How to Choose a Nursing School
If you want to be a Travel Nurse, choosing the right nursing school is vital.
The nursing school you choose can affect your chance of successfully graduating, passing the NCLEX and getting a job. It can also affect your opportunities for advancement later in your career.
In this post, find tips to choose the right nursing school, whether you’re looking to break into nursing or advance your nursing career.
How nursing school works
Clearly, the first step is choosing a nursing program. It is recommended you choose a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), however, there are associate degree programs available as well. During nursing school, you can expect to have a combination of classroom work, simulations, and clinical experiences.
Once you’ve graduated from your nursing program, you’ll need to pass the nursing board exam called the NCLEX-RN. Then, you’re a full-fledged registered Nurse ready to care for patients! Once you’ve gained a year or more of experience, you will then be able to travel the country taking short assignments as a Travel Nurse.
Find an accredited nursing school
In order to be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN, you must be a graduate of an accredited nursing school. If you plan on moving up in the field, you will need a nursing degree from an accredited institution to get into a master’s program.
Unfortunately, there are nursing programs that are not accredited. Watch out for these.
When choosing a nursing school, find the school’s NCLEX pass rate and job placement rate either online or from a recruiter. These rates can help you understand which nursing school will best prepare you for a career in nursing.
See if you’ve taken the prerequisite classes
Different nursing schools and degree programs have varying prerequisites. Some degree programs require more than a year’s worth of classes to even apply. These include basic science classes, statistics, and other math classes.
If you haven’t taken these classes prior to applying, you’ll have to take them once you’re accepted. This means it will take you longer to get into the workforce.
When you’re researching nursing schools, make sure you understand the prerequisites.
Check on the school’s simulation facilities
Simulations are an excellent way to practice nursing procedures prior to starting clinicals.
Some nursing schools today have simulations that breathe, talk, bleed and cry. During these simulations, you will learn how to insert various tubes, care for wounds and perform life-saving CPR. Your teachers will be able to expose you to many emergencies you might see during your career.
A nursing school with a strong simulation program can increase your comfort and skill level before you are exposed to the pressures of working with real people.
Learn more about the simulation facilities at each nursing school you’re considering to ensure you’ll get the most out of your time in nursing school.
Know what hospital affiliations a school has
As with most professions, getting a nursing position is as much about who you know as what you know.
Most staff Nurse positions are given to prospects who either worked on the unit during their schooling or completed clinical rotations there.
If your heart is set on a specific hospital, your best bet is to find a school that has an affiliation with that hospital. Likewise, a school with a prestigious hospital affiliation could help you later in your career.
Search for the best clinical experiences
Your clinical experiences are where you truly learn about nursing. Compare the number of clinical hours a school offers in each specialty.
Place emphasis on programs that offer the most number of hours (one-on-one) with a Nurse Preceptor on a unit. These are where you learn how to be a Nurse, not just how to do nursing.
Regardless of where you go during your clinical experiences, keep good relationships with your preceptors, Nurse Educators, and Nurse Managers. They will be invaluable in your job search. In addition to maintaining these relationships, make sure to obtain references and performance evaluations from any supervisor you end up working in your field.
Find the right degree program for you
For current Nurses looking to advance
If you are currently a Nurse looking to advance your career, there are a number of options to choose from. Many nursing schools offer online RN-to-BSN programs.
An RN-to-MSN program will allow you use your experience at the bedside to become an Advanced Practice Nurse without having to earn your BSN first. As a bachelor’s prepared Nurse, you are eligible for MSN programs, which can often be completed online while you continue to work.
For new Nurses
The most common baccalaureate nursing degree program is the traditional 4-year BSN degree. This option is great if you just graduated high school, or otherwise, don’t have a college degree.
If you have a degree in something other than nursing and are considering a career change, there are a myriad of accelerated BSN programs. These programs are full-time and incredibly intense; it is generally not possible to work while completing the coursework.
Accelerated BSN programs cram 4 years of study into roughly 15 months. Other, less common, degree programs for individuals who already have a different degree are accelerated Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. At the end of two years, you could either be a Registered Nurse with a Clinical Nurse Leader certification or a Nurse Practitioner, depending on the program.
Look for scholarships and grants
Regardless of which nursing school you choose, a nursing education doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately, there are many scholarship and grant programs that can help. Here are just a few places to look:
Let us know about your experience
Have you completed an accelerated BSN? Did simulations help you gain confidence before being in the field? Do you have tips on how to make the most of clinicals? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter.