Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Choose the Right RN Program

Choosing the right nursing program is one of the most important steps in your career. It will determine what you are qualified to do as a nurse, what position you’re able to land, and perhaps even secure a job for you through job placement. There are a few important questions you must ask yourself as you take this next step in fulfilling your dream of becoming a registered nurse (RN).

1. What kind of nurse do you want to be?

Aspiring RNs will find there are multiple options for nursing programs, including diploma programs, associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) programs, bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) programs and master’s of science in nursing (MSN) programs. (Please see NurseZone’s Schools and Programs page [LB1] for more information on the difference between the programs available.)

Do you want to work in a nursing home? At a hospital? In a school? Do you want to specialize? If you know what kind of nurse you want to be, this may help to tailor which nursing program you want to attend. If you know you want to continue your education at some point and perhaps become a nurse practitioner or other advanced practice nurse, you may want to start with a BSN. If you are not sure and just want to become a registered nurse, an ADN may be a reasonable option. Explore job opportunities for nurses in your community and speak with a recent new graduate nurse on the challenges they faced finding a job in your area.

2. How long do you want to be in school?

Diploma programs generally last about 2-3 years with great hands-on experience, but may make it more difficult to continue your education later.. ADN programs are typically 2-3 years and provide an entry-level education as a nurse. BSN programs are generally 4 years long, but accelerated programs are available through some schools for those who have already completed a bachelor's or graduate degree in a non-nursing discipline, cutting the time down to around 2 intense years. MSN programs are generally 6 years long, including the time to get your undergraduate degree.

Will you have to work while in school? How much money will you have to pay back (if any) when you are done? Think about some of these questions prior to choosing a plan.

3. Are you willing to relocate?

Investigate the nursing schools available in your community. Do these schools fulfill your needs? If there are no nursing schools in your area, then you will have to relocate. If the schools do not meet your needs for becoming a certain type of nurse, then you may have to relocate, as well. Some students may choose an ADN program, if that is all that is available in their community, and then finish a BSN online. Look at your options and see what is feasible for you.

4. How much money are you willing to spend?

Every program costs something different, based in part on the amount of time you’re in school. Going through a diploma program will generally cost less money than an ADN, and an ADN is usually cheaper than getting your BSN, and so on. (Of course you may want to pursue those higher degrees at a later time when you can afford them.) If you go to a private school, it will of course be more expensive than a state school. Explore your options for scholarships, grants, and loans, as these may all affect your choice in which program to attend.

5. How much family/social time are you willing to sacrifice?

Nursing school will demand a great deal of your time―for studying, finishing projects, and attending clinicals. In some cases, students realize too late that they are not willing to sacrifice so much for their education. This can affect grades, and in some cases students will either drop out or change their course of study. It is important to understand prior to school what level of commitment and time you are willing to devote to your program of study. Some programs (BSN, accelerated, etc.) may be more time-consuming and demanding than other programs.

Investigate, explore, and speak with other students about how school has affected their personal life to get a realistic perspective before choosing a nursing school. Some students are willing to give up some of their free time now in order to have more free time when they are done with school and perhaps have more money to spend doing the things they love.

For those who have finished school, what program did you ultimately decide upon? What questions helped you come to this decision? Are you happy with your choice? Thanks for your input!

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