Nursing can be a rewarding career choice. There are a variety of ways to get the
education needed in order to practice nursing. Getting a quality nursing education
is important so look for a school that is nationally accredited. Two well known accrediting
bodies, National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC)
and Commission on Collegiate
Nursing Education (CCNE) ensure that their schools maintain quality and integrity in education.
NLNAC accredited and CCNE accredited schools are found throughout the country, making sure
quality nursing education is widely available.
In addition to looking for an accredited
nursing program, prospective students may also want to look at a school's rate of
graduation, rate of graduates who pass the NCLEX exam, and rate of graduates who
find employment within one year of graduation. Reputation of the nursing program may
also be a deciding factor. Having faculty that are at a minimum Master's-prepared,
but ideally Doctoral-prepared speaks to the quality of the nursing program. Nationally
recognized faculty who are leaders in nursing research can provide excellent education
to nursing students. The availability of quality internships will also impact choice
of a nursing program. Often, the top teaching hospitals in the country are also home
to excellent nursing schools such as Johns Hopkins Hospital,
University of Washington Medical Center
or University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Types of Nursing Schools
Entry level nursing education starts at the community college level. The most basic
nursing license issued is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) license. LPN programs
range in length from six to 18 months. These are typically certificate programs where
no degree is issued. LPNs can perform basic nursing functions, but are limited in
more advanced nursing functions such as medication administration. Exact scope of
practice for LPNs can be found in each state's individual Nurse Practice Act.
The oldest form of education to become a Registered Nurse
is the Diploma program.
These programs are often two to three years in length and are primarily hospital-based.
No degree is earned from a Diploma program, but credits may be awarded which could then
be applied towards a degree. Graduates of a Diploma program take the same licensing test
as graduates of a degree program to become a Registered Nurse. While Diploma programs
were the main form of nursing education at the turn of the twentieth century, they are
The most common form of nursing education today is through earning a degree in nursing.
A degree can be obtained at both the Associate and Bachelor degree levels. Associate
degree programs are generally two years long versus Bachelor degree programs which
require four years of study. A four year nursing program has a stronger focus on nursing
theory and research and allows for greater depth of study. Graduates of a four year
nursing program are also able to pursue graduate degrees to become Advanced Practice
Nurses or nursing educators. State licensing requirements vary, but generally, graduates
of both programs are eligible for licensure as a Registered Nurse. Typically, in order
to earn a Registered Nurse license, a candidate must have graduated from an accredited
nursing program, have completed the required amount of clinical hours, passed a background
check and have passed the National Council of State Boards of Nursing exam, the NCLEX.
Traditional nursing schools are classroom based with a hands-on clinical component that
takes place at a hospital or community nursing center. Often schools also have a virtual
skills lab in which procedures and assessments are practiced on mannequins or other
students, before working with real patients. With the continued integration of technology
into education, more nursing programs are offering hybrid classes, where some or all of
class instruction is done online. Clinical experiences are often varied to ensure students
Nursing distance learning is becoming a more widely available option for students.
While coursework can be completed via a virtual classroom, there is still a hands-on
clinical component to nursing education that must be done in-person. For a nursing
student completing a distance education program, clinical experiences are arranged
at a local hospital or clinic with a local preceptor. Local preceptors are usually
experienced registered nurses in the community who have a background in education
and enjoy teaching nursing.
Types of nursing schools can further be divided into profit, non-profit, public, or
private categories. In general, for-profit schools will have higher tuition costs
than non-profit schools, however, for-profit schools may be more likely to take advantage
of new technologies in the classroom and have new facilities. Private colleges or
universities, which may be for-profit or non-profit, often have higher tuition than
the public schools such as a local community college, state college or university.
Public schools can, however, be just as expensive as private schools if paying out-of-state
tuition. Private schools tend to be smaller than public schools which may mean better
student-teacher ratios and more personalized attention. Both private and public schools
often offer tuition assistance and scholarships to help with tuition, book, and living costs.
When choosing the right school, it is important to consider overall cost of tuition,
what types of financial aid are available and housing availability and cost. Reputation
may also be a factor in school choice. US News
ranks schools annually and also can
provide guidance on where to find the best nursing programs. Rankings may vary year
to year so it is important to get the most recent data available.
How to Get Into Nursing School
Nursing school admissions are very competitive. Entrance into a nursing program
generally requires that certain prerequisites for nursing have been met. While specific
requirements to get into nursing school vary, generally, coursework in Biology, Chemistry,
Organic Chemistry, Psychology and Mathematics are required. These fundamental classes,
in addition to others, will provide the foundation needed for a strong nursing education.
Nursing school requirements may also include working or volunteering time in the health
care field, completing a nursing school essay, and holding a current cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) certification. It is important to study and stay focused on the
coursework as many nursing programs have grade point average requirements, ensuring
that students accepted to the program are top notch. Background checks are also completed
prior to admission to a nursing program.
An education in nursing can lead to an exciting and stimulating career. Choosing the
right school and meeting the admission requirements are important first steps on the
path to becoming nurse.