Accelerated Nursing Programs – BSN, MSN, DNP

Accelerated Nursing Programs – BSN, MSN, DNP 

What is an Accelerated Nursing Program? 

An accelerated nursing program is designed to take less time than a traditional nursing program. It’s for students who already earned a Bachelor’s degree in another field but want to transition to nursing. In other words, if you hope to change careers and pursue an RN role, this program could be perfect.

Fast track nursing programs may help address a growing need for registered nurses in the workforce. In fact, hospitals may partner with schools in hopes of recruiting new RNs. No wonder there are currently 282 accelerated BSN programs in the U.S., with more in the works!  

These programs cover a lot of material in a short time. Take fast-track BSN degrees programs, which could be earned in just 11 to 18 months. You’ll build on your past college learning, with a focus on nursing coursework and clinical hours. And, you’ll usually study full-time, with no semester breaks. So, it’s a great way for non-nursing graduates to learn a new field in the least amount of time.

Accelerated Nursing Program Types

There are accelerated nursing programs to suit many levels and goals. Let’s learn about a few of them. Later, we’ll go into detail about some common program types. 

  • Accelerated BSN. Also called an ABSN, this is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing that may be earned in less time. The program is for non-nursing Bachelor’s degree holders. So, it covers must-know nursing skills and theory. The good news: you won’t have to retake your gen ed courses. But, you may need some prerequisites if you missed any foundational science and health courses last time you were in college.
  • Direct Entry BSN to MSN. This program is also designed for non nursing Bachelor’s degree holders. But, you could earn both your BSN and MSN in the same program. Why? Because some nursing career paths need you to earn a Master’s. That’s true for Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Midwife roles, for example. Instead of earning your BSN and then applying separately to MSN programs, the BSN to MSN could let you accomplish two programs in one. 
  • Accelerated DNP. This is a Doctor of Nursing Practice program designed to be earned in less time. Online courses and continuous learning could help make that possible. You may need to earn your MSN before entering. But, some programs have options to combine your MSN with your DNP. 
  • MSN to PhD. This program lets you combine your MSN with your PhD in Nursing. This could help you save time by going straight from your MSN coursework to your doctoral coursework. You’ll need to earn your BSN before entering.   

Accelerated BSN, MSN, and PHD in Nursing Programs  

You could find accelerated nursing programs at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral levels. Here’s what to expect as you progress through your studies. 

Fast track BSN Programs

An accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing is intended to be earned as a second degree. So, it generally calls for fewer credits (usually around 49 to 60) than a traditional Bachelor’s program. Since you’ve already completed your general ed courses, you’ll jump right into nursing studies.

Your courses will help prepare you for a transition to nursing. They touch on health sciences, like pharmacology and pathophysiology. You’ll also learn the ins and outs of patient care. That includes nursing for different situations, like surgery and psychiatry. And, you’ll explore nursing for different populations, like children, women, or the elderly.  

Finally, your accelerated BSN program will involve clinical hours. Your clinicals offer a chance to try out what you’ve learned in the classroom, in a real healthcare environment. You’ll learn skills like dressing wounds and performing diagnostic tests. 

Keep in mind that your fast track BSN program may have prerequisites. These are courses you should have taken in your Bachelor’s program. Otherwise, you’ll have to take them prior to your accelerated nursing coursework. Prerequisite courses could include subjects like biology, chemistry, statistics, and nutrition. 

Admissions requirements for an accelerated BSN program may include: 

  • A Bachelor’s degree in a non nursing field, from a regionally accredited school
  • Minimum GPA (often 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale) 
  • Post secondary transcripts 
  • Personal statement 
  • Letters of recommendation 
  • Resume 

Common courses in an accelerated BSN program may include: 

  • Foundation of Nursing Practice. Just like it sounds, this course covers the basics of nursing. You’ll learn skills like patient assessment, analysis, and intervention. And, you’ll learn how to keep patients safe, clean, and comfortable.
  • Pharmacology. This course focuses on drug therapy. You’ll learn the chemistry behind medicine and how it treats diseases. You will learn how to calculate dosage. And, you’ll explore the toxic effects of misused drugs. 
  • Nursing Care of Children and Their Families. Your patients will have different needs throughout the lifespan. This course covers children, from infancy through adolescence. You’ll also examine the role of the family in children’s health. 
  • Community Health Nursing. This course introduces you to nursing for groups and communities. That include disease prevention in group settings. You’ll also look at environmental hazards that could impact large populations. And, you’ll study how to promote good health within communities. 
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing. Psychiatric patients need nurses with knowledge of mental health. This course covers how to deliver a treatment plan to those with mental health needs. You’ll learn about the social and cultural factors at play, and how to provide sensitive care.  

Accelerated MSN Programs

A fast-track Master’s in Nursing program offers another potential path for career changers. This program is also called a “direct entry” or “entry level” MSN. That’s because it is aimed at students with a non-nursing Bachelor’s degree, just like fast-track BSN programs. This could be perfect if you plan to pursue a career path that needs a Master’s – like Nurse Practitioner.

Since it’s aimed at non-nursing graduates, an accelerated MSN program typically has both BSN and MSN coursework. The program may be structured so that you earn the BSN first. You’ll cover the basics of nursing, from professionalism to pathophysiology. Then, you’ll move on to advanced courses and earn your MSN.

Often, an MSN program lets you choose a concentration area. This could let you pursue a certain career path, like Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Midwife. These are known as advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles. You could also delve into nursing research. And, you may learn what it takes to lead teams of nurses or run community health programs.

Admissions requirements for an accelerated MSN program may include: 

  • A Bachelor’s degree in a non nursing field, from a regionally accredited school 
  • Minimum GPA (often 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale) 
  • Post secondary transcripts 
  • Letters of recommendation (academic and / or professional) 
  • Personal statement or essay 
  • Resume 
  • GRE scores (may be optional) 

Some common courses in an accelerated MSN program include:

  • Adult Health Nursing. A course like this may focus on both theory and clinical experience. You’ll learn important nursing concepts. And, you’ll practice them in person. That includes IV access and care, using a catheter, and keeping wound dressings sterile.
  • Maternal / Newborn Nursing. Learn the skills to care for mothers and babies. This course covers pregnancy and birth. You’ll learn about neonatal care, nutrition, and issues that occur during pregnancy. You will also learn how to care for infants after they are born.   
  • Nursing Leadership and Management. Running a nursing team or health organization calls for business knowledge. In this course, you’ll learn the theory and practice of leadership. That includes motivation, conflict management, and decision making. 
  • Assessment Across the Lifespan. This course covers how to assess and understand patients. You could look beyond symptoms, to gain the full picture of a patient. That includes cultural, social, and even spiritual factors. 
  • Becoming an APRN. Advanced practice registered nurses go beyond the basics. They specialize in areas of patient care, like midwifery or gerontology. This course covers what you could expect from this career path. It may be a good intro to further studies in a concentration area. 

Accelerated Doctorate in Nursing Programs 

Fast track nursing doctorate programs are a bit different from accelerated BSN and MSN programs. That’s because they usually need you to have at least a Bachelor’s in Nursing before entering. Still, these programs could help you earn a PhD in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in less time. 

Some accelerated nursing doctoral programs let you earn your Master’s along the way. In other words, they combine the MSN with doctoral study. This could help you progress more quickly. Other programs need you to start with your MSN. They’re accelerated because they offer features like online courses or no semester breaks. That could help shorten the time it takes to earn your PhD or DNP.

Either way, doctoral-level nursing courses cover high-level topics. These may include nursing research, evidence based practice, and public policy. You could also pursue a concentration or advanced practice area. (Many APRNs earn a DNP or PhD.) If you choose a clinical concentration, you’ll learn the finer points of practice in that area. For example, a Family Nurse Practitioner path could cover primary care and advanced heath assessment.

A scholarly project or dissertation may take the bulk of your time and focus. You’ll learn how to use research to solve practice based problems. You could even explore new territory in your field. Expect to put together this knowledge in your final project.   

Admissions requirements for an accelerated nursing doctorate may include: 

  • BSN and/or MSN from an accredited school
  • Postsecondary transcripts 
  • Resume 
  • Letters of recommendation 
  • Valid U.S. RN license 
  • APRN license (if it applies to the program)   
  • GRE scores
  • Goal statement or essay
  • Writing sample     

Some common courses in accelerated nursing doctoral programs are: 

  • Statistical Analysis for Evidence Based Practice. In this course, you’ll learn skills to analyze research. These include qualitative and quantitative reasoning. You’ll use these methods to draw insights that will inform your nursing practice. 
  • Leadership as an Advanced Practice Nurse. This course explores the leadership functions of APRNs. You’ll study skills for communicating with and guiding others. You will also learn how to improve patient outcomes, safety, and more. 
  • Healthcare Informatics. This field uses information engineering in health care. You’ll bring skills from information and computer science to the health field. This can help you understand and gain insights from health data. 
  • Epidemiology. This course covers population health and the spread of disease. You’ll study methods for intervention and control of disease. You will also learn how to conduct research in this field.  
  • Clinical Research Design. Research is a big part of doctoral nursing programs. That includes original research. This course teaches how to design a research study using human subjects. You’ll learn about ethics, controls, and how to make sure your findings are valid. 

Accelerated Nursing Online Programs 

An online accelerated nursing program has a convenient format that could save time. It covers the same coursework as an in person program. But, you don’t have to stick to a rigid course schedule. You could study any time of the day or night. 

This flexibility can be great, but also challenging. That’s because you’ll need to keep yourself on track and manage your time well. Sure, you’ll have access to supportive faculty and classmates. But, you may have to be more proactive about reaching out for help and mentorship. 

That said, if you plan to earn a fast track nursing degree, you’ve already earned at least a Bachelor’s degree. Hopefully, that means you’ve mastered time management. In fact, employers have reported that accelerated nursing program grads tend to be more mature. They’re older than traditional students. And, they usually have work experience in another field. All this could be helpful for online learners. 

Even if your program is mostly online, some parts will likely be in person. Many programs require labs and simulations. Some of these could be done virtually. But, many of these experiences call for in-person guidance. And, your clinical hours will likely be done at a hospital or health care facility near you.

In the end, it comes down to your preferences and learning style. Either program format could help you transition to a nursing career path. 

How long does an Accelerated Nursing Program Take? 

A typical accelerated BSN degree takes 11 to 18 months to earn. That includes any prerequisite courses you may need to take, depending on your educational background.  

While the shortest program may be 11 months or less, many take somewhere in the range of 14 or 15 months. These programs are designed to be pursued full time. That means you may not be able to keep working while you earn your degree. 

That said, some schools offer accelerated BSN programs that are also part time. These take a few years to earn but may still take less time than a traditional BSN program. 

Accreditation for Accelerated Nursing Programs 

Choosing an accredited fast-track nursing program may be key. For one, accreditation is a sign that your program meets certain quality standards. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits programs based on excellence and continued improvement. The goal is to ensure nursing programs serve students and the public. And, programs should help prepare students for professional practice or grad school.

You should also consider license requirements in your state. In all states, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program. Check with your state board of nursing to learn which programs are approved. Approval is not the same as accreditation. That said, you may find that many of your state’s approved nursing programs are CCNE accredited. 

To achieve a nursing license, you must also pass the NCLEX exam. This is the National Council Licensure Examination. It tests you on critical nursing knowledge and principles of patient care. You’ll need to answer questions in these areas

Safe and Effective Care Environment 

  • Management of Care 
  • Safety and Infection Control 

Health Promotion and Maintenance 
Psychosocial Integrity 
Physiological Integrity 

  • Basic Care and Comfort 
  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies 
  • Reduction of Risk Potential 
  • Physiological Adaptation 

Completing an accredited program doesn’t ensure you’ll pass the NCLEX. But, it should cover the materials you’ll need to know.  

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