Accelerated Nursing Degrees: How Fast is Too Fast?


Graduates of traditional 4 year nursing programs wonder how it is possible to condense their entire course of study into 11 or 12 month nursing curriculums.  Yet, accelerated nursing programs which claim to teach all essential elements of nursing in a year or less are skyrocketing in popularity.  The creators of these accelerated programs believe that because they attract a particularly focused, bright, and accomplished post-undergraduate student body they are able to trim the academic fat and push students to acclimatize to classroom and clinical scenarios quickly.  They contend that well-trained, satisfied nurses can be taught in a remarkably short period of time. 

Practicing nurses and nursing instructors wage on ongoing debate surrounding the efficacy of accelerated nursing programs.  Prospective students, however, are voting with their feet and their wallets in favor of the autobahn approach to the RN.       

A recent study published in Nurse Educator magazine explored students’ perceptions about the quality of one of these accelerated nursing program.  The study was conducted in order to monitor and evaluate the 3-year-old accelerated nursing program at Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing in Boca Raton, FL.  Its author, Deborah A. Raines, used the example of her program to assess the adequacy of accelerated nursing education models. 

Her data and conclusions were limited.  They were specific to only one program, and encapsulated the impressions of a mere 17 students.  Yet, Raines’ findings are not to be dismissed.  Her article made several valid points not only about the nature of accelerated nursing programs but also about the type of students who choose to participate in them. 

Raines administered a questionnaire to the graduating class of 2005.   It investigated student satisfaction with both the educational experience and with subsequent employment.   At the time of graduation, all students ranked the program positively.  Additionally, 82% of the students reported that they would choose the accelerated program again.  When asked, “Do you feel competent to assume a position as a professional nurse?” 88% of students responded “yes”.  Further, all students passed the NCLEX exam on the first attempt. 

When the questionnaire was re-administered a year later, 2 students who had not felt competent at the time of graduation reported that competence was gained in the first year of working.  Raines suggested that, “These findings may lead one to wonder if the negative response to [nursing competence] was related to their personal high standards of self-performance and the normal anxiety associated with entering the workforce.”  In other words, Raines believed that students’ perceptions of performance had as much to do with their self-perceptions as with their opinions about the nursing program. 

She concluded that, “Studies such as this provide evidence that a fast track to a career in nursing is effective and culminates in a satisfactory learning experience in the eye of the critical consumer that is the accelerated program graduate as a new nurse”.

Perhaps a follow-up study could be designed which assesses and contrasts perceptions of nursing coworkers who orient and train new nurses.  A patient questionnaire could also be developed.  Seasoned nurses and those cared for by brand new nurses are, perhaps, best positioned to judge the success of an individual’s nursing preparation.            




Raines, D.  Accelerated Second-Degree Program Evaluation at Graduation and 1 Year Later.  Nurse Educator.  32(4), 183-186.

Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


Articles in this issue:


  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Alison Palmer

    Editorial Staff:
    Alison Palmer
    Laura Fitzgerald
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Creative Oversight:

    Design Director:
    Daria Dillard

    Design Firm:
    Agency San Francisco
    San Francisco, California

    Alison Palmer
    Laura Fitzgerald
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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