What Are RN to BSN Online Courses Like?
By Brianna Flavin on 09/28/2023
If you are researching an RN to BSN online program, or any other BSN programs online, you’ve probably seen a whole lineup of schools promoting ease, convenience and all the cake you can eat. (Okay, we’re exaggerating on that last one.)
You may have already decided that a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN degree) is the next step you want to take in your career, but how can you choose the nursing program that will work for you?
One factor to weigh is the RN to BSN curriculum. You already hold a registered nursing (RN) license issues by a board of nursing in the U.S., and you know your way around a healthcare facility, so you want to invest in courses that will stretch your knowledge and help develop your skills.
Depending on when you last spent time in collegiate nursing education, you might already feel comfortable with an online BSN program experience—or you might not.
In an online nursing degree program, you gain the convenience of working through an accredited institution from your home, a nearby café, or the break room at work. But the design of the courses can play a big role in how well you learn the material.
Will it be intuitive or easy to get used to? Can you expect courses to be relatable to your current nursing experience? Will there be a ton of memorization?
What courses can you expect from an RN to BSN program?
We enlisted nursing instructors to highlight some of the top courses included in the Rasmussen University RN to BSN program. Keep reading to learn more about how they’ll help you in your career as a nurse.
6 RN to BSN online courses to look forward to
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the Rasmussen University RN to BSN online curriculum to get a taste of the types of nursing courses that will help you round out your nursing knowledge and skills.
1. Genetics & Genomics
“My gosh! I love this course,” says Cady Bradbury, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Rasmussen University. This is the very first course most RN to BSN candidates take, and Bradbury loves meeting all the students who come in. “I get to be their unofficial tour guide, to help set the tone for the rest of the program.”
Keeping the RN to BSN curriculum relevant to actual situations registered nurses deal with is a big priority for the Rasmussen Nursing faculty.
“In this course, students really reflect on their own experience and the ethical dilemmas they’ve already experienced as a nurse,” Bradbury says. “They’ll say I wasn’t equipped to face this before, but now I have these tools, I know what I’d do next time.”
Why it matters
This course is pretty unique. Many programs focus strictly on the critical competencies, but Rasmussen includes this course in the RN to BSN lineup because of its rising importance in healthcare.
“As nursing advances, we are recognizing that genetics plays a role in disease manifestation and other health outcomes,” says Dianne Johnson, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Rasmussen University.
Nurses need to understand how genetics, social health determinants and multifactorial conditions impact health outcomes. “It’s not just your body or your lifestyle,” Johnson says. At an associate degree level, nurses need the training to address and treat a huge array of conditions. But at the BSN program level, a registered nurse can take more time and examine what causes and influences these conditions.
“Where do you live? What is your heritage—both cultural and genetic? These backgrounds aren’t just biology, and they influence how we need to treat our patients and choose medications.”
Genetics and Genomics is especially timely as COVID-19 revealed many critical health disparities in our society. The influence of genetics on disease expression became much more obvious when the pandemic first hit, Johnson explains, as people experienced such a wide array of symptoms ranging from almost non-existent to fatal.
If you choose an RN to BSN program that responds to the nursing landscape right now, you should experience courses that take you into the why behind things you already know as a registered nurse.
2. Contemporary Issues in Nursing
Speaking of COVID, Johnson says nurses in this contemporary issues course can choose a disease they want to focus on. For the past few years, many nurses have selected COVID to get a deeper look at the virus many of them experienced on the frontlines of healthcare.
Nurses adapt on the fly to new issues in the industry or healthcare landscape as they arise. A BSN program is about building a larger knowledge and skill base to prepare for, respond to and advocate within each change as it occurs.
Why it matters
Tackle an issue from many different angles to create a plan or education materials. Since registered nurses often function as teachers--to their patients, patient families, other nurses and healthcare professionals—a good RN to BSN program should equip you with some specific ways to teach and advocate when you graduate.
In this course, Johnson says nurses create a handbook for student nurses—to guide them in gathering confidential patient data, how to use technology, the EHR (electronic health record) and what to do in case of misuse. “It’s something they may eventually do in real life.”
3. Integrative Nursing
Health—real health—goes so much deeper than check-ups, disease management and prescriptions. You’ve probably already observed direct, medical impacts in your patients from things like their work and family lives, their mental health, what they eat, what they do in their lives and who they do it with.
“This course is my passion,” Johnson says, adding that integrative nursing seeks to understand the work nurses do in a very holistic, whole-person way. Nursing education is so often about the clinical side of health. This BSN program course invites you to consider many other critical aspects of health.
Why it matters
Nurses tend to spend way more time with patients than other healthcare providers, even in acute care settings.1 And while there’s always plenty to do every shift, nurses often wind up connecting with their patients beyond just the needs of the moment.
When you create a care plan for a patient, when you gather resources to make sure a patient can access their medication or their treatments, when you advise a patient’s family members on how to care for them after they return home—or what to expect in managing an illness, you need to be aware of integrative and holistic elements that might play a big role.
“This is just important awareness for nurses too,” Johnson says.
Since much of this course includes practices for stress management, self-care and good mental health, it’s a useful way for RN to BSN students to build some good habits.
“Students need to know how to balance work, life and nursing education. We have to fill our own cup, as nurses, so we can care for others.”
When they talk about food as medicine, and the importance of the healing environment and a good work culture, Johnson says the information is especially useful for RN to BSN nurses to apply in their own lives and places of employment.
4. Policy of Finance and Law
Um, is this actually a nursing course? You might be wondering. Have you wandered into the wrong module?
Nope—this course is 100% for nurses! “When I first got assigned to teach this course, I kind of groaned,” says Alyson Hopperstad, Clinical Nursing Coordinator at Rasmussen University. Hopperstad explains that her feelings echo the way many students start this class, dreading the boring language of laws and regulations, one more box to check off. But they wind up having a very different experience.
“Working in policy really just ignites the students,” Hopperstad says. “By the end, they’ll say This is so empowering. I feel like I have a voice now. As a nurse, I have the opportunity to make change.”
Long after graduation, Hopperstad will still hear back from nurses who’ve used the material from this course to instigate important changes in healthcare. “One of my former students is now a representative for her state, and she told me this course was the first time she ever considered advocating as a nurse on a higher level.”
Why it matters
This course is really about leadership and advocacy. It gives nurses the knowledge that can be so hard to learn outside of school. “My passion is leadership in nursing,” Hopperstad says. “And this course gave me the chance to mentor students and show them their advocacy.” Hopperstad will tell students, you have this rich experience—let’s use that. Let’s start there.
“This course helps you bring the injustices you see to light--and to cultivate an outcome instead of feeling stuck.”
5. Practice Excellence Through Innovation
This course helps students develop the skills needed to be innovative in their nursing practice. Continual innovation comes from finding sources for innovation and knowing how to harness new perspectives in order to improve.
Students take what they’ve learned about clinical practice through the program and apply it by creating and presenting a professional proposal.
This course comes nearer to the end of the RN to BSN program, and Bradbury loves seeing how much students have grown during their time. “I get to have students at the start of the program, then in this course, I get to experience their personal growth toward the end.”
Why it matters
In healthcare, innovation is at the heart of improvement. This course equips students with the competencies they’ll need to identify opportunities and create an evidence-based plan to bring about positive change.
This is an excellent opportunity for students to stretch their thinking and gather all they’ve learned into a proposal they could use someday.
6. Emerging Healthcare Technologies and Innovation
Healthcare technology only expands year over year. This course is dedicated to exploring specific aspects of nursing informatics along with a wider understanding of the role technology plays in shaping healthcare.
Social, legal and ethical considerations come into play as well here. Nursing students develop strategies to incorporate technology into their clinical decisions while balancing quality and safety considerations.
Why it matters
“I’ve been in nursing for over 30 years,” Johnson says. “I was implementing EHRs in hospitals back when that was new technology.” Consumer informatics, data and all the new fields and possibilities technology has opened up should have a huge impact on nursing practice.
Technology and innovation is a fact of life for healthcare professionals—and while some may bristle at the change, they also open a world of potential for improving healthcare delivery. This course helps nurses understand how healthcare technology can be harnessed to improve their nursing practice.
It’s also a great chance for nursing students to explore nursing informatics and other technology-based roles.
Where could a BSN lead you?
Earning your BSN isn’t just about leveling up a credential—it’s also about finding more in nursing that excites and energizes you. These RN to BSN courses are all about enhancing your practice and empowering you to take more control of your nursing career. Take a look at our article, " Is Nursing School Worth It? Graduates Share Their Stories".
Now that you know more about the courses that await you in our RN to BSN online program, there’s still more to consider.
The courses in this program all feature the same layout and general expectations on how many deliverables you’ll complete and what timeline you’ll have. This makes the online program experience a lot gentler once you get used to the format of the first class. Check out our article " Nurses Share the Pros & Cons of an RN to BSN Online Program".
For more information about tuition, schedules and all the details you really need to make decisions about a program, check out our RN to BSN degree page.
Applicants to this program must hold a current unencumbered Registered Nurse (RN) license issued by a board of nursing in the U.S. Rasmussen University defines a current unencumbered license as a license that is unexpired and has not been reprimanded, stipulated, suspended, revoked or has any current or prior disciplinary action regardless of current ability to practice. This program is not available to residents of all states. Speak with an admissions advisor regarding additional entrance requirements and to determine your eligibility for enrollment.
This program is not available to residents of all states. Speak with an admissions advisor regarding additional entrance requirements and to determine your eligibility for enrollment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2023.