I’m sure by now those of you who have made the decision to study nursing have an idea of your ideal nursing school (well I hope you do). Application for the upcoming Fall semester may have ended for most schools unless you’ve chosen a school with rolling admissions, you just might have a little time left (HURRY!). Speaking from experience, it is very easy to get excited about starting a new chapter in life. But as we know, in life some chapters are longer than others. In this post, I’m going to share a few key things you may want to consider when choosing a nursing program. Honestly the things I know now I wish I knew then but as the saying goes “nothing happens before its time.”
Things to consider when choosing a Nursing Program:
1. Location: As you know I’m an Island girl who’s been living here in the US for a few years now. I get bored very easily and I don’t like staying in one place for too long. However, while a change of scenery is good, it is important to choose a nursing program where you’ll be happy and comfortable. For me I just wanted a new environment and I picked a random school without considering if the location was ideal for a person like me. All I knew was that I just wanted a new environment. Now don’t be like me and choose a random program based solely on just wanting a “new environment.” Being the family person that I am, it was indeed hard to be living far from my family but that had its advantages as I was able to remain focused. Unlike myself, before choosing a nursing program be sure to answer the questions: Do I want to be away from family? Is living on campus or commuting what I want? Is the location ideal for me?
In addition to location I’m going to throw in the weather. Moving from up East to down South is a decision I don’t regret weather wise. I’m an Island girl and “me na lub di cowl weather”- translation “I’m from the islands and I don’t like the cold weather”. So, make sure you factor in weather as well.
2. Types of degree: If you are thinking about pursuing a degree in nursing, you should know that there are different levels in the nursing profession. In addition to choosing the right location the type of degree is also very important. Some of you, based on certain circumstances may want to start by becoming a LPN (Licensed practical nurse) or a RN (Registered nurse). There are also different RN levels starting with the Associates degree then to Bachelor’s etc. Personally, for me I would start with getting my BSN (Bachelors of science in Nursing) rather than my associates but that’s me and everyone’s situation certainly isn’t the same. At the end of the day it is your decision to make and it also depends on one’s personal goals.
3. Accreditation: Now for some of you, accreditation may be your number one thing on the list when looking for a nursing school. This will always be the number one thing on my list because I’m not trying to waste my money or time attending a school that’s not accredited (just a personal preference). I mean who wouldn’t want to attend a school that’s accredited??? While on your hunt for a nursing school I’m going to suggest you look for schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing and education. Save yourself the trouble and the money.
4. Curriculum: If I could stay in bed and read a page or two and get my degree I would be the happiest woman in the world. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the real world. When I was on the hunt for Nursing schools, the curriculum was the furthest thing from my mind. I just told myself I needed to get into a program and no matter what I’d always put my best foot forward. I’ve had classmates who had full time jobs, were parents and still had to be in class every day. I say this to say that when choosing a school, you may want to look into whether the school offers a flexible schedule such as evening and weekend classes or online and in person classes. Also knowing where the Clinical rotation sites will be is important as you want to ensure that you’ll be getting all the learning opportunities at these sites. Pretty much all nursing programs are extremely competitive so it’s up to you to discover your learning style as well as manage your time wisely.
5. Cost: The cost to attend nursing school varies from school to school. Now of course you want to attend a school where you can get the best education for your money’s worth. But, you don’t want to put a financial strain on yourself or family. I had this mentality where I didn’t want to ever get loans because I didn’t want any debt when I’m done school so I would try to get as much grants and scholarships as I possibly could. I quickly realized that student loans are available for everyone so why not take whatever help I could get so that I won’t have to deprive myself from going whichever school I wanted. There’s a phrase we say back home (Antigua) ” don’t put your head where your body can’t pass”, in this case it basically means don’t put yourself in unnecessary expense. You know your financial situation so it’s up to you to make a decision that is feasible for you.
6. NCLEX rate: After graduating, you (we) are required to take the National Council Licensure Exam before we can practice nursing. This rate is extremely important as it determine how well a school is preparing the students to become nurses. What opened my eyes was the fact that even though a school is accredited that doesn’t mean it won’t have a low NCLEX rate so be on the lookout for that before you go choosing your school.
I hope this list helps. I didn’t have all the tools I needed when I was choosing a school because I literally made wanting a new environment to overshadow everything, but nevertheless I don’t regret anything as I wouldn’t have learned and I wouldn’t have been able to write this post to share with you guys.
I encourage you to stay on top of applying for Nursing school early and also apply to multiple schools, it’s good to have options. I wish those of you applying or reapplying all the best and remember to put your best foot forward.