In order to advance in their careers, nursing professionals must find balance between gaining professional experience and pursuing education to progress their current knowledge and clinical skill set. Yet, there are many factors that must be weighed before someone can make the choice to go back to school. Prospective nursing students can decide when it is the right time to further their education by considering the following aspects of entering into higher education programs.
Goal Setting is Important
Without a specific goal in mind, nursing professionals may find it hard to concentrate on both their career and attending school. Therefore, before enrolling in an advanced education program, nursing professionals must set a trajectory for what they hope to achieve in the nursing field.
Within this career trajectory, nurses should outline milestones for where they would like their career to be in five, ten, fifteen, and even twenty years. Such milestones could include goals like becoming qualified to specialize in a particular area of advanced nursing practice or being hired for a specific job. With this defined, prospective students can then set goals that will help motivate them to stay focused on advancing their education. 
Progress Takes Time
Pursuing an advanced nursing degree will inevitably take an extensive amount of time and commitment. Even online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, which are more flexible than traditional classroom-based courses, require a time commitment in order to maintain success. For this reason, nursing professionals must evaluate how the current circumstances of their life will allow them adequate time to complete their studies.
Although the perceived inability to commit to advanced nursing education due to a job or family is very likely to influence prospective students to delay their studies, realistically, these factors are not always strong reasons to put career advancement on hold. Most online DNP courses offer students the option to work at their own pace, allowing them to build a schedule that functions best for them.
Online Education vs Traditional Education
A nurse looking to transition beyond their baccalaureate education into a doctoral nursing degree is likely to already have begun a career in the nursing field. Therefore, the platform they select to further their education becomes even more important; since traditional and online education programs both offer the same knowledge, but distinctly different experiences.
The students of traditional classes are given more face-to-face collaboration with their peers, potentially allowing for more beneficial social interactions. Yet within online courses, students become more accustomed to being able to converse freely using online text or video-chat tools. Which option is best depends on the student’s personal preference, as in terms of communication and social interactions with other students, neither a traditional nor online course is inherently better.
Another aspect of comparing traditional and online education platforms is understanding how either option will allow the student to engage with their instructors. Being able to ask an instructor questions is an important part of the educational process. In traditional settings, the instructor may not be as accessible as in online courses due to their obligations to be physically present for classes. Conversely, online BSN to DNP programs strongly encourage students to reach out to their instructors online via email or video chat, and because the teacher is not confined to a strict class schedule, responses are generally much quicker.
Flexibility & Control
The case is somewhat different when considering the flexibility and control offered in online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs as opposed to traditional courses. Before making their choice, nurses should consider whether they would prefer having twenty-four seven access to course materials, without any strict class schedule, or if they would be better served by being required to attend actual classes. 
A student who lacks discipline will likely be unable to keep up with an online course, since having the freedom to review lectures and assignments at their leisure may lead to procrastination. So when deciding whether to take a BSN to DNP program online or in the classroom, nursing professionals must assess whether or not they can hold themselves accountable or if they need the additional external motivation offered by traditional learning settings.
Online Learning Is Making Career Advancement More Accessible to Busy Nurses
Nursing has always been known as a highly demanding profession, but as the U.S. patient population continues to grow, the need for more qualified nurses to enter the workforce will continue to grow as well. As a new generation of less experienced nurses enter the field, skilled nurses with an advanced understanding of nurse leadership and clinical practice will be needed to step in and guide them. For nursing professionals who already have careers or families that they must balance with furthering their education, online DNP programs represent an accessible route to obtaining these nursing leadership roles.
For nursing professionals who already hold their Bachelor of Science in Nursing, now is the time to examine their options and work toward furthering their education into a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Following completion of an online BSN to DNP program, a nurse will have obtained a new perspective of the nursing profession, allowing them to channel the knowledge they have gained into achieving success in advanced nursing practice.
Health care is seeing an industry-wide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, the Regis College’s BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice online program can prepare you for advanced nursing practice.