It’s Hard Out there for a Nurse (who wants a degree)

There are online degree programs covering just about every subject you can imagine, from a liberal arts degree to (believe it or not) an online degree in massage therapy. However a large percentage fall into a few popular categories. There are hundreds of MBA programs as well as hundreds in psychology, graduate education, IT and healthcare. Near the top of the list is a bachelor’s in nursing, most commonly an RN to BSN degree. If you work in the HR department of a hospital, you’re acutely aware of the difficulties in hiring and retaining great nurses. Sometimes it’s due to massive competition, for example there are over 50 hospitals, doctors’ offices, stand-along emergency rooms and urgent care facilities within 5 miles of my house! Other times it’s a scarcity of supply in the area, but no matter how rural your location you still need somewhere to go to find a nurse and doctor. A BSN degree is a great way for a nurse to climb the professional ladder, and smart health care leaders are helping nurses to get a degree. Nurses want it, health care providers want them to have it, and patients can ultimately get more effective and efficient health care when they get it. As a result of that demand there are around 600 different online bachelor’s degree programs to choose from. So why is it such a hassle to find the right BSN program? Even checking rankings of NCLEX scores (the test required for licensure) doesn’t provide much clarity as nearly 93% of Baccalaureate Degree candidates passed the exam in Q1 of this year. To show just how complicated it can be for a working nurse to find an online BSN program using real research, let’s take a real-life example of one of our clients. She’s an RN with an Associates degree and needs the remaining credits for a BSN. She initially filled out an information form on the website of a for-profit school with strong expertise in Nursing. Not surprisingly the school was very “persistent” in their frequency of contact with her and promised to make the enrollment process very simple. She was about to enroll, but also (smartly) needed a wider opinion, so her hospital provider her a concierge. After our interview we curated an initial list of a few dozen RN programs, filtering further to the 20 that best matched her profile. While this meant a lot of great options, it’s also when things started to get complex. RN to BSN is a degree completion program, but unlike in other disciplines, the “completion” portion varies widely from school to school. Each school’s BSN curriculum is based primarily on the required upper division nursing courses. Within the original list we presented, there were 9 different course counts representing 14 different credit hour totals. A few examples: …..and everything in between! Outside of the upper division nursing courses each program had different ways of obtaining the remaining credits to complete the 120 credit-hour Bachelor’s degree. A couple of programs taught 33 credits of upper division nursing and gave students 87 advanced standing (or “block”) credit based on their prior degree and nursing license. The others were much more complex. Each program had different requirements to obtain the remaining credits including varying gen ed requirements courses and nursing undergrad courses. On top of that each school had different levels of advanced standing credit, with values for nursing licenses and nursing Associate’s ranging from 36 credits to up to 70 or more.Additionally, a few charged for rewarding the advanced standing credits (most were free). And we haven’t even gotten to the coursework itself, which varied not only in count, type and elective choices. In addition there was a clinical component within most programs. The clinical could be made up of 1 to 3 courses, with content ranging from a research paper to a fully interactive clinical experience. However, at least one program had NO clinical requirement at all. Finally there’s the cost and convenience factor. After receiving her short list, interviewing each school and creating the degree plan, we presented the path to the lowest cost and shortest time to each degree based on a combination of transfer, CLEP and community college credits. The result? A short list with potential savings of up $10,000 (nearly 60% less) vs her original choice. More importantly she could compare and contrast lower cost degrees with more streamlined options. For some nurses it may be worth spending more to just focus on nursing courses and not worry about gen eds like US History since 1865 or American Literature. This long saga is why adult working professionals can end up wasting time and money on a degree. Rather than deal with the hassle of figuring it all out many end up taking the option that seems simple. The fact is that they don’t know what they don’t know and they don’t have the time to find out. This client was about to waste up to $10,000 because of an impressive sales and marketing process. This is all too common not just for nurses but for professionals in business, education, health and dozens of other subjects taught online. HR professionals may find that providing educational assistance without guidance is simply adding more fuel to a very confusing fire. The issues involved in figuring out how to best finish a degree isn’t limited to nursing. Do you have employees that are in danger of wasting time and money going back to school? ClearDegree helps with individualized, concierge service complete with detailed degree plans.