By Lisa Parker
If you are interested in obtaining a degree in nursing, you could not have picked a better time. Nurses are in great demand today, and with people living longer, that demand is likely to increase in the coming years. Nursing school programs can be characterized by the type of degree they offer, and although there are actually 5 degree types that one can obtain as a nurse, the more popular degrees are the Associate's and the bachelor's. However, if you are interested in newer professions such as forensic nursing, there are also certificate programs. Maybe you are considering legal consultation or teaching and you may even decide to get your master's degree. The other defining characteristic is whether you are in an online or distance learning program, or taking courses at a traditional college or university.The Associate's degree programs focus predominately on teaching students what is needed to prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills of a professional nurse. Their education typically has four major components, which consist of evaluation of care, health teaching, wellness and prevention, and the administration of treatments and medications. The evaluation component includes observation, nursing diagnosis, assessment, and intervention. The main focus of the Associate's degree is for their student to achieve employment either while in school or directly after graduation. Although it is not a requirement, most nursing programs for a bachelor's degree operate from the assumption that most of their students are registered nurses and/or they have already obtained their Associate's degree in nursing. The focus of these programs is to prepare students for a higher position, such as a supervisory role, or to enter into a master's degree program. These programs usually revolve around the cultural, political, economic and social issues that can affect patients and the health care industry in general. There is also a focus on understanding the allocation and management of resources, which includes but is not limited to, people, money, and time. The most common variations of the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing or a student's route to this degree include going from an RN to a bachelor's degree. Other variations include the accelerated bachelor's program, LPN to a bachelor's, the traditional 4-year bachelor's, the online RN – bachelor's degree, and the second-degree bachelor's program. The master's degree program revolves around the type of career you want, as you can get a master's degree that focuses on a more specific nursing path such as, Nursing, Nurse Education, Midwifery, Administration, and Health Care Systems Management. If your focus revolves around Nursing, Nursing Education, Midwifery, or any other similar specialty, your training should focus more on the actual health and expanding upon the knowledge received in your previous educational programs. If you have decided on receiving a masters degree with a focus on Leadership in Healthcare Systems, Nursing Administration, Health Care Systems Management, or any other similar specialty, your program should focus on management, leadership, finance, managed care strategies, workforce management, and other courses designed to prepare students for obtaining leadership positions in their chosen health care organization.
It is important to note that in the field of nursing many programs often offer certificates as well as degree programs. The certificate programs are more specialized than degree programs and there are certificates that can be obtained before you receive a bachelor's degree or after you gain your master's degree. Some of the certificate programs that are pre-master's degree include case management and geriatric care management. A few certificates for those with a master's degree include legal nurse consulting and life care planning. Most online schools and traditional colleges and universities also offer more specialized programs like the Nurse Practitioner program and Clinical Nursing Specialist programs. As other nursing careers and specialties gain popularity, you should begin seeing more degree and/or certificate programs available in the field of Nursing. Unlike online programs, colleges and universities can boast a combination of classroom training, lab work, and on the job experience as a part of their programs. Although this has been the greatest advantage of traditional schooling, some online programs are starting to catch up, especially the distance learning programs. One of the greatest selling points of distance learning offered by traditional colleges and/or universities is the ability to graduate or "walk" with their traditional program peers. Yet, the main draw of complete online programs is the ability to gain a degree on your own time that works with your schedule while allowing you to work a full time job. Take your time and financial situation into account before settling in on a program. Regardless of the certificate or degree program that you choose, be sure that you pick a program that is good for you. There are many options available in the field of nursing and this information can help you find the correct path to the degree that you are seeking.
Lisa Parker is a freelance writer who writes about topics pertaining to nurses and the nursing profession including nursing school and nursing accessories.
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