Are you considering becoming a nurse? That’s great! Nurses earn a competitive salary, are in high demand, and get to make a difference in the lives of their patients every single day on the job. It’s regularly cited as one of the most fulfilling careers, and is a popular option for individuals looking to go into healthcare.

After coming to the conclusion that you’d like to go into nursing, it’s natural to wonder how long the process will take. In fact, one of the most common questions asked by aspiring nurses is: How long does it take to become a nurse? The short answer is that it will depend—on the specific career path you are interested in, your educational background, and the specific program that you choose to enroll in.

The good news is that, if you’re interested in becoming a nurse as quickly as possible, an accelerated nursing program can help you do exactly that.

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Whether you want to become a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, or fill a leadership position, the good news is that there is likely an accelerated nursing program that can help you reach that goal as quickly as possible.

Below, we explore what accelerated nursing programs are, how they work, and walk you through a number of options work considering.

What is an Accelerated Nursing Program?

An accelerated nursing program is exactly what it sounds like: An academic program that prepares students who already hold a bachelor's degree in a non nursing field to become a nurse at an accelerated rate. For example, an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program might allow a student to complete their degree in 16 months instead of the standard four years.

The main benefit of completing an accelerated nursing program as opposed to a more traditionally-paced program is that it allows you to enter the workforce that much more quickly. This means that you can start earning money and making a difference in the lives of your patients much sooner than you’d otherwise be able to.

While each program will have its own specifics, all accelerated nursing programs work by educating students in a condensed manner. This typically requires full-time study and fairly rigid class scheduling compared to part-time study. Depending on the program, you may find that you are discouraged from working while completing your degree in order to increase the likelihood that you will in fact complete it on time.

Types of Accelerated Nursing Programs

There are many different types of accelerated nursing programs out there, which means that you will likely be able to find one that aligns with where you are in life and where you want to be. There are even programs specifically designed for individuals without a background in nursing, such as those who would like to make a career change into nursing.

How long does an accelerated nursing program take?

The answer to this question can vary significantly from program to program and from college to college. For example, at Regis you will find that you can complete your BSN in 16 to 24 months, your MSN in 12 months, or your DNP within 24 months, all depending on the specific program that you enroll in.

Who are accelerated nursing programs for?

Ultimately, if you would like to become a nurse quickly and already hold a bachelor's degree in a non nursing field, there is likely a program that will align with your personal situation. Below are just a few examples of the kind of people who often find value in pursuing an accelerated nursing program:

Career changers: It isn’t uncommon for individuals to work for a period of time in one career and then decide that they want to make a switch into nursing. But while many people may be intimidated by the thought of breaking into the field without a background in healthcare, a variety of accelerated nursing programs exist specifically designed for people who don’t have a nursing background.

Career advancers: Are you currently working as a CNA, LPN, or LVN with a goal of becoming an RN? Are you an RN with aspirations of becoming a nurse practitioner or APRN? Are you a NP or APRN with a goal of moving into a position of nursing leadership within your organization? Pursuing an accelerated program will allow you to advance within your career that much more quickly.

“Traditionally, we’ve tended to see a variety of people interested in our accelerated programs,” says Donna Glynn, PhD, RN, ANP, and Associate Dean of re-Licensure Nursing at Regis College.

“For example, individuals who are just completing their undergraduate degree in biology or another science who now realize that nursing is their passion, or those who already have a bachelor's degree and have worked in healthcare in a non-nursing role and now realize that they want to be at the bedside caring for the patients. And of course, now with the pandemic, we're seeing individuals who want to help and give back, who now want to explore nursing as a career.”

Advice Before Pursuing an Accelerated Nursing Program

If you are considering enrolling in an accelerated nursing program, Glynn specifically offers two pieces of advice.

The first is that, as there are many potential programs to choose from, you should make sure that you consider carefully which program you enroll in so that you’re sure that it aligns with your personal and career goals. The second is to ensure that you lay the groundwork for success before your first class ever even begins.

“My biggest advice would be, before starting any program, to develop and evaluate your support system,” says Glynn. “This is a time when individuals have to look at their family, friends, significant others, and other students in order to help them achieve their goal. Laying the groundwork before you begin will increase your likelihood of success.”

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