You knew when you graduated from nursing school that your educational journey wasn’t over. Continuing education is as critical for nurses as the original degree you received. Given the ever-changing landscape of the medical field, it’s vital that nurses constantly update their knowledge base.

As a busy career nurse, you know that finding time to take continuing education courses is not easy. The idea of leaving a twelve-hour shift to race to class is understandably overwhelming. Luckily, attending courses in person is not the only option.

Modern technology has created opportunities for professional development and growth that don’t require anything more than a computer and an internet connection. If you have those tools, you can take continuing education courses online. This way, you can stay up-to-date on everything you need to know to be an excellent nurse and do it at your convenience.

The Evolution of Online Learning in Nursing Education

Obtaining additional education and even certifications online is easy and accessible, but it hasn’t always been that way. Nearly thirty years ago, Duquesne University, USA, offered the first online doctorate in nursing, and ever since, nurses have used online tools to support their career growth.

As the healthcare industry experiences major nurse shortages, online learning offers a way for more prospective nursing students to begin their careers. Of course, at their inception, virtual nursing education programmes were controversial. However, after decades of results, the consensus is that there is a definite benefit to offering some nursing education online.

Even nurses who prefer to complete their degrees at a brick-and-mortar university can benefit from online learning, as many of the required continuing education courses can be found in virtual form. Thanks to advances in technology, these courses can include everything from simple slideshows to live lectures and even interactive programmes.

The pandemic taught the healthcare industry that quite a bit of medical work can be done virtually. Research by Wolters Kluwer revealed that 93% of surveyed nursing schools used virtual learning in some way, reflecting the growing prominence of online education in the healthcare sector. 

Advantages of Online Education in Nursing Professional Development

Flexibility in Scheduling

While clinical courses need to be in person for hands-on learning, much of the information that nurses are required to learn can be delivered online to allow for a self-paced educational experience. Research into self-paced learning models published by Jonathan G. Tullis and Aaron S. Benjamin in PubMed Central shows that this method is highly effective and supports better retention.

Many nurses lead extremely busy lives, balancing professional careers and families at home. Being allowed the flexibility of online learning for continuing education gives them the freedom to take care of those courses when it works best for their schedules.

Accessibility from Anywhere

Online nursing education has also added an element of accessibility that was lacking in traditional models. No matter where you are or what physical limitations you might have, you have the opportunity to access a world-class education thanks to online options.


Quality online learning options are often much more affordable than traditional schools, which provides learners with more access than ever. Given the dire need for nurses across the globe, this is an advantage that will bring more nurses to the trade.

Overcoming Challenges: Maximizing the Benefits of Online Continuing Education

There are challenges with online learning. Some students find self-paced programmes to be difficult because they struggle with motivation. Others prefer an in-person setting where they can access real-time support from peers and instructors. 

Technical Hurdles

For students who are not as technologically inclined, it can be daunting to manage all of their coursework online. There are often software programmes and websites that need to be navigated to complete online work.

Social Stigma

There is sometimes a stigma associated with online learning that suggests it is inferior to brick-and-mortar alternatives. This outdated notion is simply untrue, and many online programmes for both continuing education and full-length degrees are hosted by prestigious institutions.

Time Management

If you’re not able to properly schedule time for schoolwork, it’s easy to fall behind with online learning. Figuring out how to balance your time well to include plenty of time for classes — even when you don’t have to physically attend them — is critical to success.

Motivation and Engagement 

Often, the social aspect and peer connection are a valuable part of the learning experience. This can be lost with online learning, making it difficult to engage with the course. Feeling isolated in your journey can make it difficult to stay motivated.

These challenges are not insurmountable, however. Today, online continuing education options for nurses are equipped with incredible systems for support and collaboration. As more nurses opt for online learning to meet their needs, more data is available showing how effective these options are.

The Future of Online Learning in Nursing

Going forward, the overwhelming expectation among experts is that online nursing education will continue to grow in availability, accessibility, and opportunity. 

  • Integration of AR and VR Technologies: Innovations in the curriculum will allow for more courses to take place virtually using artificial intelligence and augmented reality. 
  • Expansion of Mobile Learning Platforms: While so much of today’s nursing curriculum is hands-on and requires in-person attendance, technological advancements may soon provide ways for nurses to perform procedures virtually from anywhere. 
  • Utilisation of Artificial Intelligence: Some programmes are already using simulations to supplement their nursing education programmes, saving time and money on equipment. Virtual reality allows nurses to practise and learn new skills with zero risk, thereby decreasing mistakes.


Nurses around the world utilise online learning to advance their careers, and the most educated nurses are also the best compensated. In Australia, for example, nurse salaries reflect the importance of ongoing education. Whether aiming for career advancement, skill enhancement, or keeping pace with industry trends, accessing the appropriate online education platform is pivotal. That’s where we come in!

Alison’s free online nursing courses provide high-quality training – from experts like NHCPS and the US Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) – to support your continuous learning. All the courses are self-paced for completely flexible study and cater for nurses at every stage of their career, from enrolled and registered nurses to nurse managers. Enhance your training in everything from basic clinical skills to nurse leadership and from patient care to medical specialisms. Enrol today and discover for yourself the impact online training can have on your continuing education and career advancement.

Special Opportunity: Publish three nursing courses and earn €5,000.

Why not join the ranks of nurse educators offering their courses online? If you are a fully qualified professional nurse, you can apply to create nursing courses with us. Apply today!

Author Bio

Steven John Cumper, B.App.Sc. (Osteo.), M.Ost., is a businessman with a strong background in biomedical science and osteopathic medicine. He founded Medshop & ScrubsIQ while studying at RMIT University in Australia, expanding its reach to markets in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and Malaysia. In September 2021, the Bunzl Group acquired a majority stake in Medshop, but Cumper remains involved as the Managing Director (Medshop Group). His journey from Zimbabwe to the UK and Australia reflects his dedication to academia and entrepreneurship, combining diverse knowledge and experience.

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