The job outlook for nurses continues to grow dramatically. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 12% increase in the employment of registered nurses from 2018-28. Online nursing programs offer convenient options for entry-level students interested in exploring nursing careers or working nurses eager to advance in the profession.
Course requirements in online nursing programs depend on the degree level and intended area of specialization. While requirements for associate degrees in nursing differ from four-year or accelerated bachelor of science in nursing degrees, most accredited programs share common courses to prepare graduates for residency requirements and the national council licensure examination. This guide describes some of the core courses you can expect to take in an online nursing program.
Common Nursing Classes Required for a BSN
- Fundamentals of Nursing: This course explores the many roles of nurses in contemporary healthcare environments and introduces core practice competencies. Through discussions, demonstrations, and simulations, students learn about assessing disorders, determining treatments, medical records, health promotion, and an evidence-based approach to clinical practice. The course emphasizes professional values and ethics, safety practices, critical thinking, and cultural competency.
- Nursing Health Assessment: New nursing students learn how to conduct a comprehensive health assessment for patients across the lifespan, using knowledge and skills of history-taking, inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation. Learners obtain and review patient histories, perform physical and psychological assessments, process lab tests, establish a database, and formulate nursing plans.
- Human Growth and Development: The principles and theories of human growth and development guide the nurse throughout clinical practice. This course presents physiological, cognitive, and psychological factors that affect development during each phase of the lifespan. Enrollees acquire therapeutic communication skills and the knowledge to recognize how family background and sociocultural factors affect the developmental process.
- Anatomy: This introduction to the human body and organ functions examines body parts at the cellular level, along with skeletal, muscular, nervous, and sensory systems. Clinical examples and laboratory work help students understand how body systems maintain homeostatic environments and the ways diseases and pathogens disrupt normal structure and function.
- Pharmacology: Students learn to apply the basic concepts of pharmacology to nursing practice. This course provides the knowledge that nurses need for administering drug therapy. Content areas address generic names for drugs, dosage calculations, testing and approval, the movement of drugs through the body, and the biochemical and physiologic effects of drugs.
- Microbiology: This course examines the immune system and how microbiological organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, affect disease. Enrollees learn about approaches for controlling the growth of microbes, preventing the spread of infection, and host-microorganism interactions and host-immune responses. The course places a special emphasis on how to avoid the spread of infectious microorganisms in the hospital environment.
- Physiology: Physiology studies the function and malfunction of the parts of the human body, with a focus on how the body responds to health challenges. This course explores molecular and cell biology, genetics, organ and brain functions, and hormonal influence on behavior. Students learn how to assess the functioning of human systems and how to diagnose and treat disease.
- Community Nursing: This investigation of the nursing profession within the public healthcare context explores epidemiology, environmental hazards, health promotion, and disease prevention. Students acquire skills in case management and community assessment for individuals, families, and groups. Coursework addresses contemporary political, social, and economic issues affecting healthcare delivery and access, along with the needs of at-risk and underserved populations.
- Theory of Clinical Practice: The study of the theoretical foundations of clinical practice prepares nurses to provide patient-centered healthcare in diverse settings with many different populations. This course explores organizational leadership, the application of patient-care technologies, clinical decision-making, ethical practice, and professionalism. Learners analyze case studies and apply concepts through class projects and simulations.
- Leadership and Management: This upper-division seminar analyzes the principles of leadership and management in the nursing profession. Coursework explores current trends in healthcare organizations, systems leadership, patient safety, staff management, and conflict resolution. Students acquire knowledge and skills to handle budget and resource allocation, staff scheduling, personnel evaluation, risk management, and workplace quality.