How to get into a nursing program
While individuals have turned to nursing careers for the promise of job security and higher paychecks, getting into nursing school is no easy feat. With the rise in interest in nursing, there has also been an increase in nursing programs which don’t offer value or accreditation. Among the most difficult tasks in pursuing a career in nursing is gaining acceptance into a nursing school. It’s not impossible, but will surely require more studying than one may anticipate.
Selecting the educational goal
The first step to getting into nursing school is choosing the nursing program that is the right fit.
There are several levels of programs that offer nursing education, including Certified Nurse’s Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
- Certified Nursing Assistant Programs. CNAs are entry level nurses. They assist primarily in basic personal care needs and with patient mobility among other needs. CNA programs typically last just a few months.
- Licensed Practical Nurse Programs. LPN programs typically require a longer commitment than CNA programs as the LPN will be required to carry out more intensive duties that may include administering IVs and recording vital signs. In all instances, LPNs usually work under the direct supervision of a nurse or other advanced healthcare professional.
- Registered Nurse Programs. Registered Nurse programs are the most common type of nursing programs. They typically require three to five years of post-secondary education, most often four. The program prepares nurses to become professionals who can develop or administer a care plan under the doctor’s supervision.
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Programs. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are registered nurses that also has the ability to diagnose and prescribe treatment to patients. These programs typically require two to four years of additional study after graduating from an RN program.
Choosing the right fit
Nursing programs come in all varieties. Some programs cater towards working professionals and those pursuing nursing as a second career by offering evening, online or weekend classes. Other nursing courses require students to attend classes each and every day on campus. Many courses allow students to earn a CNA or LPN during the course of the program so that students can gain experience. Nursing school is hard enough without the added stress of additional obligations. Students must make sure to choose a nursing program that will allow them to attend to family duties and maintain their current work schedule if need be. Regardless of the nursing program’s format, students should ensure that their program is accredited by one of two major bodies, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.
For nursing students with previous healthcare experience and education, there are programs that award credits for prior education. Paramedics, LPNs, and CNAs can sometimes transfer credits from their previous nursing program.
Applying to nursing school
Once a student has settled on a nursing program, it’s time to apply. Depending on which type of nursing program that a student chooses, there will be different requirements. Most nursing schools at universities and colleges require two separate admission process. First, students must apply and be accepted at college to take prerequisite courses. Second, students must apply to nursing school. Because nursing school is very competitive, it’s imperative to earn good grades in prerequisite courses.
How hard is nursing school?
One of the most stringent requirements for nursing programs has to do with the number of times students may repeat a given course. In courses like anatomy and physiology, the required material is particularly challenging when taking other nursing courses simultaneously. It’s common that many students need to retake these courses at least twice to pass. Some nursing schools offer a limit on the amount of times that a student can take a given course. Usually the limit is two to three times total. In the event, the student does not pass with a satisfactory grade; the student may not be admitted to the program. Some schools accept petitions allowing students to make a case for admission despite a failed course, particularly if it was some time ago.
To avoid this mishap, students should take careful consideration in how they plan their course load. Sometimes taking an extra semester or two complete prerequisite courses is acceptable.
Surviving Nursing School
Not only are prerequisites difficult to complete. Once a student is accepted into nursing school, the battle has just begun. Just as students must earn minimum grades, often an A or B, in prerequisite courses, students in nursing school face equally strict requirements. For core level nursing courses, students must often earn an A or B before they can move onto a subsequent course. If a course is failed they are only allowed to repeat it a limited number of times. In some nursing programs, mentors, whether upperclassmen or academic advisors are available to help students plan and succeed in their nursing program.
How long is nursing school?
Nursing school programs vary in length from one to four years depending on a student’s previous education and experience. Students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing may complete an accelerated one year program. LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), paramedics and other students can usually complete the nursing program in one-two years.
For students without previous nursing education, admission into nursing school can vary from the two-year ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) program offered at trade and technical schools, to the three year hospital diploma program and the four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, which is becoming the standard for the nursing practice. Though some schools allow students to apply directly to the nursing program, most require two separate admission processes.
The final task in becoming a nurse is passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Many schools post the pass rate of their students, while some specify a first-time pass rate. When considering nursing programs, select a course with a first-time pass rate over 90%, as these programs have better prepared students for the certification exam. Some students take time off in between graduation and finding a job to take the NCLEX-RN. However, waiting too long may result in a delay or inability to take the exam.