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More Nontraditional Students Are Getting into Nursing


UTA BSN Nontraditional Students

Nontraditional students are helping to reduce the nursing shortage

The nation’s nursing shortage, intensified by an increased demand for quality healthcare, continues to be a pressing issue. The nursing shortage in Texas mirrors the national trend. According to a Texas Health & Human Services Commission report, by 2020, the demand for registered nurses will increase by 86 percent, while supply will only increase by 53 percent.

Nontraditional students — those characterized as older who often work or care for families — are helping close this critical gap. According to an article in KXAN, educators from across the state have called for lawmakers to focus on helping nontraditional students graduate.

Nontraditional nursing students are the new norm not just in Texas but nationwide. Per RN Central, the face of the nation’s nursing workforce is changing; today’s nursing student is older, more seasoned and likely to have children attending college. In 1985, the average age of RNs graduating from their original nursing programs was 24; for those graduating after 2004, it was 31.

More students than ever are approaching nursing as a second career, according to RN Central. In addition, there has been an increase in the percentage of nursing school students and nurses with non-nursing degrees — majors include liberal arts, humanities, business and other health majors. From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of nursing students with previous degrees increased from 13.3 percent to 21.7 percent.

Nontraditional students are a critical part of filling nursing shortages because they have a lot to contribute to patients and the profession, including life experience and maturity. According to Pantagraph, those who choose nursing as a second career want to contribute something meaningful to society.

Why an Online BSN Program Is Ideal for Nontraditional Students

Nursing is perhaps one of the best options for nontraditional students or professionals seeking second careers. It offers stability, competitive pay and challenging work. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree has many advantages, including increased marketability. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a BSN will have better job prospects than those without.

An online BSN program is ideal for nontraditional students because of its flexibility, which is often important for older students. Equally important is how the school accommodates nontraditional students. In an opinion piece for The Dallas Morning News, Anne R. Bavier, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at the University of Texas at Arlington, says the school has increased student retention by boosting academic, tutoring and personal counseling services for its students. They have invested heavily in faculty and advisers who can help nursing students succeed.

An increasing number of nontraditional students are entering nursing school and choosing nursing as a second career. They are necessary to decreasing the severity of the nursing shortage in Texas and the nation. A BSN offers increased job stability, career growth and higher earning potential compared to associate-prepared RNs. An online BSN program is a good option for older students because of its flexibility. The school you choose should also be proactive in accommodating the special needs of nontraditional students.

Learn about the UT Arlington online BSN program.


Grant, R. (2016, February 3). The U.S. is Running Out of Nurses. The Atlantic

Health and Human Services System Strategic Staffing Analysis and Workforce Plan. (n.d.). Texas State Auditor’s office

Wiernicki, A. (2016, June 21). Experts say funding ‘non traditional’ student is cure to nursing shortage. KXAN

Olin, J., BSN, RN. (2011, May 10). Non-Traditional Nursing Students Take Non-Traditional Pathways. RN Central

Swiech, P. (2012, April 27). Older school: Nursing programs drawing students over age 40. Pantagraph: Nursing

United States, Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015, December 17). BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses

Bavier, A. R. (2016, May 12). Anne R. Bavier: Texas faces an acute shortage of nurses. The Dallas Morning News

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