So . . . you are thinking of becoming a nurse or advancing your nursing education?
If you are an individual contemplating a nursing career you might do some "investigating" to help in determining whether or not nursing would be a "good fit" for you. Use the following links of Frequently Asked Questions to research you options.
FAQ: How to choose a nursing education program?
Information provided from:
Nelson, Marilyn K., RN, MA. "Education Corner." Missouri State Board of Nursing Newsletter Volume 7, No. 3 (August-October 2005): 11.
Please don’t think that these ideas pertain only to high school age students or individuals in their early adulthood years. Many individuals are entering nursing programs to establish a second career or desire to pursue a nursing career later in life. You will find individuals of all ages in any nursing program.
One last thing - talk with nurses who have recently graduated and ask them about their nursing program to get some idea of what to expect.
What factors should I consider as I prepare for a career in nursing?
Hopefully, the idea of becoming a nurse is being introduced at the grade school level via health courses, guest speakers, “Take your Child to Work Day” activities, and other means. If you are an individual contemplating a nursing career, you might do some “investigating” to help in determining whether or not nursing would be a “good fit” for you.
- Take courses in biology, chemistry and the social/behavioral sciences to aid in assessing your interest and aptitude. A nursing curriculum incorporates the principles presented in such courses,
- Consider enrolling in a Health Occupations class if it’s offered at your high school,
- Join school or community organizations that focus on health careers. Some clubs offer exposure to a variety of health career opportunities via meeting presentations by health professionals and observational or “shadowing” experiences,
- Volunteer at a health care facility such as a hospital or nursing home. Many facilities give some basic instruction so that volunteers actively participate in various care functions such as transporting patients/residents, filling water pitchers in patient rooms, etc. Such experience will give you some idea of the health care working environment,
- Take a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course and work as a CNA,
- Talk with nurses who are actively practicing in the profession. Request to shadow (follow) the RN for a few hours at more than one interval. If you have a particular interest such as maternity/obstetrical nursing, pediatric nursing, etc., talk to a nurse who is working in that specialty area.
What factors should I consider or questions might I ask when selecting a nursing program?
There are many factors to consider and questions that you might ask when selecting a nursing program. It’s important to look around and obtain information from several programs so that you select the program that you think best fits your needs and expectations.
- Geographic location might be one of your primary considerations depending on your obligations and responsibilities such as maintaining your current place of employment and family issues,
- Check the accreditation status of the program from both an educational and nursing perspective. This is especially important if you are considering using one level of education as a stepping stone to another, such as progressing from an A.D.N. to a B.S.N. then to a master’s in nursing (M.S.N.). A program’s accreditation status may play a role in the ability to transfer course credit. A nursing program must be approved by the Missouri State Board of Nursing in order to operate in the state. The two major nationally recognized bodies that accredit nursing programs are the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Some colleges offer a “seamless” transition from the practical program to associate degree nursing program within that institution. Some practical and associate degree programs have articulation agreements with baccalaureate programs to facilitate an individual’s progression from one level of education to the next,
- Evaluate the admission requirements for each program. Must you complete specified prerequisite courses in order to be considered for admission? Is a specific GPA (grade point average) for previous course work required? What pre-admission testing is required and must you score at a certain level on the test?
- Consider the curriculum plan and time frames for completion of the program. Is the program offered on a semester, quarter, or other term basis? Is the expectation to attend classes year around or are summer months usually open? How many credit hours and what specific courses are needed to complete the program? What type of clinical learning experiences are offered? Are these clinical experience provided in a variety of settings such as acute care, long term care, community/public health agencies, etc? What are the number of program hours allocated to clinical experiences? The time frames for classroom and clinical course work need to be considered if you are planning to work part-time while attending school,
- What is the cost of the program? Do you need to have more funds available? Do you need to explore the availability of a scholarship, grant, or other financial aid?
- What support services are provided by the program and is sponsoring institution/agency? All programs provide financial aid services. Some offer counseling, health care and a variety of academic (tutoring, improving test taking skills, etc.) services,
- What learning resources are available? What services are provided by the library? Are there computers available for use with Internet accessibility? Is the practice/skills laboratory for the program well equipped with a variety of models and other learning aids? What are the operation hours for the library and skills laboratory?
- How many faculty members are teaching in the program and what is the faculty to student ratio for skills laboratory and clinical experiences? Is there faculty stability in terms of length of time teaching in the program? Generally, if there is only a reasonable amount of turnover in faculty, there is more consistency within the program in regards to expectations, grading, etc.
What types of nursing programs are available?
There are practical and professional nursing programs. In Missouri, a practical nursing program must be at least ten months in length. Most programs take approximately one year to complete. However, some offer a part-time, evening and weekend track which may take the student 15-18 months to complete. Upon successful completion, the student is issued a diploma or certificate. The individual must pass the national licensure examination (the NCLEX-PN) in order to be licensed and practice as a Licensed Practical Nurse (L.P.N.).
There are three types of pre-licensure professional nursing programs—diploma, associate degree, and baccalaureate. In the past, the various types of programs were often discussed in terms of how long it took an individual to complete the program. A diploma program is sponsored by a hospital/medical center and the student is issued a diploma upon completion. The associate degree programs are located in community/two-year, baccalaureate/four-year, and single purpose colleges. Upon Completion, the graduate is issued an associate degree in nursing (A.D.N.) or associate of science in nursing degree (A.S.N.). The baccalaureate degree program is generally offered by a four-year or single-purpose college/university. The graduate earns a Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing degree (B.S.N.). Graduates of all of these programs must pass the same national licensure examination (the NCLEX-RN) in order to be licensed and practice as a registered professional nurse (RN).
The Missouri State Board of Nursing only has authority to regulate nursing programs leading to initial licensure, so a general explanation of those types of programs has been given. If you are licensed as a RN and are considering nursing programs in order to advance your nursing education, many of the factors listed might be applicable to your situation.
How do graduates of the program perform on the national licensure examination?
In Missouri, programs are to maintain an 80% pass rate for the licensure exam. This means that within a specified twelve-month period, 80% of each program’s graduates who are taking the exam the first time must pass the exam. Look at a program’s pass rate over a period of time. Pass rates for each approved nursing program for the last five years are available on the Board of Nursing’s web site. You also need to consider the number of graduates taking the licensure exam within the twelve-month period. If there were fewer than 22 students, a pass rate of 80% may not be statistically significant. If you have questions regarding this, request to talk with the administrator of the nursing program. How does the program assist in preparing the student for the licensure examination? Many programs give periodic standardized tests, some via computer, to assess the student’s knowledge base.
Where do graduates of the program practice?
The current nursing shortage has been widely publicized. However, if you want to practice in a specialty area, those positions may not be available and /or employers may desire that the nurse have a certain amount of medical-surgical nursing experience before transitioning into a specialty.
What factors should I consider if I'm thinking about enrolling in an online program?
You not only need to consider the factors already mentioned, but you also need to know what type of learner you are. If you benefit from classroom discussion, question and answer sessions, lecture presentations which emphasize major concepts from reading assignments, an online program may not be for you. Determine how the clinical component of the program is conducted and how much involvement you have with program faculty for clinical experiences. Some states are not licensing graduates of online programs unless additional clinical course work is completed. Be sure that you ask questions of the nursing program that will be granting the degree. There are publishing companies who act as a middle-man between the nursing program and the student and offer additional study aids and services. Compare the services and costs associated with the publishing company and those offered by the nursing program to determine what is best for you.