Flexible education option helps nurses advance their careers
Published August 2017
On any given day, Heidi Houska may be helping military veterans at a regional health system or traveling to provide care to residents of rural communities in North Dakota. Like many registered nurses, her schedule is jam-packed with her career, family and other responsibilities.
She has been working as a nurse for four years since earning her associate degree. She knew, however, that nursing as a career provides many opportunities and she needed additional education to take advantage of them.
“Earning my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree has been a lifelong personal goal of mine,” she said. “I was eager to advance my knowledge in nursing and strengthen my leadership skills to better serve those in need of nursing care.”
She was the first student to enroll in the part-time, online blended Registered Nurse to Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program available through North Dakota State University.
“They know nurses have busy schedules and they are motivated to provide students with the best experience possible. I chose this program because of the ability to complete school without interrupting my work schedule,” Houska said.
The NDSU online RN to BSN program is designed to transform nurses’ professional practice.
“Nursing is very complex work and nurses are consistently challenged to provide quality patient care in a rapidly changing health care environment,” said Holly Sandhurst, director of NDSU’s RN to BSN online blended program. “Courses in the program prepare nurses to adapt to these constant demands and to initiate changes that will benefit patients, families and the health care team.”
The five-semester online program through NDSU allows nurses with associate degrees the flexibility to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in a way that fits their schedules. Courses build on the knowledge that registered nurses learned in their associate degree program and their on-the-job experience.
There are also day-and-a-half on-campus immersions each fall and spring semester at NDSU. Clinical experiences can be completed in a student’s home community.
Nurses such as Heidi Houska and her online classmate, Lynelle Halling, find the program tailored to their needs. Halling balances a career as an oncology infusion nurse in Minnesota and a family of six children. She also found the NDSU program to be a way to transform her nursing career.
“If we can get everyone to try harder and change a few things in their practice for the betterment of their patients and themselves and their co-workers, I think we could really do great things,” Halling said.
What’s more, Halling found that her NDSU online program courses were useful immediately. “The Essence of Nursing course included the Nursing Code of Ethics and it was a good refresher on what is expected of a nurse. Everything I learned in this course I could directly apply to my work,” Halling said. “The coursework is very applicable to my nursing practice, which makes it exciting to learn so that I can improve my skills.”
The online program fits Halling’s busy schedule. “I’m able to juggle everything because I enjoy my work and I enjoy learning.” She also found the NDSU program provides opportunities to engage with her classmates.
“Activities we do as a class during immersion at the beginning of each semester are team building and we are able to develop a good rapport with our peers,” Halling said. “I have found it fascinating to read about each one because we have a very diverse class of nurses working in many different fields.”
Halling recognizes the importance of advancing her nursing education. “It seems that more and more institutions are looking for nurses with BSNs. Having this degree, I should be able to continue working as a nurse throughout my career,” she said.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree from 50 percent to 80 percent in the U.S. by 2020.
“The most beneficial part of this program is the experience and knowledge gained,” Houska said. “I see myself seeking opportunities to improve the practice of nursing and to be a leader,” she said.
Houska found the NDSU online blended RN to BSN program to be tailored to the needs of full-time professionals who want to advance their careers.
“You will not regret it. It is easier than you think,” Houska said.