When you decide to go into nursing, you are committing to a career of challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling work. You will be given the opportunity to positively impact patients’ lives daily by administering the very best healthcare in conjunction with other healthcare team members that you become a part of. However, the road to becoming a qualified nurse is one that starts with choosing the right nursing school program.
There are a variety of options available to nurses today in terms of education. From online nursing programs to in-person classes, there are several different ways to earn your degree to give yourself the flexibility you need. Moreover, the programs available to nurses today vary greatly in cost and length of the program. Whether you are looking to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to become a registered nurse (RN) or seek an advanced degree in pursuit of higher career options, there is an online nursing program out there for you.
However, with such an array of options available to you, you might be at a loss as to what program will be a good fit for you. There are a great many factors that you will need to take into consideration that will contribute to your decision. The best course of action that you can take is to give your decision its due consideration and weigh all aspects of the schools you are contemplating.
You need to consider these nine things when you are looking for the right nursing school for your career.
1. Style of Education
First and foremost, you need to decide what style of education you would like to embark upon. These days, there are online nursing programs, in-person nursing programs, and programs with aspects of both online nursing programs and in-person ones. Some students thrive better in a traditional academic setting where they must be in class and lectures on campus at set times throughout the week. Others prefer the flexibility of online nursing programs instead.
When you opt for online nursing programs, you are given the opportunity to continue working while also earning your education. While this might not be as big of an issue for those earning an undergraduate degree, nurses looking into online nursing programs to earn an advanced degree tend to fare better when they can continue to work while they are in school. The ability to coordinate your own schedule to an extent can spell the difference between success in your degree program and failure to keep up with the workload that will be expected of you.
As with any major decision that you make in your career, you must be able to weigh the outcome regarding cost. You do not want to invest a higher than the necessary amount in your education. It would be best if you did your research to ensure that you will see a positive return on the investment that you make into your education.
You should also consider what financial help you will be able to acquire for your studies; some institutions might allow you to work in your placement hospital and earn money while you complete your training; if you already work in a healthcare setting, you may be able to speak with your employer about online nursing programs, and they may partially sponsor your tuition for your professional development, as long as you continue working with them throughout your training, and for a time after you have qualified.
It is a commonly known fact that online nursing programs tend to be more cost-effective than traditional education options. However, if you are pursuing an advanced degree, the amount of money that you spend on your degree might be worth it in the end. Ultimately, you should look into the type of salary that you can expect to earn once you are employed after graduation and ensure that the amount that you spend on your degree can be made up for once you are earning.
When it comes to licensing for healthcare providers, the state in which you are licensed means a great deal. While you aren’t limited to practicing nursing in the state that you receive your education for the duration of your career, it is far simpler to sit for the NCLEX exam in the state in which you were educated. For this reason, it might be easier to earn your degree and take the NCLEX exam in the state that you hope to live and practice.
Even if you are looking into online nursing programs, it is worth considering the institution’s location. You can always look to have your license transferred to another state once you earn it and become an R.N.; however, it might be an easier process overall if you keep things as consistent as possible in the beginning.
4. Duration of Program
For some nurses, the duration of the program that they choose is an important factor to consider. Some are unable to undertake a four-year undergraduate program right off the bat and might need to opt for a shorter path to becoming an R.N. In such cases, a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) might be the answer.
This is possibly a more significant factor to consider when you are looking to earn an advanced degree in nursing. This is because you will most likely be working as an R.N. throughout the time that you spend earning your degree. A shorter degree program might make this entire process easier in the long run.
It should also be noted that more online nursing programs are of an accelerated nature than more traditional programs. This might indicate that online nursing programs might be a better option for those nurses looking to earn an advanced degree in the most efficient manner possible.
5. Specialties Available
These days, nursing is a diverse field with many possibilities in terms of career options. You can choose to work in a traditional setting as an R.N. in a hospital, or you might wish to take your career farther and specialize in a specific area of medicine as a nurse practitioner (NP). You might not know exactly what specialty you want to work in at this time, meaning that the online nursing programs you look into the need to have the specialties you are considering.
Moreover, the programs you are considering must be staffed with experienced faculty who are prominent professionals in their respective fields. Since experience is such an important aspect of becoming a nurse in any capacity, you want to make sure that you are being taught by those who have acquired a great deal of experience of their own that they can pass along to you throughout your program. If you are interested in a particular specialty, make sure that the online nursing programs you look into are staffed with qualified professionals who have a great deal of experience working in that specialty.
All schools will have made their way onto a national ranking list of some sort. If you are looking to get a top-notch education, you need to consider programs offered by schools that rank high on such lists. You need to bear in mind about such rankings because they are mainly based on the statistics of education. This means that students’ success rate on national certification exams like the NCLEX is taken into account. However, student satisfaction is not factored into these rankings.
This means that a school might offer an excellent success rate for students seeking employment after graduation, but it might not have much to offer in terms of campus life. Quality of housing, amenities, and student organizations are not generally considered by the bodies that rank nursing schools. This means that the ranking of the online nursing programs you are looking into shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but it is something that is certainly worth making yourself aware of.
7. Student Life
With that in mind, many students want to ensure that they will be comfortable and happy throughout their education. This is a particularly important point for most undergraduate nursing students looking to earn their BSN from a four-year university. Four years is a significant amount of time to spend living, studying, and working in one place. This means that you should ensure that you are satisfied with what a school can offer in terms of student life before you enroll in a program.
Firstly, you should look into the types of accommodations that are available to students both on and off-campus. You are going to be spending a fair amount of time studying and working on important coursework, meaning that you are going to need a quiet and comfortable environment in which to work. You will also need to get the rest that you require throughout nursing school so that you can stay on top of your hefty course load.
Recreational activities are also important to many students. You are being able to participate in events and activities on campus that allow you to take a break from your work and recharge while at the same time connecting with your fellow students is an important aspect of campus life that many nursing students look for. Ultimately, it is important that you feel comfortable in the environment you plan to study in. Whether you are looking for a traditional four-year university, or are considering online nursing programs, make sure that you are happy with your prospective student life.
8. Research Job Placement Opportunities
Your goal in attending nursing school or earning an advanced degree in nursing is obviously to put yourself in a position where you can land an excellent job. The school you ultimately choose for your degree might play an important role in finding your first job post-graduation. This is because nursing schools tend to have solid relationships with the hospitals and clinics that their students learn in. When you perform your clinical hours at a hospital or other medical facility, you might very well be able to make valuable connections that can translate into a job once you have graduated.
When you are researching nursing school programs, look into the connections that a particular school has with local hospitals and clinics. You might find that students graduating from a particular institution are given a priority when it comes to hiring at a nearby hospital. This can ultimately increase your chances of land the type of job you want right after graduation.
9. Accredited or Not?
Accreditation is another factor that you should consider as you conduct your search for the right nursing school. Accreditation is not a requirement for a school regarding its students’ ability to qualify for state licensing. However, accreditation means that nursing experts have given a school their stamp of approval, so to speak. It also means that if you wish to transfer your credits to an accredited school or apply to an advanced degree program down the line, your work might not transfer over or be deemed sufficient by the school that you are looking to transfer into.
Another factor that comes into play when you are comparing accredited schools and ones that are not accredited is financial aid. If you are going to need financial assistance with your education, you will need to choose an accredited school. This has to do with the fact that the U.S. Department of Education does not offer financial aid to nursing school students who attend non-accredited programs.
Moreover, many employers want to see that their nurses have attended an accredited school. This is because accredited schools offer a more complete and comprehensive education to nursing school students. Again, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to become a state-licensed nurse if you attend a non-accredited school. However, it does mean that your chances of finding the type of employment you want once you have graduated might be less than desirable.