Beginning last month, the University of Rhode Island now offers three new, online programs, including one for nursing, RN to BS.

The program for RN to BS allows current registered nurses to take online courses to gain their Bachelors of Science in nursing degrees. URI has also added platforms to gain one’s master’s in dietetics and master’s in cyber security.

Talk of the program began in the summer of 2012, when the Office for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (OATL) discussed options for appropriate courses to incorporate in their online options. According to their website, “URI’s RN to BS in Nursing Online gives you the skills to integrate clinical practice, scientific inquiry, and creative thinking—and to be the nurse you always wanted to be.”

There were 26 students enrolled the first session, which began in September 2015. So far, 50 students have been accepted for Nov. 2, and 90 students are projected for January.

For $318 per credit hour, the new online nursing program provides a solid academic foundation in the sciences and humanities, while preparing current resident nurses for the next level of clinical practice.

The program was designed for RNs who have associate degrees or diplomas, but wish to complete their bachelor’s degree and further their education.

OATL Director Diane Goldsmith, who has been with URI for 3 1/2 years, explained the program as “providing time-shifting flexibility.”

The flexible format allows participants to complete the program in as few as 15 months, and can be formed to their own busy lives and schedules. Participants have access to and learn from the same high-profile faculty as the on-campus students, which allows them to receive the same education and training as those currently enrolled in the on-campus nursing program.

By being broken down into seven-week sessions, the level of scheduling flexibility makes taking the courses more accessible and “provides several advantages to those who lead complicated lives,” Goldsmith said.

The accelerated program recognizes the academic credits from the students’ basic program, making it compatible for those returning to school. The credit requirement is reduced to 120 credits and classes begin at NUR 247, Introduction to Professional Nursing Practice.

The seven-week courses allow students to keep the online education moving forward quickly and provide unique, practical knowledge, as well as a research-based and science-focused academic experience. Mirroring the on-campus criteria, the new online program prepares students to understand and manage the complexity of the changing healthcare environment.

“At the University of Rhode Island, in order to be recognized as a part-time student one must be enrolled in six credits worth of courses per semester,” Goldsmith said. “The online program, however, breaks this down further proposing that participants take one course per session, and take consecutive sessions in order to remain eligible for financial aid.” Goldsmith said that by taking two courses in two consecutive sessions it equates to six credits per semester.

Many students enrolled in the college of nursing on campus follow the four-year track, where the ultimate goal is to obtain a BS in nursing. However, becoming a registered nurse (RN) is typically a two-year process where students take an accredited registered nurse program to obtain their associate degree. Then they pass the NCLEX-RN examination, become registered for a state licenses and ultimately are hired as an RN at a hospital or medical facility.  

While the two-year degree is all that is required of RNs, The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts nursing to be a quickly growing field in the upcoming years. This makes it important to have something that makes one stand out in the competitive field and inspires many RNs to return to school.

“The level of scheduling flexibility makes it possible for RNs to compete with the high demand for nurses with their Bachelors of Science,” Goldsmith said.

There are many benefits to having a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) that provide degree holders with advantages that RNs may not have access to. These advantages may include salary differences, exclusive career opportunities for advancements and the applicable knowledge gained from having a curriculum that offers more than just clinical skills.

Registration for the next session is due Dec. 8, and enrollment is only expected to “keep growing,” Goldsmith said.