Five Northeast schools offer flexible online nursing programs

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According to researchers at the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses and nursing administrators can enjoy access to one of the growing job markets in the country between now and the year 2020. (bls.gov) In particular, the median annual wage for registered nurses grew to over $65,000 in a 2012 survey. (bls.gov) Government analysts trace the field's growth to three major trends:

  • Many patients and insurance providers have increased reliance on outpatient care centers. Often more convenient than hospitals, these clinics can provide same-day service for routine treatments and minor surgeries. Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians' assistants handle much of the patient care, under the supervision of a staff doctor.
  • Government statistics indicate that Baby Boomers will likely live longer than any previous American generation. Having spent their lives shaping market forces, they're also at the forefront of a trend in home healthcare. Preferring familiar surroundings to hospital rooms, many baby boomers opt for nursing care in their own homes or in apartment-style residential treatment centers.
  • Injuries and illnesses that killed most sufferers only a few decades ago no longer prove fatal, thanks to the latest advances in technology and medicine. However, extended rehabilitation for sufferers of brain injuries and heart conditions requires help from specialized caregivers.

Despite demand across the board for skilled nursing professionals, the BLS predicts that jobs with the highest salaries and the best working conditions will likely go to nurses who invest in advanced training. However, entry level nursing jobs don't often allow the kind of scheduling you'd need to attend a traditional, campus-based nursing degree program. Fortunately, a handful of forward-thinking schools have moved their nursing programs online, opening up the potential for students to grow their careers without sacrificing their salaries. Five online nursing programs in the Northeast United States have earned acclaim for their innovative approach to blending distance learning technology with hands-on medical training.

Duquesne University

Not only does Duquesne claim one of the highest rankings from U.S. News and World Report among all nursing schools in the Northeast, the university also launched one of the country's first doctorate nursing programs online. Students can choose one of two tracks:

  • PhD in Nursing. Duquesne first offered its part-time doctorate program in 1994, then brought its curriculum online in 1997. According to school officials, many participants complete the program within four years. During that time, students make a week-long visit to Duquesne's Pittsburgh campus every spring for an in-person residency. Completion of the program qualifies nurses for work in research programs or as nursing instructors.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Nurses who want to advance their profession in the field can earn this terminal degree, which health care policy, strategic leadership, and pioneering medicine. Students make occasional campus visits to participate in role immersion exercises and to collaborate on capstone projects.

The school also offers a series of Post-Master's Certificates that can complement either of the doctoral programs, or introduce a prospective student to Duquesne's learning environment.

Mercy College

Mercy College's master's degree program in nursing administration helps working nurses qualify for leadership roles and heightened responsibilities in the field. According to school officials, many past participants have used their degrees to earn jobs as health care consultants, nursing directors, and hospital department managers. This relatively new online nursing program mirrors the curriculum followed by students at Mercy's campus locations in Dobbs Ferry and the Bronx.

New students tackle a series of core courses that address both the foundations of the nursing profession and the latest thinking about diversity and health policy. Over the course of a few years, students can shift into more specialized courses that cover topics like human resources management, finance, and strategic planning. Rolling admissions and the option to complete all courses online make Mercy's program ideal for prospective nursing administrators who already juggle work and family commitments.

Stony Brook University - SUNY

With more than two decades of experience offering nursing programs online, Stony Brook combines distance learning with on-site experiences to help students prepare for a variety of specialized health care careers. Certifications for nurse practitioners include topics such as women's health, pediatric care, neonatal care, adult health, and psychiatric/mental health. Other focus areas include nursing education and nurse midwifery.

In addition to graduate degree programs, Stony Brook also offers a selection of advanced certificate programs for working nurses who want to deepen their knowledge in highly targeted niches. Focus areas for each of the nurse practitioner certificate programs mirror those offered under the school's M.S. degree programs. Both the degree programs and the certificate programs include visits to the school's Long Island campus for hands-on intensive learning sessions that complement each course's flexible distance learning schedule.

Thomas Jefferson University

As one of Philadelphia's better known medical schools, Jefferson's nursing degree program graduates enjoy some of the country's high job placement rates. According to program administrators, past participants have earned above 90 percent pass rate on national certification exams, ranking among the best results for American nursing schools. Recognizing the long-term career potential of working nurses, Jefferson has developed a flexible path to an MSN degree that blends online and in-person training elements over up to five years.

Some of Jefferson's MSN specializations include adult gerontology, women's health, pediatric care, community systems administration, and nursing informatics. Students enjoy access to some of the Northeast's most prominent clinicians and instructors, along with comprehensive online journals and databases. Graduates of the MSN program typically take on roles as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse administrators, and medical researchers.

University of Pittsburgh

Pitt carries out its philosophy of supporting lifelong learning by offering a variety of online nursing programs designed to accelerate the careers of working nurses. Through the recently developed Pitt Online distance learning platform, students can pursue nursing informatics and nursing administration concentrations under the Master of Science for the Clinical Nurse Leader degree program.

Pitt's faculty lead students through highly interactive discussions, debates, and problem solving scenarios that mimic the real-world challenges future graduates will likely face. Along with preparing students for clinical and research roles in their future careers, the Pitt Online CNL program sets a foundation for future academic pursuits.

Because collaborative clinical work still plays an important role in nurses' professional development, each of these five schools has discovered innovative ways to help students balance learning with work and family commitments. With condensed lab sessions at convenient campus locations, these programs ensure that enhancing your career only means investing a few vacation days instead of giving up a good job.


“Registered Nurses,” bls.gov, 29 March 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm#tab-1

“Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012,” bls.gov, 29 March 2013. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm

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