Lifelong learning is important for all of us. It leads to better job prospects, more fulfilling lives, better mental and physical health, and is even good for the wider economy. This is true regardless of the industry you work in, however, there are some fields in which continued education is particularly important. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of these is nursing.
Healthcare is an area in which there is constant change and development, with new research findings bringing about updated techniques and technologies on a regular basis. Therefore, if you are a qualified nurse who completed a master’s degree in nursing a while ago, it might be a good time to start thinking about studying for further nursing certifications online. These cover a whole range of topics, and are a great way to keep your clinical skills fresh, boost your knowledge, and network with other like-minded people in your field.
This article will cover everything you need to know about studying for nursing certifications online, from what you can learn to the advantages of taking them. We’ll also give you some tips for virtual learning, in case you decide that you want to enroll for one of these qualifications. Let’s get started!
Who can take nursing certifications online?
Post-master’s nursing certificates are designed for people who are already qualified as registered nurses and have completed a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). They are specialist programs that are intended to help you move into a different field of nursing, or a higher level position within your current area. Some are focused on clinical skills while others center on an educational track, and they aim to prepare you for taking the relevant certification exams necessary for those job roles.
This means that in order to enroll you must already hold an MSN degree, and depending on the exact certificate you are hoping to take and the college you want to study at, you might also have to meet other prerequisites. For example, you may need to have a certain amount of experience, to have covered certain topics in your MSN, or to complete a short course on a particular subject in advance.
Generally speaking, nursing certifications online are aimed at people who are currently working as a registered nurse. As such, they can be studied on a part-time basis to fit around your existing job and family commitments, usually taking anywhere between six months and three years to complete depending on the subject you choose.
What topics can I do a nursing certificate in?
The field of nursing is itself very broad, and this is reflected in the range of subjects that you can choose to take nursing certifications online in. Some people opt to study something similar to what they majored in during their master’s degree in nursing in order to further deepen their expertise, while others take the opportunity to study a different area and take their knowledge and skills in new directions. Neither path is better than the other, it simply comes down to your personal interests and career aspirations.
The specialisms available can focus on a particular type of patient, or a particular type of health condition. For example, you could choose to concentrate on women’s health, neonatal care, pediatrics, emergency care, or mental health. Therefore, if you have an interest in a certain age group or medical condition, you have the option to dedicate yourself to it.
On the other hand, you could choose to move away from clinical nursing and focus on job roles that are more related to indirect patient care. These include:
- Education – you can take a nurse educator certificate and dedicate yourself to training up the next generation of nurses, or helping current nurses to boost their knowledge and skills. You’ll focus on topics such as curriculum design and evaluation, theories of education, and the use of technology in nursing education.
- Leadership – you can take a nurse leadership certificate and focus on improving healthcare provision by making decisions that are driven by data and coming up with innovative solutions to current issues. You’ll cover topics such as budgeting, human resources, advocacy, informatics, ethical management and business strategy.
- Forensic Science – you can take a forensic nursing certificate and concentrate on issues that link healthcare and the criminal justice system. You’ll look at topics connected with working alongside victims of crime to gather medical evidence, providing expert testimony in court, consulting with legal authorities, and giving compassionate care to your patients while bringing the perpetrators to prosecution.
This is only a brief overview of the type of subjects you can take nursing certifications online in, so if there’s a particular area you’re hoping to focus on, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to. Take some time to research the programs that are out there, to see what lines up with your career plans and personal interests.
Whichever field you choose to specialize in, the program will likely involve taking a series of modules on relevant subtopics. There will probably also be a required number of clinical hours to complete, as well as a final project on an appropriate subject of your choosing. All coursework can be done online, ensuring you have maximum flexibility.
What benefits will I get from taking a nursing certificate when I already have a master’s degree in nursing?
Completing a master’s degree in nursing involves hard work and dedication, so you may well be wondering if it’s really necessary to do even more qualifications afterwards. The simple answer to this is no, of course you don’t have to! The longer answer, however, is that while it isn’t strictly necessary, it can bring you a wealth of advantages that make the extra effort well worth it.
Firstly, taking nursing certifications online can give your career a fantastic boost. By deepening your knowledge and improving your clinical skills, you’ll be able to provide an even higher level of care to your patients. It will also prepare you to take certification exams, such as those for Certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensure, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner exam, the Certified Nurse Educator exam, and the exam to be a Certified Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
All of this means that you’ll be much better placed to move up into roles with higher levels of responsibility and correspondingly higher salaries. In turn, this can bring increased employability, job security, and financial stability. Plus, of course you get to learn much more about a subject that you’re passionate about, which for many people is enough of a reward in itself.
Another benefit is that you will gain a multitude of transferable skills that will be helpful no matter what job you go on to do. For example you’ll be able to boost your verbal and written communication, leadership, teamwork, organization, time management, analytical thinking, problem-solving, research skills, and so on. In fact higher education in general brings a huge range of advantages, from better mental and physical health to increased feelings of fulfillment, meaning it’s always a good idea to learn!
Finally, the greater the level of qualifications you achieve in nursing, the more of an impact you’ll be able to have on the industry. If you dream of transforming healthcare for the better and inspiring others to do the same, the simple act of studying for nursing certifications online can take you one step closer to achieving that goal.
What are the advantages of studying nursing certifications online rather than on campus?
When it comes to online study in particular, perhaps the main advantage is in its flexibility. Being a nurse is demanding in itself, and combining the job with traditional study on a college campus is close to impossible for the majority of people. Distance learning on the other hand – especially nursing certifications online, which are specifically designed to be studied while working – enables you to fit your education around your work.
This means that you can set up your schedule in whatever manner is best for you. For example you could study in the early morning before work, during your lunch break, or late at night once the kids have gone to bed. You can choose to do a little bit every day, or in larger chunks of time on your days off. You can also pick the location that best suits your learning style. Some people like the background noise of a coffee shop, while others need absolute silence in order to concentrate. All you have to do is figure out your preference!
Another advantage of online learning is that you’ll potentially benefit from cheaper tuition fees, not to mention you won’t have to worry about extra costs such as commuting, parking on campus, finding accommodation during term time, or moving across the country. It also means that the number of institutions available for you to study at is much greater, because you aren’t restricted by the distance you can comfortably commute or the areas that are feasible for you to move to.
Studying online also exposes you to all the state-of-the-art software and digital technologies used by colleges. As well as being helpful for learning, this can give you an advantage by providing you with a low-pressure environment in which to get used to using the sort of programs that your workplace may well be employing in the near future.
Are there any disadvantages to studying nursing certifications online?
Most people agree that there are no major disadvantages to studying nursing certifications online. This is partly because as a mature student you’re mainly focused on the educational side of college rather than the social side – so you won’t mind that you can’t attend your college football games or join the ultimate frisbee society! This isn’t to say that you can’t make friends and network effectively during an online course. It just means that you’ll be communicating via messages, email, video chat and discussion forums instead of meeting physically.
One aspect to bear in mind is that you’ll need to take a greater level of personal responsibility for your studies, because you won’t have classmates or tutors around you to check that you’ve done your assignments. Having said that, adult learners often prefer having this kind of freedom and independence, and it also teaches you some useful life skills around organization and time management.
It’s important to remember that employers do not look down on nursing certifications online as somehow less valid than nursing certifications studied on campus. The knowledge and skills you gain are just as valid, and you won’t be at a disadvantage when it comes to job hunting. Likewise, you’ll still be able to get the same support, advice and feedback from your tutors and other academic staff – the only difference is that it will be virtual rather than in person.
How can I prepare for taking nursing certifications online?
If you’ve never studied on a distance learning course before, there are a few steps you can take to prepare for doing your nursing certifications online. Firstly it can be helpful to sign up for a short, free internet course (in any subject that interests you) in order to get a feel for how they are run. There are plenty out there to choose from, and it can be a good way to work out how to take notes, how to use the digital tools, as well as how you learn best.
Other suggestions include setting up a dedicated study space with room for all your notes and books as well as your laptop or computer. If you can, find somewhere with minimal distractions, good lighting so you don’t strain your eyes, and ergonomic furniture to help you maintain good posture. Ensuring you have a strong internet connection is also wise!
It’s a great idea to start reading around the subject in advance too, in order to lay the groundwork for the course. This could be by requesting a reading list from your college, or simply by finding some online blogs or journals that are relevant. That way you won’t be overwhelmed when the semester begins.