Accelerated BSN Programs for Those with a Bachelors Degree in a Non-Nursing Major

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. healthcare system will require more than a million new and replacement RNs by 2020. Because of this extraordinary demand, nursing schools throughout the U.S. are exploring new ways to inspire and attract a new class of students consisting of career changers that currently hold bachelor’s degrees in majors other than nursing.

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One of the most popular programs is the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which allows students with bachelor’s degrees in disciplines other than nursing to more easily transition into the nursing profession.

Although accelerated BSN degrees are nothing new to nursing education, they have enjoyed a lot of popularity in recent years. For example, in 1990, there were just 31 accelerated BSN programs; today, more than 230 of these programs exist, with 33 more in the planning stages.

According to the American Association for Colleges of Nursing (AACN), students that typically enroll in accelerated BSN programs are:

  • Motivated, older, and have higher academic expectations
  • Excellent learners who are not afraid to challenge their instructors
  • More mature, possessing strong clinical skills

Why an Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Program?

The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice recommends that at least two-thirds of the basic nursing workforce hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. This is to ensure that the body of practicing nurses is prepared to deal with the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically advanced healthcare system. Further, nurses who hold bachelor’s degree are poised to continue their studies at the graduate level and pursue advanced practice nursing positions, clinical specialties, teaching, and research roles.

In 1980, more than half of the nation’s RNs held nursing diplomas as their highest degree, while just 22 percent held bachelor’s degrees. Nearly three decades later, in 2008, just 14 percent of the nation’s nurses held nursing diplomas, while the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees jumped to nearly 37 percent.

Making a BSN more accessible to people with bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines through accelerated programs designed to build upon their existing degree will help ensure that many more nurses enter practice with the recommended level of education.

According to the AACN, accelerated BSN programs (also often called fast-track bachelor’s degree programs) serve as the quickest route to registered nurse (RN) licensure for those with bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines. This makes these programs the obvious choice for bachelor’s-educated career changers.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is responsible for granting accreditation to qualified bachelor’s degree programs in nursing and maintains a list of accelerated BSN programs for non-nursing college graduates here.

What to Expect from an Accelerated BSN Program

Accelerated BSN programs accomplish program objectives in a shorter period of time because their structure builds upon previous learning experiences. Students of these programs come from a wide variety of educational disciplines and professional backgrounds, from healthcare to business to the humanities and beyond.

These programs, which take between 11 and 18 months to complete, allow incoming students to transfer many program prerequisites from a previous bachelor’s degree. Accelerated programs are now available in 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Students of these programs can expect intense, full-time instruction with no breaks between sessions. They can also expect to complete the same number of clinical hours as traditional, entry-level nursing programs.

Although financial aid for students enrolled in accelerated BSN programs tends to be limited, many hospitals and health systems throughout the U.S. have formed partnerships with local schools, offering students financial support in exchange for job opportunities when they graduate.

Upon completing an accelerated BSN program, graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses and become state licensed as a registered nurse. BSN graduates are also prepared to enter a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program so as to go on to pursue careers in:

  • Nursing administration
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Advanced practice nursing: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, and certified registered nurses anesthetist
  • Consulting

Accelerated BSN Program Admission Requirements

Students interested in gaining admission to an accelerated BSN degree program must complete a thorough prescreening process designed to identify applicants who have already proven their ability to succeed in a post-secondary degree program.

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The prescreening process often includes confirming that candidates possess:

  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 from their non-nursing bachelor’s degree
  • Favorable references that speak to the candidate’s academic ability and nursing potential
  • A professional statement outlining the candidate’s career goals
  • A comprehensive resume
  • The completion of all required prerequisite courses with a minimum GPA:

Most students, thanks to their current bachelor’s degree, are not required to take the liberal arts component required of a typical four-year BSN program. Before students begin their accelerated BSN program, the college or university reviews their college transcripts to ensure they have completed all required prerequisites. Most students meet the arts and social sciences requirements, while many do not meet the natural sciences requirements. Therefore, many of these programs offer prerequisite courses for students prior to the start of the accelerated program.

The natural science requirements of accelerated BSN programs usually include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Human growth and development

Structure and Content of Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs for non-nursing bachelor degree graduates usually consist of about 50 credits of general nursing studies designed to build upon the existing bachelor degree. The credits of an accelerated BSN degree typically include about 90 laboratory hours and 660 hours of clinical training focused on direct patient care. Clinical experiences focus on an immersion principle, which allows students to focus on one clinical specialty area at a time.

Coursework in these programs include:

  • Foundational study in pathophysiology
  • Evidence-based practice for practice improvement
  • Communication for professional nursing
  • Clinical management in:

    • Psychiatric mental health nursing
    • Adult medical and surgical nursing
    • Maternal-newborn nursing and women’s health
    • Child health nursing
    • Population health
  • Pharmacology
  • Organizational and systems leadership in nursing
  • Ethics in professional nursing

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