Summary: Nursing school does prepare you for your career and the real world, if you find the right nursing school. Programs that offer experiential learning as a focus can help make sure you’re ready for your career, and in 2021, make sure your curriculum covers COVID-19 training.
When looking at new career prospects, you may have decided that nursing is a valuable career path in-tune with your ambitions and personality. However, you might have questions you’d like to address before committing to the time and work it takes to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree: Does nursing school prepare you for the real world? Is it possible to become a nurse online? Do nursing students receive the clinical learning experience necessary to feel confident in their careers?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the elements of a nursing education and how it applies to your chosen career path. You’ll learn about the outlook of a nursing career path, see how Marian University’s ABSN program develops understanding of nursing concepts and skills through experiential learning, and discover the impact of clinical placements in preparing for a career in nursing. We’ll also share how our nursing education experience has adjusted with COVID-19 training for nursing students, and hear past students share how they learned as part of the program.
Preparing for the Real World
As you begin to consider a nursing career, it’s likely that you’ll want to investigate the general employment prospects and the range of career paths present within the field. Thankfully, the outlook for those considering nursing is positive. The sector is growing, with a continually increasing need for qualified nurses to fill the healthcare gap for an aging population. Nurses also have a rich field of career paths to explore, with plenty of opportunity to find positions that are a natural fit with personality and lifestyle.
The Healthcare Gap and a Growing Career Field
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, there is now a large (and growing) segment of the population in need of increased medical services and care. Currently, supply is not meeting demand, with a shortfall of nearly 1 million nurses capable of meeting this increased need. This means that nursing is one of the most in-demand and growth-oriented career fields in the nation, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that employment of registered nurses will grow by 7 percent in the next decade alone. This growth is also driving salaries upward, and nurses are poised to access stable, high-paying jobs across the nation.
A Wide Range of Career Paths
With more than 175,000 jobs for registered nurses opening up every single year, BSN graduates will be able to find work in a growing number of settings. While hospitals remain a large source of opportunity for nurses, many graduates are also finding jobs away from traditional hospital settings. Some of the alternative opportunities you might be able to pursue as a nurse include:
- Home care, forming close personal connections to a smaller number of patients.
- Private practices, working with a close cohort of medical professionals.
- School systems, providing valuable care to children in support of their education.
- Urgent care clinics, providing emergency treatment in a separate setting.
- Travel nursing, pursuing lucrative opportunities on a more flexible schedule.
No matter which elements of nursing appeal most to you, there’ll be path available to you as long as you have the skills and education necessary to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, better known as the NCLEX, and become a registered nurse.
What You Learn in Nursing School
The approach that your nursing program takes to your education will have a significant impact on how prepared you’ll feel to take on the rigors of day-to-day tasks as a professional. An educational philosophy that is meant to address this need for preparedness is experiential learning.
Experiential learning is, simply put, an approach to education that focuses on learning by doing. According to the Institute of Experiential Learning, “The way you learn is the way you approach life in general. It is also the way you solve problems, make decisions, and meet life’s challenges. Learning occurs in any setting and continues throughout your life. The experiential learning process supports performance improvement, learning and development.”
In the context of nursing, those who have graduated with a BSN degree and passed the NCLEX to become licensed to work in the profession will be expected to slot into their new positions straight away, already equipped with the experience and confidence necessary to carry out practical procedures and tasks. The best way to become practiced in these tasks is to ensure that regular practice is part of the nursing school curriculum.
How Experiential Learning Through Marian University’s ABSN Program Works
Designed with an eye toward the future, Marian University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is a path for qualified students to apply their skills and become a registered nurse more quickly. ABSN students work through a program that is traditionally 36 months in 16 months of professional nursing study, gaining their degree as quickly as possible with less disruption to long-term plans than with a traditional multi-year nursing program.
What do you learn in nursing school? Part of what makes this program work on such an accelerated timeline is an aggressive focus on experiential learning from day one onward. In addition to a robust focus on clinical learning experience, nursing students work through a curriculum centered around practicing techniques, working with patients, and understanding the technical underpinnings of each action they carry out.
Is it Possible to Become a Nurse Online Through an ABSN Program?
Online-based learning had been a rapidly growing educational option before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now is in an even more viable option moving forward. Marian University has offered online learning as an element of our ABSN curriculum for years, as our Leighton School of Nursing believes in the flexibility necessary to allow students to learn so much within a condensed timeframe. However, it’s not possible to become a nurse solely online through our ABSN program.
We recognize that online learning offers many benefits, like the ability to complete nursing theory classes based around your schedule, but to offer you the most out of your education, we believe that a hybrid model is the best way to structure the program and shape you into a well-rounded nurse ready to succeed in the workplace from day one.
A Hybrid Learning Model
We describe our Accelerated BSN program as hybrid, because as a student, a significant portion of your degree can be completed during online coursework focused on theory, peer and instructor interaction, and dynamic elements to suit the strengths of different learning styles. You can even complete your nursing prerequisites online in advance of enrolling in the program.
However, online learning alone isn’t enough when there are so many hands-on skills that will need to be learned and applied to patients. Therefore, we pair online learning with on-site, instructor-guided practice at our three program location sites in Indianapolis, Nashville and Oklahoma City through skills and simulation labs and clinical learning experiences. Together, these elements make up the hybrid learning model we champion through our ABSN program.
Now we’ll explore the elements of our ABSN program in more detail and share how each contributes to a nursing school that prepares you for the real world.
With so many nursing techniques requiring on-site practice and experience, it’s not possible to become a nurse only studying online. But the foundation of your clinical knowledge and nursing theory will come from online learning modules offered through our e-learning management system.
Each nursing theory course you undergo is made up of a mix of elements made to cater to different learning styles. The course materials you’ll engage with are optimized so that visual, aural, tactile, and social learners can all work on elements that best help them understand and master course materials. Regular sections of nursing theory courses will include:
- Images and 3D graphics in support of text materials.
- Audio lectures able to be replayed on demand.
- Simulated and interactive activities to further develop problem-solving skills.
- Discussion opportunities with instructors and fellow students.
The online elements of our ABSN program can be completed on a flexible schedule, though deadlines and proctored on-site exams still apply. Experiential learning is the focus of our program, and with online theory classes paired with on-site elements, this nursing program will prepare you for the real world.
High Tech Skills and Simulation Labs
For those wondering how nursing school prepares you for the real world, the intensive experiential learning offered through our ABSN program’s on-site skills and simulation labs will be among the most important elements of your education. Each week, you’ll gather with your cohort and instructors at your local ABSN program site and gain hands-on experience in nursing skills and techniques you’ll need to apply daily in your career.
Our ABSN program site facilities are equipped with the most up-to-date medical equipment, complete with high-tech medical manikins able to simulate everything from routine medical procedures to high-risk trauma scenarios. “We have an awesome simulation center at Marian,” says Hannah McNabb, ABSN Class of May 2019. “It’s very real life, it looks exactly like a hospital room.”
Led by expert instructors, students work together as part of their cohort to go through techniques and procedures, then discuss what they just accomplished and examine where they can improve. As you practice working with classmates in interactive patient care strategies, you’ll gain a greater level of trust and understanding in your own skills and the skills of those around you, and be ready to apply them to real-world patients in a clinical setting.
“The purpose of simulation is really to experience those real-life situations in a safe environment,” says Hannah. “We practice blood administration in the simulation lab. We practice a newborn assessment in the simulation lab. We practice a code. We practice all those real-life things that you don’t want to see for the first time when you’re actually in the hospital.”
Clinical Learning Experience Starting First Semester
No matter which ABSN program site you’re pursuing your degree with, you’ll be set up to operate in a real-world clinical environment under expert supervision with regional healthcare leaders. Marian is a faith-based university, and our values are reflected in our philosophy of holistic care, treating the patient across mind, body, and spirit. To further this values-based education, our clinical partners are faith-based healthcare organizations that share our nursing outlook.
Right from the beginning of your experience in our ABSN program, you’ll be immersed in clinical practice, eventually completing more than 700 hours before graduating. In each clinical partner, you’ll be under the expert guidance and leadership of nurses, preceptors, and healthcare team members. Working with patients and exhibiting the values of holistic care will have you working in specialty areas including:
- Adult Health.
- Obstetrics and Pediatrics.
- Acute and Long-term Care.
- Mental and Behavioral Health.
After your experience working with real patients and exhibiting real care over the course of 16 months, it’s our hope that you’ll be ready to serve others as a registered nurse and carry forward the excellence in patient care that the Leighton School of Nursing has become known for.
On her clinical learning experience as a nursing student, Hannah reflected: “Now I feel confident walking on to the unit knowing that I know the right questions to ask… I definitely feel prepared upon graduation so I can walk onto a new unit and say, ‘OK, let’s start this day.’”
Passing our ABSN program is an achievable goal, but it will be challenging. Everything you’ll learn is compressed into a 16-month timeline, and the program will require 25-35 hours of home study each week in addition to on-site testing, skills and simulation labs, clinical rotations, and other program activities. On-site requirements will mean that if you’re not already local to Indianapolis, Nashville, or Oklahoma City, you’ll need to relocate to one of these three ABSN program sites for the duration of the program. Additionally, staying on top of responsibilities like parenting and working part-time in addition to the program without a support structure can be difficult.
All of this is not intended to discourage you, but to paint a realistic portrait of the scale of the commitment you’ll need to make over the 16 months of our nursing program. However, Marian University is committed to providing as much support as possible through our success coaches, also known as academic advisors.
Once you’ve been accepted into the program at one of our ABSN program sites, you’ll be paired with a success coach who will work one-on-one with you in order to develop strategies and set you up with resources for success. Success coaches will reach out to you and will regularly check in. If you’re ever feeling that you’re struggling, reaching out or responding to a success coach could help you succeed by:
- Connecting with academic support resources.
- Helping to develop time management balances between school and life commitments.
- Setting academic goals for the short, medium, and long-term.
- Forming new study strategies, keeping learning preferences in mind.
We understand that this 16-month commitment will be a challenge for everyone who undertakes it, but with the support structure that we’re intent on providing for every student, you’ll have the best possible chance of success.
Keeping Students Safe: Training for COVID-19
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare field has undergone drastic changes. Even with the presence of vaccines, the pandemic has opened the eyes of the industry over the need to be prepared and resilient should any new threats to global health emerge. In finding a new normal for care, COVID-19 training for nursing students is necessary to give these new professionals the skills and protocols that they’ll be using when working in healthcare settings.
On campus, ABSN students still need to attend in-person skills and simulation labs in addition to on-site proctored exams, but social distancing is enacted, and common area usage is restricted to prohibit spread of viruses. Additionally, robust sanitation protocols are in place for skills and simulation labs, both keeping these learning environments safe and teaching students the protocols they’ll need to adhere to in a clinical setting.
During clinical placements, students will learn to memorize and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols of the clinical partner paired with their ABSN program site. By learning to work within the boundaries of clinical settings, students will be fully prepared to step into professional roles. They’ll be able to learn more about:
- Visitation policies.
- Mask and personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance.
- Isolation guidelines.
After 16 months and hundreds of hours in clinical situations, Marian ABSN graduates who pass the NCLEX will be ready to enter the workforce as registered nurses and ensure COVID-19 compliance in whatever clinical environment they work within.
Students Share Their Stories
Past Marian University ABSN students have come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and their experiences learning as a part of the ABSN program while preparing to tackle a new career over an accelerated timeline have given them new perspectives on how nursing school prepares you for the real world.
From Class, to Labs, to Clinicals, to Career
“While I was studying at another university, I took an EMT course, so once I graduated, I started working as an EMT,” says Allysia Campbell, ABSN Class of August 2019. “I started working in an emergency department, and that’s when I realized that nursing is where I wanted to go.”
Allysia’s experience in working with patients had already given her a unique focus in patient care, but in pursuing her BSN degree, she was looking to take the next step in providing care as a career. Allysia was impressed by the interactivity present in both online learning and skills and simulation labs, noting that “Even though we’re all at home on our computers, we’re still together.”
Regarding the high-tech medical manikins meant for practice during skills and simulation labs, “We have those readily available here so that we can get that hands-on experience before having to go to the hospital during clinical time to practice.”
Having a firm foundation of skills “You’ve already practiced in simulation and in skills lab,” she shares.
In clinical, you’re in it. And it’s great because you really get to put forth the knowledge that you’ve learned and actually use it.
Learning Built on Doing
Kristen Walker, a 2019 Marian ABSN graduate, says she believed her experience as an ABSN student allowed her to consistently build on her skills to develop as a nurse on an accelerated timeline. “First semester, online learning prepares you for skills lab because there are videos and readings that go along with the skills that you’re learning,” she says. “As you move through the program, it’s not as much online learning as it is clinical setting learning. Getting that basis in your first semester by viewing those videos and getting your clinical lab sessions here on-site. As you progress you use those [skills] on actual patients.”
However, before her focus on clinical experience, an emphasis on learning through skills and simulation labs allowed Kristen to feel confident in her skills and practice in a controlled learning environment. As she shares when reflecting on how she felt prepared for clinical experience:
The benefit of both skills and simulation labs is that you can make mistakes and it’s not on a real patient. You can learn from those mistakes along with your cohort and discuss what could’ve gone better or differently.
Once she began her clinical placement, Kristen felt that this was where everything she’d been studying and practicing came together for the most rewarding experience. “That is where I feel like I’ve been able to shine, she reflects. “I love the patient care aspect of it. The clinical instructors at Marian are fantastic. They are willing to go above and beyond, not only to gain clinical and skill experience with patients, but they’re willing to take the time to sit down with and discuss what you can improve on, what you’re great at, and provide you with a great experience throughout.”
Take the Next Step in Your Education
If you’re still looking at nursing as your chosen future career path after learning more about what nursing school is like, Marian University’s ABSN program is here to prepare you with the skills and guidance you’ll need in order to be successful in whatever role you take on. Earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree opens up a new world of possibilities, and the online-based study blended with on-site and experiential learning offered through our ABSN program can help you realize your potential and thrive as a registered nurse.
If this 16-month program sounds like it could provide you with the educational opportunities you’ve been looking for, contact our admissions team today and take the first step toward a rewarding new career.