Nursing is sometimes considered a simple profession. You take care of people when they are sick and get them well enough to send home – simple, right? Of course, the actual responsibilities of a professional nurse are much more detailed and complex. Nursing is rather unique in that there are so many considerations to keep in mind every shift. Nurses must be able to address the diverse needs of their patients while also understanding both how to lead and how to follow procedures which can vary from situation to situation.
In addition to these skills, today’s nurses must be proficient in conducting research and evidence-based practice along with system-specific functions and health policy. A dedication to continuing education is a critical aspect of nursing care too, with leaders in the industry staying up to date with new developments in the field.
If these seem like rather lofty requirements to meet, that is because they are. It is absolutely imperative that nurses receive a top-quality education in order to prepare themselves for the rigors of their chosen field. This blog post will explore the ways in which a quality education benefits nurses as well as how aspiring nurses can seek out the best instruction possible regardless of their location or schedule.
Why does nursing education matter?
There are many reasons why nursing education matters, and not all of them might be obvious. While knowledge and practice are important to keep patients safe, for example, more nuanced reasons also exist. This section takes a look at some of the ways in which education impacts nurses in the workplace.
Flexibility even in uncertain times
Nurses with a strong education behind them are more flexible than those without. This is because students who have not only experienced plenty of hands-on courses, but who have also gathered detailed knowledge about a great many topics, are more prepared to face challenges and change the way they do things when the need arises.
Consider the COVID-19 pandemic which threw healthcare into disarray. Many medical professionals found themselves in an unprecedented environment with only their practical experience and school learning about past illnesses to guide them. Their days were suddenly very different than they had been at any other time of their career, with circumstances often changing dramatically even in a single day. Nurses had to be flexible enough to draw upon their knowledge of the field to help them provide the best care possible even during incredibly difficult events.
Could you adapt to such a changing and high-stress situation? If you had the right education behind you, you could. And they did! Professionals with the right experience and education behind them were able to embrace the uncertainty and focus on saving lives, but there is always more work to be done. That is one reason why education is so important. It forms the foundation upon which our careers are built, and the stronger the basis of our knowledge, the better.
Better patient outcomes
Another reason education is so important to nursing is its correlation to patient outcomes. While studies looking at this issue can vary, the generally accepted position is that nurses who are better educated are better prepared to give patients the attention and care they need. Education has even been tied to mortality rates in certain studies, with research finding that nurses with more advanced degrees are more likely to have patients with good outlooks.
There are a few reasons why education and patient outcomes might be connected. Some people believe that nurses with better education simply have knowledge that those without advanced degrees lack, which is a reasonable assumption to make. It is not the only opinion about how nursing programs can affect patients, however, and some people believe that those with higher degrees are more likely to have a stronger commitment to their work, including more clinical experience over the course of their careers. This, they argue, is the reason education seems so tightly tied to patient outcomes.
At the end of the day, neither of these opinions precludes the other. Nurses with more detailed education often have access to more comprehensive clinical experience while training for the job, which is itself tied to better patient outcomes. Well-educated nurses seem to offer better care.
Better care in changing times
We talked about how education often leads to better patient outcomes, but there is also another way that education is tied to meeting patient expectations. The healthcare industry is undergoing something of a transformation at the moment. The rise of the internet and the increased demand for convenient access to healthcare along with the need for detailed, specialized care is driving a number of changes in the field. While an increased reliance on tele medicine is a big part of this, the need for nurses with advanced training in specific areas, such as disease prevention, health promotion, chronic care management, in-home care, holistic care and geriatric care, to name just a few, is also rising as the way we think about healthcare changes.
As the focus we place on preventing issues before they become serious increases, nurses with education focused specifically on preventative care will become more appealing across the country. Even if that is not something nurses specialize in while obtaining their initial degree, a top-quality education can help provide them with the foundation they need to quickly learn additional skills in the future.
Mastery over skills
Most nurses will tell you that there are a few skills which are absolutely critical to success. The ability to think critically, for example, even while under stress is an important part of the job. You must be able to make the right decisions at a moment’s notice. Time management and problem solving are another two skills that nurses use daily. You must be able to solve issues on your own while dedicating the right amount of time to each patient to ensure that all your patients receive the care they need. These are only a few of the skills nurses need to master, there are many others which need to be polished before nurses can provide optimal care.
Why do we bring this up? Because a good education can give you insight into how your mind works, where your natural strengths and weaknesses lie and how you can improve your skills. An education can also help you understand the exact skills you need to master before you are responsible for the health and well-being of other people too.
How can I find a quality education program that fits my schedule?
In the past, students were required to attend in-person classes on physical campuses. This meant that students with nontraditional schedules or responsibilities had a very difficult time balancing those with a full-time education. Students who could not afford to live on their own or travel to university were similarly restricted from studying nursing.
Luckily, today’s students have access to quality courses from respected institutions regardless of where they live or the schedules they must keep. In fact, many students can complete their nursing degrees primarily online! This is often the ideal choice for individuals who cannot commit to a full-time student experience. The only “catch” to online schooling is that students must do their research when selecting their course. Let’s look at some of the things you should look for if you are searching for the right online course.
Pick a respected institution
Note that while the number of online courses has grown over the years, not all the programs are worthwhile. In order to ensure that your time and money are well spent, take the time to research the school in question. Is the provider accredited? It is important to select a school which is officially authorized to provide the education in question.
You should also take a moment to look into the licensing requirements of the state where you intend to work. Does the school offer the proper education for your needs? This is an incredibly important step because not all “nurse training” programs are actually recognized as formal education, which could leave you without the right certification even after you complete the program. Much of that risk can be mitigated by selecting the right educational institution, of course, which is another reason why education is so important.
Students who know they want to ascend the tiers of the nursing career and become leaders in the sector, for example, should look into an advanced degree such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. This degree, especially when earned from a respected educational institution such as Walsh University, prepares students for a long career as a leader in the nursing field.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Once you think you’ve found the perfect school, take some more time to look through the information on their website about the program and the expectations you will need to meet as a student. Some instructors offer tools to help students focus and complete their work. Does the school you are interested in do the same? Do these tools matter to you, or are you more interested in the instructor’s reputation?
Speaking of instructor reputation, that is something else you should keep in mind. What expertise does your instructor have in the field? Does it match up with what they are teaching? It is not enough to simply accept that your instructor is qualified for the work, especially when you are paying for the education. Most schools will have information about their faculty on their website, but you might also consider searching your instructors’ names online for more information about their specialties and work outside the classroom.
You might find that you have questions for your potential instructors too. You should feel confident in asking them! Do some digging to locate contact information and send an email. Try to keep it concise, polite and clear, so that the recipient, who is likely quite busy in the classroom as well as outside it, can quickly skim your questions and send a response. Make sure you look for the answers to your question online before you ask, however, as the information might be readily available on the school’s website.
Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses
This is perhaps a bit out of place as it is not something to look for while picking a program, but it is an important step in deciding if an online program is the right fit for you. Online courses are a great option for many students, but not everyone is a great fit for them naturally. Sometimes it takes additional time and dedication to adjust to the online format. Before you register for a program and start on your coursework, you should be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses so that you know how to schedule your days and approach your school work moving forward.
If you know that you struggle with procrastination and tend to put things off until the last moment, you will need to be very self-disciplined in order to succeed at online coursework. Since you don’t have to interact with your students or instructor in person, it is easy to ignore coursework even when it begins to pile up. To help combat this, create a daily routine and stick to it. No matter when you can work on schoolwork, be it in the morning or at night, plan out your tasks. Pick a time to study, a time to watch lectures (assuming they aren’t streamed live) and a time to interact with other students. Keep these tasks consistent from day to day and make sure you complete them even when you’d rather not.
Even if you don’t typically struggle with procrastination, keep an eye on your study habits with online classes. While it is completely possible to excel with this kind of program, it is easy to let things pile up until you end up in trouble.
What do you think about the importance of education in nursing? Stay updated on the latest in education news with our informative blog!