Free Online Nursing Courses

In terms of career opportunities, there’s never been a better time for aspiring nurses — nursing is easily the fastest growing occupation in the healthcare field. But while the demand for nurses continues to grow, the training and coursework required to become a nurse is only getting more stringent.

Today’s most in-demand nurses are also the most highly trained and specialized. That’s because as the costs and demands of care rise, nurses are taking on expanded roles that include many of the duties traditionally fulfilled by physicians. Nurse Practitioners, for example, can provide routine checkups, diagnose patients and write prescriptions. Specially certified nurses are also more often called upon to serve in high-level positions for administration, research, consultation or education purposes.

Nursing students should take this under consideration and carefully explore the highest-demand specializations and certifications before choosing a program. Choosing a rigorous program now will likely have major payoffs later in your nursing career in terms of what you do and do not qualify for.

Sample Courses

Regardless of the nursing education program chosen, students can expect to take extensive coursework in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences. Writing-intensive courses are also required in the four year BSN option. And since the nursing field is undergoing such dramatic transformation, more and more programs are requiring nurses to study public health administration and policy. Prospective nursing students can get a taste for the curriculum by exploring open online courses in the physical sciences or in public health.

Possible Specializations

There are over 100 nursing specialties to choose from, so students who are interested in entering this field have a lot to think about. The BLS explains nursing specializations in terms of these broad focus areas:

  • A specific health condition, such as diabetes management or cancer treatment
  • A specific part of the body, such as cardiovascular or ophthalmological care
  • A specific group of people, such as neonatal care or geriatrics
  • A specific workplace, such as in an E.R. or an I.C.U. environment

These categorizations are useful for understanding just how many subspecialties nurses can choose from. Other nursing specialties are in critical care, school, genetics, addiction, obstetrics, nephrology or rehabilitation. It is common for nurses to pick up more than one specialization while in school or to take the courses and complete licensure for an additional specialization later in life. Often, nurses will choose additional sub subspecialties that relate to their primary field. For instance, an oncology nurse who would like to work in a children’s hospital or clinic may take additional coursework in pediatric oncology, nutrition or anaesthesia.

Degree Types

Associate

An associate’s degree in nursing can help many students gain a foothold into their healthcare careers. An ADN usually takes 2-3 years to complete and will prepare the candidate to take the national licensing examination, the NCLEX-RN. Courses in Anatomy, Physiology, Biology and Nutrition will all be required. Once you’ve completed this exam and any additional specific state requirements, you’ll be able to work as an entry-level RN.

Bachelor’s

While you can become a certified RN through the ADN program, a four year degree in nursing will earn you a position with more responsibilities, higher pay and greater career mobility. Beyond the basic ADN requirements, BSN students take extensive coursework in both hard sciences, hands-on nursing and liberal arts. Clinical practice will be incorporated into your curriculum.

Master’s

Earning your MSN will put you in high demand in the field. The degree typically takes three years to complete and requires incoming nurses to hold a bachelor’s degree, an RN license, clinical experience and a minimum GPA and GRE score. Nurses who complete their master’s degree usually choose from one of four advanced areas: Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Nurse Specialist or Certified Nurse Midwife. All four of these specialist nurses work with a great amount of autonomy and are in high demand.

Doctorate

In nursing, a DNP is different from a PhD program. Spending the additional three to five years to complete a DNP will greatly advance you in your clinical career, but it will not prepare you to teach or perform research. DNPs often work in administrative positions, maintaining contact with patients by managing their own teams of nurses or, alternately, representing nurses at the executive level. If you are interested in receiving the PhD equivalent in nursing, the degree is known as the Doctor of Nursing Philosophy. It is an important degree right now, as nursing schools are experiencing a shortage of qualified nursing professors.

Ideal Candidates for Nursing

Even if you’re an ideal candidate, a nursing career is one of the most emotionally and intellectually exhaustive jobs out there — nurses frequently work long hours, manage the care of multiple patients, and remain on-call in their off hours. As mentioned, nurses are providing more and more care autonomously, without a doctor’s direction or supervision. With this increased level of autonomy, nurses need to be able to make careful and intelligent care decisions quickly.

The best nursing candidates will be dedicated to lifelong learning of new techniques in patient care, as well as highly attuned to patient needs and feelings throughout their careers. That’s because, in addition to coordinating and providing patient care, nurses also get the most contact with a patient and their families. They need to be able to empathize, communicate clearly and handle any questions. If you have a passion for direct care, medicine and counseling, you’re probably one of the ideal and rare individuals who will find the challenges of nursing fulfilling, rather than exhausting.

Career Pathways

The rising demand for specialized nursing professionals is linked to several major shifts in U.S. healthcare. These shifts include an increased focus on preventative care treatment and health education, rising rates of chronic disease among aging baby boomers, and the expanded level of healthcare access granted under the Affordable Care Act.

Now more than ever, students looking to enter this field can expect to be in high-demand once they receive their diploma. The BLS forecasts a growth in the number of new careers in this field at 19% by 2022, a figure much higher than the national growth rate of 11%.

According to the same job outlook report, the median annual wage for nurses in May 2012 was $65,470. Nurses that worked for the government earned the highest median wage at $68,540 and nurses working at the offices of physicians earned the lowest median wage of nurses nationally, at $58,420.

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Get More Out of Your Online Nursing Courses

Families may decide to use a retail-based health clinic because they believe it is convenient and less expensive, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these clinics do not provide children with the requisite level of high-quality, regular preventive healthcare.

In an updated policy statement, published Feb. 24 on the website of the journal Pediatrics, the AAP emphasizes that retail-based clinics are an inappropriate source of primary care for children because they fragment children’s healthcare and do not support the medical home.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners expressed disappointment with the AAP’s stance. Most retail clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants.

Nurse.com, Nurse.com
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Our Favorite Nursing Blogs

Nursing Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Cancer Nursing Practice

      Oncology nurses and students will find a wealth of information in CNP, which covers research, events, and patient stories relating to cancer treatment.

    • Evidence-Based Nursing

      This quarterly journal publishes academic research on innovative techniques, treatments, and financial considerations that impact the field of nursing.

    • Nurse Researcher

      This international journal is released six times a year, highlighting new nursing events, education, work procedures, and technology.

    • Pediatric Nursing

      Like Nurse Researcher, this periodical is also published six times a year, highlighting developments in the medical treatment of children. Readers can access articles dating back to 2006 online.

    • The American Journal of Maternal/ Child Nursing

      MNC highlights clinical research and developments in infant care, pediatrics, and family health. This is a hybrid open access publication, with some authors making their articles available for free.

  • Trade Magazines

    • ADVANCE for Nurses

      ADVANCE publishes digital magazines for several types of healthcare professionals. Their nursing issues focus on current work challenges, career opportunities ...

    • Johns Hopkins Nursing

      This leading medical school highlights student achievements, clinical education techniques, and experience stories from health care professionals around the ...

    • Nurse.com

      Media giant Gannett publishes this print magazine for RNs, featuring career openings, new work techniques, and continuing education articles.

    • Scrubs Magazine

      This is an extremely well-rounded magazine, focusing on the serious and fun aspects of the field. Students and professionals can find education resources ...

Nursing Grants & Scholarships

Nursing Internships

  • California State Chico's Dietetic Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    Chico's dietetic internship for students enrolled in a master’s level program. The full-time dietetic program takes approximately 32 weeks.

  • Children's National Health System Residency Program

    Deadline:

    This paid residency internship is hosted in Washington D.C. and offered bi-annually for new pediatric RNs.

  • Clinical Assistance Program

    Deadline:

    This 3-month oncology experience in New York is tailored for bachelor's of nursing students who want to immerse themselves in clinical practice.

  • Emergency Department Internship

    Deadline:

    Interns who register with PeaceHealth get involved with a unique 26-week emergency nursing program, which includes a blend of classroom-based and clinical training.

  • Mayo Clinic Summer III Nursing

    Deadline:

    This 10 week experiential learning program gives junior-level students the opportunity to work at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

  • NYU Summer Research

    Deadline:

    Nursing and dental students get an opportunity to test drive research-focused careers in this 8-week program, which covers topics like lab safety, animal testing, and research ethics.

  • PeaceHealth Critical Care Internship

    Deadline:

    This is a 13-week Portland-based internship hosted three times a year that emphasizes a critical care role through hospital and class work.

  • Science Internship Program for Nursing

    Deadline:

    This unique 9-week paid internship is designed to give high school graduates an up-close look at the field of nursing before college.

  • Substance Abuse Research, Education, and Training (SARET)

    Deadline:

    This advanced 8-week program is designed for graduate-level nursing students who want to gain further practice with medical research on drug, alcohol, and tobacco use.

  • UPMC Summer Student Nurse Internship

    Deadline:

    The University of Pittsburgh is giving nursing students a chance to have a supervised clinical experience at a UPMC hospital of their choice during this 10-week paid program.

  • Urban Health Care Program

    Deadline:

    This 3-week paid internship program based in Manhattan can help nursing students prepare to work with patients in a high-density urban environment.

Nursing Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • Chi Eta Phi Sorority

      This 8,000-member organization caters to undergraduate and graduate nursing students across 26 different U.S. states with exclusive publications and ...

    • National Student Nurses Association

      There are over 60,000 members in this student and research mentor network, which offers exclusive access to nursing publications, job boards, and educational ...

    • Sigma Theta Tau

      This international honors society was founded in 1922, providing nursing students with scholarships, grants, networking events, specialized nursing courses ...

  • Professional Organizations

    • American Association of Critical Care Nurses

      The AACCN provides members with access to clinical practice standards, nursing certification classes, and continued professional education regarding critical care.

    • American College of Nurse Midwives

      ACNM is an accreditation agency and leading news resource for certified midwife programs and professionals.

    • American Nurses Association

      This agency issues continuing education credentials for nurses who wish to build their skills in specializations such as cardiac-vascular, medical-surgical, and pediatric nursing.

    • American Psychiatric Nurses Association

      This professional group was designed to provide career and educational resources to nurses working within the specialization of psychiatric mental health.

    • Emergency Nurses Association

      This international organization is dedicated to continued professional training, employee recognition, and breaking news in the field of emergency health care.

    • National League for Nursing

      This group is dedicated to the field of nurse education, providing RN faculty members with up-to-date academic news, teaching credentials, and research grants.