If you're interested in being a nurse, you have several possible paths to take, as well as several destinations to choose from. One option is getting a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Successful completion of this program prepares you for the national exam for licensure. A bachelor’s program is usually four years long and requires 120 credits. However, some schools that use nontraditional methods of assigning credits might mandate as many as 180.
The Heart of the Matter
Usually, more than half of the required credits for a bachelor's degree in nursing are courses that focus on nursing knowledge and practices. An introductory nursing class exposes students to skills needed in a clinical setting. They learn to interact compassionately and professionally interviewing patients, complete basic health assessments and promote good health habits. Legal and ethical issues are explored in a class that considers nurses’ responsibilities and dilemmas. Students become familiar with pharmaceuticals, their uses and potential problems. General nursing care courses cover treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, health assessments and patient behaviors. In addition, students learn how cultural, social justice and diversity issues affect nursing care.
Nursing programs include many opportunities for interacting with patients, although they vary from school to school, with different methods of assigning credit hours. Generally, students take 25 or more credits of clinical work with a wide range of potential patients. Practicum experiences may be stand-alone classes, or the practice may be included within other courses. In addition to general patient care, students learn to work one-on-one with specific populations such as senior citizens, surgical and critically ill patients, children, infants, families, pregnant women and mentally ill patients.
From the Bottom Up
Nursing students have to take several foundational classes in natural sciences, social sciences and research. These requirements are often fulfilled before starting the core nursing courses. The number of credit hours usually runs between 20 and 30. Biology with a lab component is needed, although the specific type of biology classes vary among schools. Students might study anatomy and physiology, genetics, microbiology and immunology or molecular biology. Chemistry courses may include introductory chemistry and organic chemistry. Basic classes in psychology, human development and sociology help prepare nurses for the wide range of people and settings they will face. In addition, a introductory statistics course is included in some programs.
Like any bachelor’s degree, a B.S.N. program mandates general education courses, but requirements differ among schools. For example, students at California State University, Long Beach, must take 12 general education credit hours, while those at UCLA must earn 48 units. Every student takes a standard college-level writing course, such as English Composition. A math course is needed, but students may have options such as computer science, algebra, trigonometry or geometry. Additional requirements could include classes such as oral communication, critical thinking and foundation courses in the humanities, liberal arts and sciences. The few electives allowed are often in the liberal arts, including history, performing arts, visual arts, languages, communication or philosophy.