Whether you are a senior considering what to do after graduation or an adult looking to enter a new career path, the decision to become a nurse is big. Not only do nurses have to be able to think on their feet, but not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver. This is probably why nursing has evolved as profession that attracts far more women than men. As a group, women seem to be much more able to give care than most men.
Having decided to be a nurse, the next big hurdle is finding a nursing school. Your choices at this point are many. The first one is choosing whether to be a practical or registered nurse. While these are not mutually exclusive because many practical nurses go on to become a registered nurse, most do not. Typically, a practical nursing program runs from 10 to 12 months. To become an RN, you will have to go to school a minimum of 2 years perhaps as much as 5 or 6 to specialize.
For graduating seniors from high school, the option to become an RN with a bachelor of science degree in nursing can be a good one for the better students. Since there is a good chance that you are planning for a 4 year degree, you might as well start out in that direction for your nursing degree. When looking for a good 4 year school, many of the same decisions for college need to be reached that any other college bound student will make.
The first choice is to decide whether you will go to a school close to home or a residential college several hours or several states away. In this instance, the really important thought is to evaluate your self control. If you are a party animal that can be easily distracted from your studies and goals, you will want to hover near home for your education. This will allow your parents to help you through the temptations not to work. If you are fairly mature, going away to college is a good idea.
For adults returning to advance their career and educational goals, the best choice of school is usually the one the meets your requirements that is an easy commute from where you currently live and work or have support. If adults have to commute too far for classes, they will usually not complete their education. The extra time and expense of the commute will begin to weigh on them, and they will decide to abandon their goal.
Either way, from here the decision making processes run on the same track. Many of the private career schools offer tracks for licensed and registered nurses. The two things to look for with the career schools is cost and certification rates. It is common for private career schools to charge more than double the price of community colleges and state universities. The private schools’ standards for admission are often lower because of their need to fill up classrooms to be able to turn a profit.
Because of lower admission standards, attrition from low grades can run high. To offset the fail rate, classroom standards may be reduced to make the completion ratio look better. These lower grading and admission standards often result in a lesser percent of students passing the state boards at the end of the program.
The real problem is that most students never know if they are doing well in their studies because everyone looks like they are related to Einstein. This can result in major disappointment at the completion of the program. The only solution is to do really look closely at how graduates do on the state tests. Schools are required to have this information available to prospective students. Not all private schools are bad, but it is a case of let the buyer beware.
For one or two year programs, most community colleges are running very successful programs. It is still important for you to check out the completion rates and the state board results from these schools as well. Often community colleges will present much of this information up front to attract students. The cost at these schools is generally within the boundaries of Pell grants plus modest student loan debt.
If you are considering a practical nursing program with the idea of continuing on to an RN program or a two-year RN program and going on for a BSN, take the time to investigate each step. Make sure that the practical nursing program credits will bridge into the RN program. If you are planning to go on for the 4 year degree, you will need an RN program that awards an associates degree at the program end. Nearly all 4 year programs will accept an associates degree without losing college hours.
Finally, the best bet when looking for a nursing school is find some nurses who are alumni of the program. After talking with 5 or 6 of them, you should be able to have a good idea about the difficulty of the school plus how the students did after graduation. Some schools will show a high licensing rate, but it may require students to retake the state tests numerous times. The school will only show the final result. You need a school that gives you a reasonable assurance becoming a nurse at the other end of your educational efforts.