- An accelerated nursing program can pivot a non-nursing graduate to a nursing degree in a shorter timeframe than a traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.
- The ongoing and deepening nurse shortage drives the need for accelerated nursing programs.
- Currently, there are over 400 accelerated nursing programs nationwide.
Accelerated nursing programs, also known as second-degree nursing programs, are trending in nursing education. The accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) is the most popular.
In 2022, an American Association of Colleges of Nurses survey found that 28,580 students were enrolled in ABSN programs. Nationally, 321 baccalaureate and 89 accelerated entry-level master’s programs exist, with more in the works.
These programs are gaining momentum in response to the ongoing nursing shortage. After earning their degree in an accelerated program, students can become entry-level nurses and enter the workforce more quickly.
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 100,000 nurses have left the field since 2020. One-fifth of all nurses — approximately 900,000 professionals — are projected to leave by 2027.
Nursing schools and students are looking at various ways to expedite nurse training to help fill these massive workforce gaps. Accelerated nursing education is one key solution.
What Is An Accelerated Nursing Program?
For those looking to enter or advance in the nursing field, the nursing shortage opens up opportunities that accelerated programs can help address quickly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a faster-than-average 6% employment growth for registered nurses (RNs) between 2022 and 2033. Graduates can expect to find multiple open RN jobs for consideration with the marked amount of nurses leaving the profession.
An accelerated nursing program is a shorter, faster-paced version of a traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. The outcomes for both ABSNs and BSNs are the same. ABSN students with non-nursing disciplines build on their previous education toward a bachelor’s degree.
Many institutions advertise ABSN program lengths of anywhere from 11-18 months. Most programs have prerequisites that students must meet before enrollment, so the status of that groundwork can lengthen an individual’s graduation timeline.
The application process may be more rigorous for an accelerated program than a traditional one. Why? Because the school must be confident that accelerated students can handle the intensified pace and workload.
Program costs vary by institution, as do other factors like the number of credits and the criteria needed for graduation.
Further, while some institutions offer financial aid, others do not or only offer partial support. This insufficiency can cause problems for students, especially those advised or prohibited from working during their courses. Some schools partner with nearby health organizations to reduce student costs and provide a place of employment after graduation.
Accelerated Nursing: Is It Right For Me?
There are many factors to consider before diving into such a rigorous commitment. Some points may be pros for one, but cons for another. Either way, future students benefit from researching and addressing them all.
Some essential points to consider include:
- Accelerated nursing programs are intense and fast-paced, with tighter deadlines
- They have high admission standards
- Courses and clinicals may be up to five days per week
- The entire program length typically occurs without substantial breaks
- Some schools don’t allow students to work during the program
- What are the prerequisites, and how long do they take to complete
- The overall cost of the degree
- Financial aid availability
- Minimum GPA requirements
- Clinical availability and locations
- The length of the program
- The number of transferable credits
- The number of credits
Do Accelerated Programs Adequately Prepare Nurses for the Challenges Ahead?
In many ways, nursing is a standardized field. All graduates must meet specific criteria and objectives. They must also be well prepared to sit for and pass the NCLEX board exam.
NewsNationNow.com recently reported on Oklahoma City University’s new accelerated BSN program. The university’s program cuts completion time in half compared to a traditional program. While the shortened time can quickly bring additional working nurses into the field, News Nation said critics believe these nurses will not be well prepared for safe practice in such a short time.
“The curriculum is exactly the same,” said Gina Crawford, dean of the OCU Kramer School of Nursing. “The course requirements, the number of credit hours, they have to demonstrate the same competencies.”
Whether students earn a BSN through a traditional or accelerated route, employers and hiring nurse managers may see dual-degree nurses from a positive perspective. RNs with a degree in another field may greatly enhance their nursing profession and bring more value to an organization. They may be more able to demonstrate additional skills and be capable of learning their jobs more quickly.
The Nation’s Top Accelerated Nursing Programs
Healthcare institutions increasingly emphasize and sometimes require RNs to have a minimum of a BSN degree. Following suit, the most popular and widely available accelerated programs are for BSNs.
Many on-campus and online options are available. However, as with any other nurse training program, students conduct clinical rotations in person to learn the necessary skills.
The NurseJournal Rankings Team compiled a list of the best online ABSN programs. We evaluated several factors, including the average tuition, retention rate, admission rate, required credits, and students enrolled.
The Top 10 ABSN Programs
- University of Central Florida
- University of Wisconsin- Madison
- University of North Florida
- Allen College
- Saint Louis University
- Oklahoma State University
- The University of Tennessee- Knoxville
- Western Carolina University
- Georgia Southern University
- Midway University
Taking on an accelerated nursing program is a substantial commitment. If you decide it is the right path, many resources are available to help you begin your journey.