Erin Russell, RN, BSN, OCN, earned a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in Environmental Biology in 1995. After working in several different jobs, including serving in the Peace Corps, she realized she desired a career that offered both flexibility and the opportunity to directly impact people’s lives. Nursing seemed like the ideal choice, so she entered an accelerated bachelor’s of science (BSN) program at the University of Baltimore in Baltimore, MD.
“I, personally, didn’t want to be in school part-time chipping away at a degree,” Russell explains. “I basically put my life on hold, lived off of loans, earned my BSN, and was off to work all in under a year and a half.”
Accelerated BSN programs are becoming more popular due, in part, to an effort to alleviate the nursing shortage by increasing the pipeline of registered nurses. Accelerated BSN programs offer a relatively fast transition to nursing as a second career for non-nursing graduates. Because credit is given for previously completed relevant coursework, and because the workload is intensive, accelerated BSN programs can typically be completed in anywhere from 12 to 18 months. However, these programs are demanding and serious commitment is required.
“Don’t do it unless you are ready for some seriously hard work,” Russell advises. “It can be very stressful and a lot is thrown at you at once.”
Accelerated MSN programs, also referred to as a direct entry MSN programs, offer another option for the student with a non-nursing BS to become a nurse. Like the accelerated BSN program, accelerated MSN programs give credit for previous applicable coursework and offer a fast-paced route to graduation. Although the lengths of the programs vary, they usually take three years to complete. The first year is normally devoted to the BSN portion of the program, while the second and third years are focused on the MSN portion of the program. It may be possible to complete the requirements for the BSN degree and sit for the registered nurse licensure exam before finishing the MSN portion of the program.
Due to the intensity of the programs, courses are often offered back-to-back without breaks. The rigorous schedule may preclude outside employment during your schooling, but scholarships may be available to help alleviate costs. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program (NCIN) recently announced their intention to award $10,000 to 400 students entering accelerated programs who are traditionally underrepresented in the profession.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are currently 230 accelerated BSN programs and 65 accelerated MSN programs available in the United States today. Admission requirements, course pre-requisites and program design vary from school to school.