Nursing School: Online or Brick-and-Mortar?


So, you want to go to nursing school. Or maybe you’re an RN and want to go on for your BSN. Or BSN to MSN, and so on. Whichever level nursing degree you desire, you’ll have some common decisions to make. In today’s world, the first decision is probably whether you want an online program, face-to-face (what we typically call ‘brick-and-mortar’), or a hybrid program.

If you’re looking into pre-licensure nursing programs, meaning you’re not yet a nurse, your options are likely brick-and-mortar or some kind of hybrid program. Although virtual simulation is getting pretty good, you really need an environment to practice clinical skills and care for patients under the supervision of a licensed RN. Some pre-licensure programs are considered “online”, but you can expect on-site clinical rotations to be part of the curriculum.

Now, if you’re already a nurse and interested in a BSN or advanced degree, a completely online program is possible – and perhaps even becoming the norm. But before you pay that application fee – or more importantly – that first tuition bill, here are some things to consider about online education.

To be successful in an online program, you need to be:

  • Self-motivated
  • Organized
  • Resourceful
  • Flexible
  • Tech savvy (or willing to work on your technological skills)
  • Patient (you know, tech issues)
  • Willing to reach out for help

Possessing these traits in a brick-and-mortar setting is important as well. But in a traditional program, there is typically more assistance with things like staying on top of deadlines and keeping up with the material. By attending face-to-face classes, you’ll be exposed to course content, which will help guide your independent work. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions on a regular basis and hear answers to your classmates’ questions too. Some students just prefer the classroom setting (and other prefer learning asynchronously, while in their pajamas!).

If you’re still undecided about which route to go:

  • Talk to admissions counselors
  • Talk to newly graduated nurses
  • Audit an online course
  • Take a learning style assessment
  • Search or post questions in nursing forums
  • Visit a campus

The most important thing is that you know what nursing school requires. Whether online or brick-and-mortar, prepare to work hard. Really hard. If you have one or more nursing degrees under your belt, you know what I mean! Finally, be confident that you can do this! Remember that the nursing community is here to help. Advice is just a click away, so save this site and if you would, share it with your friends!

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