When selecting a nursing school, you should choose a school that is state-approved. This insures that the program meets the minimum legal requirements set by that state for the preparation of nurses for licensure. Only graduates of state-approved programs are eligible to take the state licensure examination. The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) are national accrediting agencies for nursing education programs, recognized by the Council on Post Secondary Accreditation and U.S. Department of Education, and by the nursing profession itself. Graduates from accredited schools are more likely to receive credit for previous educational experiences when applying for further study. The NLNAC and the CCNE maintain lists of accredited schools.
The three basic types of nursing education programs all prepare students to take the State Board Licensing Examination upon completion of the required courses. Which program is right for you?
Click on these links to learn more about selecting a program.
Associate Degree (AD) programs are usually located in community colleges. There is a balance of content between general studies and nursing education. The program offers a wide variety of clinical nursing experiences and prepares graduates to function as direct care providers. Although there is no standardized curriculum, it is common for the student to complete the course requirements in four regular semesters and one summer session.
The AD program is not necessarily the first half of a baccalaureate (BSN) program although some AD program curriculums are designed to be articulated with baccalaureate degree programs. The student should not expect total transfer credit between AD and BSN.
Baccalaureate Degree programs, for the most part, are four academic years in length and are located in senior colleges or universities. The course of study combines education in the theory and the practice of nursing with general education in the humanities and behavioral, biological and physical sciences which serve as a base for the development of the nursing major. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is the only program that offers students experience in all of the major settings where health care is given. Community health nursing, for example, is offered only in the BS program.
The BSN is the only program that prepares the graduate for immediate entrance into graduate study at the master's degree level which is a requirement for teaching, administration, clinical specialization and nursing research.
Diploma Nursing programs are hospital based, but often include academic courses at nearby colleges or universities. The courses are usually in the biological, physical, and social sciences, as well as English, and offer e academic credit. Diploma programs offer a wide variety of clinical nursing experience, along with principles of nursing care and classes in the basic sciences and humanities.
Graduates of diploma programs who wish to go on for a baccalaureate degree in nursing may receive some college credit through demonstration of specific knowledge and skills on placement testing. Diploma courses, however, are not equivalent to college credit courses.
Tuition charges for all programs vary considerable, depending on whether the student attends a public or private institution, and whether the student is a resident or nonresident of the state where the program is located. Public institutions are usually the least expensive program.
You and your counselor should explore the following questions openly and honestly when considering your nursing career:
- What has been your level of achievement in high school and/or college?
- Will you need to work (full - or part-time) while you are a student?
- Do you have family responsibilities?
- Will you be able to move to another location to attend school?
- What are your nursing career goals (bedside nursing, teaching, administration)?
- What are your long-term academic and career goals?
Trends in health care delivery and health education predict that nursing preparation at the baccalaureate level will be advantageous in the future.
Academic ability: nursing makes intellectual demands on the
student. You must be willing to be a serious student with a desire to learn a
whole new body of scientific knowledge.
Responsibility: when you receive the title "registered nurse," you also assume accountability for your actions, legally and morally. You must respect confidentiality , use dependable judgment, and practice according to current standards.
Liking for people: it is necessary that you accept and respect the rights of people of all ages, races, social status, sexual preference and religious beliefs. This means you have to be unbiased, compassionate, considerate and interested in others.
Willingness to learn: you must be motivated to learn, to keep up with trends in your profession and to value and profit from life experiences.
Common sense: you will need to develop the ability to handle catastrophe and crisis, along with everyday frustrations in a confident and efficient way.
After completing a nursing program, you will be required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse. During the interim between graduation, receiving a passing test score, and obtaining a license, you may practice as a graduate nurse in most states.
Adapted with permission from Is Nursing For You? The National Student Nurses' Association, Inc.