shutterstock 1422870086Nursing programs are available across the United States as full-time, part-time, accelerated and traditional programs. Most traditional nursing programs, both ADN and BSN require full-time study. Accelerated programs require full-time study as they are accelerated and compact programs often squeezing up to 60 credit hours in 4 semesters continuously. Part-time study is available for some BSN programs and most all MSN online programs that do not require clinical hours. Weekend and evening programs are available for BSN programs and programs such as an MSN with a concentration in nursing education, forensics, leadership and management, or informatics are available part-time. Nursing school has many options and venues in which to complete your education. Depending on your living situation, goals, and resources, students may choose nursing schools that fit their specific needs.

Full time programs

Traditional BSN programs require full-time study after pre-requisites are completed. This means that once a student has been “accepted” into nursing school, most likely they will be required to take full-time courses (12 or more credit hours a semester). Exceptions can always be made, but the majority of nursing school students attend classes full-time. Here is an example degree plan for a traditional BSN nursing student:

Semester 1: Fall (15 credit hours)

  • Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Foundations of Nursing Care: Concepts
  • Foundations of Nursing Care: Clinical
  • Foundations of Nursing Care: Lab
  • Professional Role II: Member of the Healthcare Team
  • Fee elective

Semester 2: Spring (15 credit hours)

  • Care of Adults with Health Alterations I: Concepts
  • Adults with Health Alterations I: Clinical
  • Behavioral Health Nursing: Concepts
  • Behavioral Health Nursing: Clinical
  • Professional Role III: Member of the Research and Evidence-Based Practice Community
  • Clinical Reasoning and Simulation I

Semester 3: Fall (15 credit hours)

  • Care of Adults with Health Alterations II: Concepts
  • Adults with Health Alterations II: Clinical
  • Maternal, Child and Family Nursing: Concepts
  • Maternal, Child and Family Nursing: Clinical
  • Clinical Reasoning and simulation II
  • Free elective

Semester 4: Spring (15 credit hours)

  • Leadership in Nursing Practice: Concepts
  • Transition into Practice: Clinical
  • Public Health Nursing: Concepts
  • Public Health Nursing: Clinical
  • Clinical Reasoning and Simulation III
  • Free elective

Part time programs

Most nursing school programs to not outright offer part-time programs. Most traditional track programs want students to adhere to the university’s set schedule to help with outside scheduling and resources. Many Universities sign contracts with local hospitals for access during certain semesters. Students that do not stick with the program’s designated schedule may have to wait longer to get clinical access if they are not available when the rest of the students attend clinicals.

Some nursing school programs offer “weekend/evening” programs, which isn’t technically part-time, because you are still taking a full-load of courses, but the hours are such that make it more feasible for those who have to work during the week to support themselves or their families.

Most weekend programs are completed over six-semesters. This is compared to the four semesters it takes to complete traditional nursing programs. The program is designed to facilitate a career change for the more mature and experienced student. Weekend classes can be for several hours on Saturday and Sunday, and even have clinical hours on Saturday and Sunday. An example of a part-time weekend program is as follows:

Semester 1: Fall (11 credit hours):

  • Nursing Assessment Across the Life Span
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology

Semester 2: Spring (12 credit hours):

  • Introduction to Nursing Research
  • Concepts of Clinical Competencies
  • Women’s Health and Family Role Competencies

Semester 3: Summer (9 credit hours):

  • Adult Health Competencies I
  • Promoting Wellness in the Aging Family
  • Special Topics

Semester 4: Fall (12 credit hours):

  • Adult Health Competencies II
  • Child Health Competencies
  • The Nursing Experience with Groups

Semester 5: Spring (9 credit hours):

  • Mental Health Competencies
  • Community Health Competencies

Semester 6: Summer (9 credit hours):

  • The Nursing Leadership and Management Experience
  • Critical Competency Integration

As you can see, weekend/evening programs are not truly part-time status which is 6 credit hours or less.  However, these unique time offerings may be more suitable for students looking to change careers or for those who need to keep working while attending nursing school.

Accelerated nursing programs

Accelerated nursing programs are nursing programs geared towards those that have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field. Accelerated programs are usually 16-month programs that cram 4 years of nursing school into 16 months.

Accelerated programs have the same number of clinical hours as traditional programs, but the courses and clinical times are different to optimize the experiences. This allows for the completion of a BSN in a faster amount of time. Students in these programs must be hard-working and passionate and academically strong.  Accelerated programs are usually 59-62 credit hours of nursing coursework completed in 4 semesters: fall, spring, summer, and fall. Some programs begin in the summer and complete it in the order of: summer, fall, spring, summer.

This can be done since students already have a previous bachelor’s degree, thus all the needed prerequisites are completed. It allows students to begin nursing programs with only the nursing classes and clinicals needed to graduate. These programs are jam-packed with a busy schedule and studying; therefore, it is very difficult to work full-time or even part-time while attending an accelerated program. Accelerated programs are often Monday through Friday 8 to 5 type hours of classroom time and then you must add 2 to 4 hours of study time. Accelerated BSN programs are mostly offered on-campus.

Nursing school is difficult at the traditional rate, so accelerated schooling takes motivation, persistence, and dedication. There are no breaks with an accelerated program. There are over 100 choices of accelerated BSN programs throughout the United States, with New York offering the most programs. Listed are some accelerated BSN programs offered across the United States:

  • University of North Alabama
  • Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan State University
  • Fairfield University
  • George Washington University
  • University of Delaware
  • Barry University
  • Albany State University
  • Allen College
  • Idaho State University
  • Belling-Reiman College of Nursing
  • MidAmerica Nazarene University
  • Bellarmine University
  • Louisiana College
  • University of Northwestern- St. Paul
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Missouri- Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis
  • Salisbury University
  • Duke University
  • University of Oklahoma- Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Lawton
  • Belmont University
  • Texas Christian University

As you can see, there are several choices for accelerated BSN programs across the United States. Accelerated programs require a previous bachelor’s degree which differs from traditional tracks. Most accelerated BSN programs require:

  • A previous bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA
  • All science prerequisites, if not completed with first bachelor’s degree.
  • An entrance and purpose essay.
  • Entrance exams such as the “HESI”.

Previous bachelor’s degrees do not have to be medical-related as long as all science prerequisites are completed with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Often, students that need science prerequisites will attend community colleges to obtain the prerequisites in order to save money, while maintaining high quality courses.

Accelerated programs are good to attend if students are eager to complete BSN schooling in a short amount of time. These programs are often more stressful than traditional track BSN programs but can be completed with dedication and a focused mind-set.

Nursing school and working

Between studying, attending clinicals and class, it may not be possible to work full-time and attend nursing school. However, working part-time while attending nursing school is possible. It even may be beneficial to work part-time in the healthcare field while attending nursing school. Most healthcare facilities hire nursing students, and in fact, prefer nursing students over other qualified candidates. With burn out increasing, employers like to hire nursing students in order to build rapport and keep retention rates up.

Some accelerated BSN programs have students sign agreements that they will not work over so many hours a semester in order to focus on their studies. They will approve some appeals for this if the student must work, however, it is often advised against.

Traditional track BSN programs allow students to work full-time or part-time and do not have students sign work-hour agreements. Students must determine how many hours are feasible to work while still maintaining high quality schoolwork. A nursing class may only be 1 hour, but students need to factor in study time which is usually two to three times longer than the class time. So if you go to school full-time (12 hours), be expected to study a total of 24-36 extra hours. That is a full-time job!

It is up to students to determine how much they can handle as far as a work schedule. Students need to realize their limits and be able to work, study, and keep their grades up.

Overall, most nursing school programs offer full-time options for students, with some offering unique hours to cater to working students. Most students complete a traditional BSN program in 4 semesters over the Fall and Spring semesters. Accelerated nursing programs require a previous bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and complete 60 hours in four continuous semesters with no breaks in between semesters. If you are looking to get into nursing, many programs exist to meet your educational, personal, and financial needs.

Tessa Chatham

Master of Science (M.S.), Nursing Education| Aspen University

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Nursing| Texas Christian University

Bachelor of Arts (B.A), Psychology and English| The University of Texas at Arlington

November 2019

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