Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

ACCELERATED Nursing Programs: What Do We Know?

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

ACCELERATED Nursing Programs: What Do We Know?

Article excerpt


Accelerated nursing programs, also referred to as second-degree programs, are targeted to students who enter with a baccalaureate or higher degree in a field other than nursing. While these programs are rapidly increasing across the United States, a sparse amount of literature pertains to them. This article provides a review of the current literature related to accelerated programs in nursing and suggests areas of inquiry that could be developed to address the need for research in this area.

Keywords Accelerated Programs - Second-Degree Programs - Nursing Shortage - Nursing Education - Adult Learners

EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS ARE USING MANY STRATEGIES TO RECRUIT STUDENTS TO NURSING. One strategy that has been recently revitalized is the offering of accelerated, or second-degree, nursing programs targeted to individuals who hold a baccalaureate or higher degree in a field other than nursing. While the concept of accelerated programs is not new, their current proliferation in colleges and universities across the United States is remarkable. > Since the number of nurses graduating from these programs has increased, "hospitals across the country are clamoring for graduates" (1). However, despite their current popularity and the promise they hold of enticing individuals to a field desperate for new members, registered nurses, hospital administrators, and nursing faculty have all questioned the feasibility of graduating competent, entry-level professional nurses in as little as one calendar year (1). Although anecdotal evidence supports their success, there is scant literature on their efficacy, and research supporting outcomes is necessary. By basing the development and refinement of accelerated nursing programs on research-based evidence, the success of this innovative educational track may be better assured.

Background The first accelerated second-degree program in the United States was a one-year program offered by Saint Louis University that opened in 1971 (1). Since the current nursing shortage became evident, accelerated programs have rapidly increased in number. In 1988, there were 10 such programs; there were 31 in 1990; currently, there are 133 accelerated programs in the United States, with 50 more in the planning phase (2). These range in length from 12 to 18 months.

A major intent of accelerated nursing programs has been to attract to nursing new, previously untapped members of the population. Professionals with a baccalaureate or higher degree in fields other than nursing and nontraditional, mature individuals seeking a second career have been the recruitment focus for these programs (3). Another intent of accelerated programs is to facilitate the rapid entry of nontraditional students into the workforce, with the ultimate goal of easing the nursing shortage (4-6).

The limited research that has been conducted reveals that non-traditional students bring with them a high level of maturity and previous life experiences that involve critical thinking. Such experience is thought to increase their ability to make competent professional decisions (8). In addition, students enter accelerated programs with enthusiasm for mastering new skills for clinical practice and have demonstrated the ability to learn complex material quickly (8). These characteristics, together with evidence that second-degree students score higher on state board examinations than traditional baccalaureate nursing students (7,9), make the goal of rapid workforce entry realistic.

Method Much of the literature related to accelerated nursing programs is anecdotal. While such literature serves to introduce these programs, it does not reflect the principles of scientific investigation that are essential for the effective development and evaluation of second-degree or accelerated programs.

A computerized search of CINAHL, Medline, Proquest, Expanded Academic ASAP, and ERIC databases from 1988 until the present revealed the paucity of empirical literature devoted to second-degree programs and their students. …

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