UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This spring semester marked the 15th anniversary of nursing education online through Penn State World Campus and the College of Nursing, a program that has provided nurses the opportunity to expand their skill sets and seek management and leadership roles in the field.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing was first offered online in the spring of 2005. Since that time, more than 1,450 students have earned their bachelor’s degree through the RN to BSN program. The program requires completion of 120 credits and the recently modified 45 clinical hours.

Since the program began, Penn State has expanded its degree offerings for nurses looking for leadership positions. The Master of Science in Nursing program enrolled its first students in the fall semester of 2013, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice was added for the fall semester of 2014.

Mary Alyce Nelson, assistant teaching professor in the College of Nursing and coordinator of the World Campus RN to BSN program, said Penn State’s portfolio of nursing programs shows how nursing education has evolved to match the changing needs of the profession.

“Penn State’s been able to meet the need of the health care industry with quality programs through the World Campus as more nurses are interested in earning higher degrees and the facilities where they work are providing more encouragement for it,” she said. “We’re committed to providing health care professionals at every level with the necessary tools to be clinical decision-makers.”

Jobs in nursing are forecast to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for registered nurses is projected to increase 12 percent through 2028. The number for nurse practitioners, who need a master’s degree, is expected to grow 28 percent during the same period.

Al Bortel, who graduated in 2006, was working as an RN in an intensive care unit when he realized he needed a bachelor’s degree to advance his career. He said Penn State gave him the flexibility to pursue his ambition while allowing him to work full-time in a high-pressure environment.

“Penn State World Campus had the best program for getting my degree,” he said at the time. “I want to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, and getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing is a major step toward that certificate.”

Coral Gutierrez returned to college after 20 years to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She had recently started a new job at a children’s hospital and chose Penn State because she knew her degree would represent a world-class education.

“I needed to be challenged,” said Gutierrez, who graduated in 2017. “At Penn State, there was no skating by.”

Nelson said all of the programs are designed to empower nurses to make critical, time-sensitive decisions and that nurses at all levels impact each other through their work.

“The doctor of nursing students are translating research findings, master’s students are applying the findings to clinical practice, and bachelor’s-level students are using evidence-based approaches while providing direct patient care,” she said. “World Campus gives us the flexibility to offer these programs to more nurses in Pennsylvania and beyond.”