During the COVID-19 pandemic, when virtual learning became popular, enrolling in virtual nursing programs became very common. From the start, 87% of the nursing schools used virtual simulation, while 93% had some form of online setup.
With the shortage of nursing staff, universities began to offer BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and MSN programs virtually. There was a surge in the number of accelerated BSN online programs, leading to incredible benefits for the nursing field. Let’s explore the relationship between online learning and nursing, its benefits, and potential challenges.
Benefits of Online Learning for Nurses
Online nursing classes offer excellent advantages:
1. Accessible and Flexible
While the COVID-19 pandemic was a harrowing era for the healthcare industry, it indirectly revolutionized medical education. Now, online nursing programs allow working nurses to balance work while furthering their education. Nurses with long working hours or commutes can save more time and access course materials anytime from anywhere.
Nursing students can also tailor their learning experiences based on their strengths and weaknesses. There is a more diverse range of classes and modules available in online programs. Nurses can customize their education based on specific interests, career goals, or areas requiring improvement, allowing them to gain specialist knowledge in their area of interest before completing their bachelor’s.
2. Technological Awareness
Online nursing programs ensure that future nurses are fluent in clinical skills and healthcare technological advancement, such as filling out electronic health records and utilizing telehealth tools. They stay up-to-date with the latest developments, such as AI and machine learning applications.
3. Cost Effective
Online learning is a cost-effective option for nurses as it reduces travel time and the cost of traditional clinical materials and classrooms. It allows nursing students to study alongside work. Nurses can enter the workforce earlier than before, reducing the chances of medical personnel shortages and eventual healthcare breakdowns in the future.
Challenges and Possible Solutions
Despite the incredible benefits, online nursing comes with its own set of challenges.
1. The Lack of Hands-on Experience
Despite its pros, an utterly online setup might not be the most ideal, considering the potential lack of hands-on clinical experience coupled with the dire need for such practice in healthcare. Many programs address this by scheduling routinely on-site clinical rotations, simulation labs, or partnerships with healthcare institutions. A hybrid education, with a balance of convenience and real-world training, is the most effective way for nursing education in the future.
2. Reduced Engagement
Lecturers during the pandemic, even in nursing, struggled to keep their students engaged during class. In online classes, students prefer to review the material independently instead of trying to grasp it during fixed class hours. To counter this, academics now use interactive tools, discussion forums, virtual simulations, and live sessions to create a dynamic and participatory learning environment.
Online learning has transformed the nursing industry by offering accessibility, flexibility, and personalized learning experiences. It comes with challenges, such as detachment from real-world training and a lack of in-class engagement. However, with more tools coming in, like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and machine learning algorithms, nursing schools will become more efficient than ever. Nurses will be skilled in the clinics and up-to-date on the latest research, technologies, and best practices.