelerated format is good for those skilled in remembering information and learning via computers or devices online. On the other hand, the traditional format is more suitable for those who learn better using paper textbooks, require long periods of time to memorize and reflect on the material and learn best by repetition. It usually takes around four to six years in the traditional format to become an RN.
One’s choice of format depends on one’s learning style and preferences and how long one needs to study, among other factors.
Is an online degree cheaper?
Generally, online degrees tend to be cheaper as you do not need to pay any facility-related fees like on-campus classes require, and textbooks are all digital in format—paper textbooks and their shipping costs are generally more expensive. You do not need to factor in costs such as commuting to campus, dorm and campus living costs, and other costs associated with physical presence on campus.
The only exception might be when you do your required clinical work in facilities on campus or with partner institutions where you need to be physically present to examine patients and gain hands-on experience in applying what you have learned in online classes.
Another consideration is the big difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs, even if the program is delivered in a hybrid or purely online format, so plan carefully. Some programs have the same fees for both, so these may appeal to you more.
Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?
In general, online degrees are equivalent in terms of content, academic rigor, and coverage to a regular degree, though your mileage may vary. In fact, many universities do not specify the mode of program delivery in the graduation diploma and transcript of records—they just state the name of the degree without stating the mode of program delivery. This alone shows that an online degree is as good as, and equivalent to, a regular degree. What is important to ask, though, is which one will you perform better in—online or face-to-face classes? Only you can answer that.
On average, different program pathways to different nursing degrees differ in cost, with programs in BS Nursing costing $25,000, MS Nursing (direct-entry) costing $52,500, BSN and MSN (direct-entry) costing $60,000, and Accelerated RN to BSN/MSN costing $36,000. Accelerated MSN programs online might be your next step after obtaining your RN/BSN degree, or you might consider related degrees such as masters degree in public health online.
|Program pathway||Degree||Credits (approximate)||Tuition Per Credit (approximate)||Total Tuition (approximate)|
|MS Nursing (direct-entry)||Graduate||75||$700||$52,500|
|BSN and MSN (direct-entry)||BSN and MSN||100||$600||$60,000|
|Accelerated RN to BSN/MSN||BSN and MSN||60||$600||$36,000|
Some examples of universities with their BS program pathway tuition costs are shown in the following table. These are all approximate values and show both in-state and out-of-state tuition fees. It is notable that some universities do not distinguish between the two and charge only one flat rate for tuition. Some may choose to fast-track MSN programs after their RN/BSN degree.
|University||Program type||Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state)||Average Undergrad Tuition (Out-of-state)|
|Florida International University||Online + Campus||$4,721.00||$16,529.00|
|Liberty University||Online + Campus||$14,791.00||$14,791.00|
|Mississippi College||Online + Campus||$18,200.00||$18,200.00|
|Ohio State University-Main Campus||Online + Campus||$10,615.00||$32,599.00|
|Southern New Hampshire University||Online + Campus||$9,600.00||$9,600.00|
|The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||Online + Campus||$7,233.00||$17,049.00|
|University of Central Florida||Online + Campus||$4,478.00||$19,810.00|
|University of Florida-Online||Online||$3,358.00||$15,000.00|
|University of Rochester||Online + Campus||$57,188.00||$57,188.00|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||Online + Campus||$9,273.00||$37,161.00|
The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), which usually takes two years, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, and a grade point average of at least a 3.0 is a common minimum requirement. After this, one must become a registered nurse (RN) by passing a national NP board licensure or certification exam.
In the U.S. and Canada, this exam is called the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination [for] Registered Nurses). For practical nurses (PN) or vocational nurse positions, the equivalent exam is called the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination [for] Practical Nurses). It should be noted that licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and licensed practical nurse (LPN) are identical professions.
Both exams measure one’s ability to practice nursing, which includes the knowledge and expertise of the essential skills required to enter the nursing field. They are administered as computer adaptive tests, and since their degree of difficulty adapts to one’s answers, one must prepare thoroughly for these exams. Take note that these exams follow a fixed schedule and cannot be taken just anytime, so check the best schedule for your exam.
Other options are to continue with a nurse practitioner graduate master’s or doctoral nursing program, which enable one to be both a practitioner and to apply for higher-level jobs like managerial or administrative positions.
In addition, one must complete separate state licensing requirements, which vary by state. For instance, some states require a criminal background check, self-reporting of misdemeanors and substance abuse, U.S. residency upon application and throughout the duration of the program, and at least one year of clinical experience. Some states may also require continuing education (CE) credits per license renewal period.
In the U.S., The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) gives nurses authorization to practice in their home state and other compact states while possessing a multi-state license. This allows for more flexibility in the location and movement of nurses, for example, during pandemics and natural disasters.
Authorization to practice interstate eliminates the long process and high cost of applying for licenses in individual states and helps promote telenursing consultations and online nursing education. It also ensures the appropriate standardization of education, testing, and licensed practice as set by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN®).
Nursing as a profession requires many technical skills, including diagnosis skills, medication skills, skills in operating medical equipment and machinery, operating room assistance skills, and various other medical and lab-related skills.
However, one important aspect that predicts whether one will be a successful nurse is relationship skills and soft skills. One must be able to exhibit empathy with patients without getting too personally attached in order to best diagnose their condition and have them cooperate in their own medical interventions. High emotional quotient (EQ) helps nurses cope with personal and professional stresses and helps them calm patients down and de-escalate tense situations.
It has been noted that the main reasons U.S. nurses are intending to quit include the following factors: work is negatively affecting their health and well-being, staffing shortages, lack of support from their employer during the pandemic, and their inability to provide quality care consistently.
Source: American Nurses Foundation, 2021
In the long term, nurses should be adept at taking care of their own mental health, which can be found in interacting with friends outside of work and spending time with family.
What are the technological requirements of students for online learning?
In general, laptops or desktop computers with a minimum of 4 GB RAM and an i3 processor or equivalent are enough for most purposes, though higher specs are more desirable. A stable and fast Internet connection is pretty standard nowadays; WiFi or 3G connections may be acceptable but would be unreliable for video and online conferencing or streaming.
Universities and healthcare facilities frequently have package deals with IT shops or computer companies that bundle operating system software with Office software to be usable out of the box. You can avail of them and discounts on other hardware devices like USB flash drives and software subscriptions.
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Overall, accelerated nursing programs are designed to produce nursing professionals in a shorter period in order to provide critical care to patients in need more quickly. This fast track to a career in nursing has been made possible by online delivery and technology enhancements to curriculum design. The courses are more condensed and shortened in duration, so the student must be able to take in lots of data, pay attention to detail, and remember all relevant information, even in the shortest online nurse practitioner program courses.
Programs may vary in terms of overall course composition, breadth, and depth of coverage balanced with degree completion time, but most programs have the following basic common core courses:
1. Anatomy and physiology: Human anatomy is the study of the structure of the human body, while physiology is the study of how the body functions—in short, A&P is the study of structure and function. Understanding anatomy and physiology allows for a deeper understanding of disease and disease processes, medical diagnosis and treatment, and how to improve patient outcomes.
2. Community health nursing: This field of nursing deals with the study of caring for patients in the community and specializes in nursing work in schools, nursing homes, public health clinics, and other community-based health settings.
3. Fundamentals of nursing: This is an introductory nursing course that covers the basic principles of patient care that include topics such as patient assessment and diagnosis, infection control, wound care, assessment of vital signs, emergency treatments, and medication calculation and administration.
4. Health assessment and diagnosis: Conducting health assessments is the first step in patent treatment. It involves conducting thorough physical examinations of patients that include their health and medication history. Identifying potential health issues is the first step in medical condition diagnosis and treatment.
5. Management in nursing: Of great importance to the overall nursing profession, it is the study of management principles applied to healthcare settings, which includes budgeting, staffing, resource management, patient, nurse, and doctor scheduling, and project management.
6. Medical-surgical nursing: Medical-surgical nursing is the study of nursing care for patients with acute and chronic medical conditions, including patients with conditions treated with surgery. It includes pre- and post-operative care, as well as patient care for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Topics include disease progression, medication, and interventions for patients with various surgical and medical diagnoses.
7. Nursing research and evidence-based practice: This field is the study of using research to guide nursing practice. Nurses should understand how studies are conducted, what their limitations are, and how to implement evidence-based interventions to improve patient outcomes.
8. Pediatrics nursing: This branch of nursing is the study of caring for infants and children, which is markedly different from treating adolescent and adult patients. Pediatric nurses are the first line of care for newborns in hospitals and clinics.
9. Pharmacology: Pharmacology is the study of drugs and their interactions with and effects on the body. Nurses must possess a solid understanding of pharmacology and pharmaceutical chemistry to safely calculate dosages and administer medications, identify, monitor, and treat drug side effects, and prevent potentially fatal adverse effects of drug interactions.
10. Psychiatric mental health nursing: Psychiatric mental health nursing is the branch of nursing that deals with caring for patients with mental health disorders, and common ones include depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, schizophrenia, and many others. Even nurses experience mental health issues. A study on the negative effects of the pandemic revealed that more than 70% experienced exhaustion and 64% had felt overwhelmed (Statista, 2020).
There is not much to worry about accreditation nowadays because the vast majority of U.S. accelerated NPs are accredited. But it is also good to check if their accreditation is nationwide in coverage or just a state accreditation, which is often both required to practice in the U.S. and Canada. This is especially true in U.S. compact states that allow you to practice in multiple states besides your home state.
Being accredited distinguishes online degrees recognized by future employers and shows that the degree meets all requirements that enable students to pass the NCLEX exams and become licensed. Even the shortest MSN program offerings have to be programatically accredited.
The most recognized U.S. accreditation bodies for degree programs in nursing are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM), and the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). Even the shortest online nurse practitioner program must be accredited by any of these bodies.
There are several state-level accreditation bodies, such as the Kansas State Board of Nursing, Maryland Board of Nursing, Missouri State Board of Nursing, the New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, Office of the Professions (Nursing Education), and the North Dakota Board of Nursing, among others, that handle program accreditation in their specific states.
As the accelerated programs are all condensed or shortened versions of traditional nursing programs, one has to be aware of how much material is not discussed or covered in online classes. This is especially true for the shortest PMHNP program offerings. Much of the student’s overall learning will have to rely on self-reading and self-review to supplement one’s knowledge and expertise.
Remember, the NCLEX licensure exams are intentionally made difficult to really test one’s readiness to practice nursing, and not how quickly one finishes the degree and regardless of whether it is the shortest online nurse practitioner program or not.
Faculty publications and achievements
As for teaching faculty, it is always good to look up their qualifications, experience, achievements, and publications. It is preferable if the program teachers are also practitioners or researchers in their fields and not just adjunct teachers who can teach but are not active practitioners. The faculty should also ideally be leading experts in their respective fields of specialization.
Make sure they are also accessible for questions and guidance. Sometimes, you may even become interested in their field, and you might even specialize in those, so their availability is a huge plus.
Clinical hours and hands-on experience
All accelerated online NP programs require actual clinical experience translated as hours in a clinic, hospital, or healthcare facility to be completed in person. The best shortest online nurse practitioner program advisers can help you with free clinical placement services within their facilities or partner institutions to save on time and cost. It is crucial to gain this kind of hands-on experience that is impossible with online-only studies. These hands-on skills will also help you when you take the licensure exam.
The State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science (BS) with a major in Nursing program. This 15-month full-time program is for BS graduates in any discipline who would like to switch to nursing, progressing from the theoretical basis for professional nursing practice to acquiring and applying the students’ knowledge and skills to professional nursing practice. Among its topics are health promotion and maintenance, clinical prevention and population health, organizational and systems leadership, approaches to safety and quality improvement, and information technology in patient care. The program prepares beginning practitioners to assume a variety of nursing roles in different healthcare settings, with the clinical experiences in hospital and clinic settings taking place primarily in Brooklyn, NY, and within a broad network of community agencies throughout the boroughs.
The Ohio State University-Main Campus offers a top-ranked RN to BSN/Path2BSN program lasting 12 to 15 months, with online options available for all general education requirements. Their course offerings include modern and practical subjects such as Foundations and Contemporary Issues for Registered Nurses, Cultural Competence in Health Care: US and Global Contexts, and Health Care Informatics. Online masters in health informatics are increasing in popularity. Their nursing elective courses include Nursing Advancement courses, Nursing in School Health Services certificate courses, and Primary Care certificate courses.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an RN-to-BSN online program known as “BSN@Home,” which is designed for working adults and is delivered 100% online, with degree completion in as little as a year and a half. A required 60 hours of the clinical component at the program terminus can be completed at a site of the student’s choice.
The University of Central Florida offers an RN to BSN degree completion program aimed at registered nurses looking to complete a bachelor’s degree. Contemporary courses include Nursing Leadership, Management and Role Transition, Nursing Research, and Health Care Issues, Policy, and Economics, among others. The program is unique in that it will provide each student with an individual personal success coach whose role is to support maintaining school-life balance from the first day of classes all through to graduation day.
Liberty University offers a 100% online RN-BSN program. Their School of Nursing programs are limited in certain states, however, so it is best to ask them about state licensure requirements. Students will learn the skills and competencies for nursing practice, critical thinking and management skills, translating foundational nursing skills into more advanced levels of nursing practice, and organizational theory practices for management roles in the healthcare system. The university is a Christian university that incorporates biblical principles in its vision and teaching.
The University of Florida offers a 100% online Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree that accepts nurses with a Florida RN license or enhanced licensure through the Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). It is one of the cheapest online programs available. It supports the Free Seat Program for veterans, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, active drilling members of the Florida National Guard, as well as nontraditional students.
As the online format continuously blurs the boundaries between physical and virtual classrooms, many technological advancements are poised to improve the overall learning experience and content for nursing candidates. Augmented reality and virtual reality are opening new doors to immersive virtual learning and healthcare simulation education environments for anatomy, clinical diagnosis, and operation of medical equipment using interactive lessons and real-time feedback.
Many apps for reviewing for licensure exams simulate the adaptive computer questions and help students prepare in both knowledge and test-taking skills. These are now being powered by AI and machine learning to identify gaps in student knowledge and comprehension and to adapt their “teaching” style to correct students’ weaknesses. Future medical devices that aid nurses in medical diagnosis and medication formulation will be a boon to productivity and result in improved patient outcomes. With nursing programs online fast evolving, including online FNP programs, all these only bode well for accelerated nurse practitioner programs.