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10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Nurse Practitioner Programs


Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN

If you are looking into online nurse practitioner programs, congratulations. This article is a great place to start. For those who are not familiar with online programs, you may be wondering what are the advantages and disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs? Should I choose a traditional onsite college program, or will a virtual program suit me better? There is a lot to consider when choosing a nurse practitioner program. Read on to find out the top 10 advantages and disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs. Hopefully, this relevant information will help to sort out your questions.


WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE NURSE PRACTITIONER PROGRAMS?

(Following are the top 10 advantages of online nurse practitioner programs.)

1. Convenience

The typical nurse practitioner program takes 1.5 to 2 years to complete. Therefore, investigating NP programs that are most suitable for your lifestyle is very important. Typically, online schooling is more convenient for most nurses as you can mold your studies around your work, family, and free time.

With no set schedule for classes and, at times, deadlines, you can work from home or take your studies elsewhere. At my last job, nurses enrolled in online NP programs worked 2nd or 3rd shifts to have some time at work to complete their school assignments during quiet hours. Having the flexibility to do coursework wherever and whenever it is convenient is one of the top advantages of online nurse practitioner programs.

2. More Choice

With an increasing number of online nurse practitioner programs popping up, there is quite an array of program options. Online NP programs have been proven to be well respected and are gaining popularity. In addition, many traditional NP programs are now offering online options as well as hybrid schooling to appeal to nurses who prefer off-site learning.

3. Less Costly

At times, online NP programs are slightly less expensive than traditional programs. In addition, certain fees may be waived if you choose to go the online route, such as activity fees and out-of-state costs. You will save on parking fees and transportation costs, as well as wear and tear on your vehicle. If you are a parent and choose to study from home, this option can save on childcare expenses.

As you may know, the cost of textbooks can be considerable. A bonus of online programs is that most virtual classes utilize digital publications, which are considerably less expensive than traditional textbooks. Saving money is definitely one of the advantages of online nurse practitioner programs.

4. Can Pace Learning

We all learn at a different pace. Traditional NP program lectures can be a little overwhelming as you try to listen to the professor, watch the presentation while jotting down important facts. You may miss some classes due to illness, work, or other essential commitments. Assignment due dates may come at very inconvenient times.

With online NP programs, nurses can re-review materials, view lectures in smaller increments, and either speed up or slow down learning according to their learning needs and life interruptions.

5. Rural Nurses Can Get Their NP Degree

In the past, nurses who did not live near a university and wanted to pursue further education were limited due to their location. Lucky for them, with online learning, rural nurses can pursue either an MSN or DNP degree of their choice via remote programs. For nurses who cannot attend traditional NP schools due to lack of accessibility, having the means to learn remotely is one of the biggest advantages of online nurse practitioner programs.

6. Increased Technology

For nurses who enjoy technology, remote programs can make learning fun and more manageable than paper and pencil traditional lecture formats. Online nursing education features the latest technology. From virtual lectures to simulated clinical scenarios, nurses can obtain nursing knowledge and practice real-life patient situations and clinical skills without ever stepping into a classroom.

7. More Time for Yourself

With less travel, no classmate interruptions, and the flexibility to squeeze in coursework when convenient, you will have more time for yourself to enjoy life than the traditional type of learning. When every second counts due to work, school, and other commitments, creating space in your life can be one of the top advantages of online nurse practitioner programs for many busy nurses.

8. Suits Different Learning Styles

Whether you are an auditory or visual learner or prefer reading and writing, online NP programs are designed to suit your learning style. If you are a diverse learner, remote learning may be easier for you than traditional NP schooling.

9. Does Not Interfere with Your Job

One of the biggest advantages of online nurse practitioner programs is that the classes do not interfere with your work. In the past, many nurses needed to take a leave of absence to pursue traditional nurse practitioner schooling. Due to class requirements, some even had to leave their jobs to pursue their dream of becoming an NP. With the convenience of taking online NP program classes whenever you want, you are free to continue to work without problem.

10. Reduced Pressure

For some, studying in isolation is less stressful than working in a group of nurse classmates. Many prefer not to have to perform academically in front of other nurses while in class. In addition, introverts and those who suffer from anxiety find online learning much more pleasant and productive.


WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF ONLINE NURSE PRACTITIONER PROGRAMS?

(Following are the top 10 disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs.)

1. Difficult to Self-Motivate

Discipline is needed for online learning. For those who have trouble focusing and self-motivating, taking courses remotely can be a challenge. If you have problems with time management and keeping yourself on track, online learning may not be the best option for your NP program. The possibility of underachievement for those who are not self-starters could be one of the biggest disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs.

2. No Direct Peer Interaction

Do you enjoy interaction with other nurses and work best alongside colleagues? I remember fondly discussing patient scenarios, venting about stressors, and getting to know my fellow NP students while enrolled in a brick-and-mortar NP program. Remote learning eliminates this pleasant dimension of schooling.

3. No Direct Professor Interaction

Just being a name on a class list diminishes the personal connection with professors. It is gratifying to have face-to-face interaction with your professor to ask a question or clarify a point during the lecture. Being live with a faculty member in a classroom is stimulating and, for many, keeps your attention better than online pre-recorded lectures.

4. Technology Glitches

I recall much frustration at times when the wireless connection went out while online for class. This problem even happened once during a test and was very stressful for me.

Technology and remote learning can be incredible, but when the professor forgets to turn on the mic during a lecture, your computer freezes, or wireless is less than optimal, these problems can definitely be one of the disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs.

In addition, some professors who may shine in the classroom may not be not adept at presenting remotely, making the experience disappointing.

5. Have to Find Own Clinical Sites

It is preferred to have clinical rotations prearranged by your NP program vs. having to arrange them yourself. Many online nurse practitioner programs leave this critical detail up to the nurse to seek out and coordinate. The process can be very frustrating and, at times, disappointing as the sites may be challenging to locate or may not have been properly vetted, leaving you with a sub-optimal clinical experience.

My NP clinical rotations were the highlight, and in my opinion, the most essential component of my training. If you choose an online NP program, you should investigate the clinical site selection process carefully prior to enrollment.

6. Need to Be Somewhat Computer Savvy

In this day and age, most nurses are experienced with computers. However, for some, this skill comes easier than for others. If you struggle with technology and unfamiliar computer programs and equipment, remote learning may prove to be a frustrating experience. When time is of the essence for online tests, virtual scenarios, and deadlines, the need to possess keen computer skills may be one of the top disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs for some.

7. Non-traditional Learning Environment

While a non-traditional learning environment can be good for many, for some, the lack of structure can lead to failure. Virtual self-paced courses without professor oversight and leadership can be challenging for those who have trouble with focus and drive or are hands-on learners.

8. Miss Out on Campus Opportunities

In the long run, campus fun may not be a priority on your list for the post-graduate college experience. However, there are perks to being close to your college and taking classes on campus. Having immediate access to the library, learning labs, nursing buildings, and professors is handy to assist you in your learning. In addition, having the opportunity to attend campus concerts, sporting events and utilize the workout equipment is undoubtedly a bonus.

9. Investment in Equipment

Even though you may save some money on parking and transportation, there are some hidden costs for online NP programs. If you are investing in your future by going back to college online, you will need a functioning computer and printer. That could transfer to needing new equipment if yours is not in tip-top shape. In addition, many online students purchase headphones, new software, and tablets to assist in virtual schooling.

10. Some On-line Programs May Not Be Accredited

It is evident that online NP programs are gaining in popularity. Data for 2019, shows that greater than 42% of graduate students take online classes. This percentage has grown in the past 2 years, making virtual classrooms a convenient and cost-saving choice for many nurse practitioner students.

However, nurses need to be aware that some of these online NP programs may not be accredited. If you have come this far in your career and education, it is essential to make sure that you attend a quality NP program with a solid accreditation for your future employment as a nurse practitioner. Non-accredited online NP programs are one of the top disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs, so please be aware of this pitfall.


The Bottom Line


I hope that I have answered the question of what are the advantages and disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs? The option of whether to choose an online NP program or go the traditional route seems to be a very personal one. Your personality, lifestyle, and learning type indicate how successful you will be in different learning environments. After reading the top 10 advantages and disadvantages of online nurse practitioner programs and some self-examination, you should be better positioned to make a wise choice for your nursing education future. With so many possibilities, if you dream of becoming a nurse practitioner, now has never been a better time to get started.


Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic and as an RN in home health, rehabilitation, hospital, and school nursing.