For nurses with ambitions to take their careers to the highest level, studying for a DNP degree (Doctor of Nursing Practice) is one of the best paths to take. This is a doctoral qualification and the most advanced type of certification available in clinical nursing education. It prepares you for top roles in a variety of areas such as advanced practice nursing, healthcare administration, nursing education, and healthcare policy. So, what about nurses who can’t afford to take time off from work or family commitments in order to go back to college? This is where online education comes in. If you’re hoping to boost your qualifications with a DNP but are unable to attend a course on campus, distance learning could be the answer. Here’s why.
What is an online DNP program like?
The idea of studying a course as practical as nursing via virtual learning might seem counterintuitive; however, these days there are plenty of options to do just that. Degrees such as Baylor University’s online BSN to DNP programs are usually comprised of three different aspects: taught academic modules; clinical placements in a real-world setting; and a DNP capstone project. The modules and research project will be done online, while the clinical hours will be completed in person at an appropriate location close to where you live. The modules will use a variety of virtual teaching and learning methods, which could include prerecorded lectures, live seminars, interactive quizzes, discussion boards, and much more.
You are normally required to undertake 1,000 hours of clinical placement during an online DNP program. You will have the chance to choose venues that are both conveniently located and relevant to your personal interests and career aspirations. Similarly, your DNP project can be focused on any topic that you’re passionate about, as long as it’s approved by your supervisor. You’ll pick either an administrative or clinical problem to investigate, conduct a literature review, then implement and finally evaluate your project. This is usually the most challenging part of the program, but also the most rewarding.
What are the advantages of studying for a DNP online?
In addition to the obvious boost, any DNP provides to your nursing knowledge and clinical skills, choosing to study for your degree online rather than on-campus brings you many benefits. One of the most notable of these is the extra flexibility it offers. For example, you have the option to study at the times of day and days of the week that best suit your schedule. This could be early in the morning before the school run, on your lunch break at work, or late at night after your partner goes to bed.
Likewise, you can choose to study at a location that matches your personal learning style. For some, that means the peace and quiet of a home office, for others the creative hustle and bustle of a coffee shop. The decision is entirely yours. As such, online study is a convenient choice for those who want to fit their academic work around their current day job or family obligations.
Another advantage of taking your degree online is that it can often be cheaper. This is in part because tuition fees tend to be lower, but also because you don’t have to worry about extra costs such as commuting to campus or finding accommodation near college every semester. Plus, the fact that you can work while studying means you don’t have to lose money when becoming a student either.
Finally, studying online gives you the chance to use cutting-edge technology and software in a supportive environment. This is a great way to boost your IT skills and can be an extra plus point to include on your resume. The fact that many companies are using the same technology in the workplace also means these skills will likely be useful to you in your career after graduating.
Are there any disadvantages to taking an online DNP?
Some students worry that online degrees are looked down on in comparison to campus courses. However, that is definitely not the case. It might have been true in the early days of distance learning, but this mode of study is very common now – particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, employers now realize that these qualifications are just as valid as traditional ones (as long as the program is accredited by the relevant bodies). In fact, this could be even more true in the case of nursing, because your clinical placements are still completed in person and so you get plenty of hands-on experience regardless of how you study.
At the same time, there are certain differences between online learning and campus programs that you should take into consideration. For instance, all the interactions that you have with your professors and fellow students will be virtual. That means no late-night study sessions in the library together or heading for coffee after lectures. Of course, you will still be able to socialize and network digitally!
You’ll also find that you have to take a little more personal responsibility for your learning with an online degree, as you won’t have anyone looking over your shoulder to check that you’re doing your work. Having said that, many students actually prefer having this greater level of independence! Plus, you’ll still have plenty of support from your college if and when you need it.
Top tips for succeeding at online graduate study
If you’ve never completed any online study before, you might be a little apprehensive about taking a degree this way. Don’t worry though, as there are lots of ways you can ensure you excel. For example:
- Set aside specific times each week for studying, rather than trying to squeeze it in as and when
- Create the perfect study space at home, where you can work in peace
- Enroll on a free short online course to get a feel for what virtual learning is like
- Take time out for self-care – eating well, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep every night will enable your brain to function at its best
- Ask for help when you need it, whether it’s from friends, family or your college
- Remember why you’re doing the course – this motivation will get you through any tough times