How to choose the right nursing program for you

A nurse assists an elderly patient in a wheel chair.As a nurse, you know that continuing your education can be key to furthering your career. But when it comes to choosing an area of focus, how do you know which degree is right for you?

The Institute of Medicine is calling for 80% of the nursing workforce to hold at least a bachelor’s degree by 2020.* Progress reports indicate nurses are going back to school, and those who already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) are returning to school to earn a master’s degree in nursing.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), quality patient care hinges on having a highly educated nursing workforce, such as those with a BSN, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Research has shown that lower mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and quality outcomes are all linked to nurses prepared at the baccalaureate degree level and higher.§

Focus Your Nursing Degree With a Specialization

With numerous nursing specialties to choose from, understanding the kind of care you want to deliver and in what environment will help narrow your focus when deciding on a nursing program. By reflecting on how you may react in certain situations as well as your personal character traits, you can effectively weed out some of the specialties that don’t align with your skills or goals and identify those that do.

For example, your habits and skills may say a lot about what kind of care you can deliver. Are you exceptionally cool-headed, disciplined, or patient? Are you good with kids or elders? Do you like to learn and do research or educate others? Do you like to lead or prefer to follow? Are you tech savvy or a travel geek? How you handle sad situations or how quickly you can make a decision also can steer you toward one nursing focus over another.

Other factors are environmental. Would you prefer an office setting or do you like hospitals? While nurses often work in hospitals, some aren’t as comfortable with hospitals and choose other working environments. The nursing profession can be fast-paced and unpredictable, but depending on your workplace setting, the pace and predictability can vary.

Choosing the Right Nursing Program for You

After you’ve had the chance to discover what makes you a great nurse, the next step is to find the right nursing program for you. Colleges and universities are working hard to make it easier for nurses to remain competitive in the market and contribute to quality patient care.

For those who plan to continue working while pursuing their next degree, an online degree may be the best choice. For example, Walden University’s online RN-to-MSN program allows nurses to continue working as well as to immediately implement what is learned to improve the health of their communities and the reputation of their healthcare environment. Walden University also happens to be the leading provider of advanced nursing degrees in the U.S., producing more MSN graduates than any other university.§

Consider specializing in an area you identified during self-reflection. For example, if you are good with elders, you may want to consider an MSN degree where you can specialize as adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. For those who are tech savvy, an online MSN program with a specialization in nursing informatics could play toward your strengths and interest.

With a force of 20 million strong, nurses remain the heart of healthcare. There are many reasons to become a nurse, and with the right education there are just as many specialties from which to choose.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral nursing programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education, on the internet at, IOM Releases Progress Report on Future of Nursing 2020 Goals, on the internet at

Campaign for Action, Progress on the Institute of Medicine Recommendations: Perspectives on the Evidence, Nursing Education, on the internet at

§National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP codes 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse); 51.3808 (Nursing Science); 51.3818 (Nursing Practice). Includes 2016 preliminary data.

Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission,

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