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How to Choose a Nursing School

Today’s nursing school options extend beyond the traditional classroom. Now, through accredited online nursing schools, potential and existing nurses are able to complete coursework online, something that allows them to advance their careers without having to give up existing jobs or family obligations. Completing a LPN to RN bridge program or working to advance from an RN to MSN has never been easier with the flexible scheduling and entrance options distance learning an online nursing school provides. For more details and to find out if an online program might fit into your lifestyle, browse the nursing programs below.

Figuring out what nursing school to attend is a big decision, and you'll want to consider a number of factors to make sure you're choosing a program that works for you. In addition to logistical considerations such as format, location and cost, you'll want to consider program quality, faculty specializations and examination pass rates. Here's a look at five things to keep in mind when choosing a nursing school.

  • Accreditation: State licensure typically requires graduating from a state-approved nursing school, and accreditation by one of two bodies is one indication that your program meets recognized quality standards. In general, you should look for accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Check with your state's board of nursing to confirm your school meets their requirements as well.
  • Admissions criteria: Before applying, you should ensure that you meet a program's basic eligibility requirements, which could include prerequisite courses, admissions tests or prior health care experience. In addition to making sure you fulfill these criteria, find out how competitive admissions are, if the school has a waitlist and how often classes start.
  • NCLEX pass rates: Before beginning work as a licensed or registered nurse, you'll need to pass the National Council Licensing Exam, or NCLEX, for your field. Find out what percentage of students from each school on your list passed the NCLEX to get some indication of how well the school prepares students for this required test. This information may also be available from your state board of nursing, and most experts suggest going back five to ten years.
  • Faculty: Another way to evaluate the quality of a nursing program is to look at faculty. Programs should have a strong ratio of full-time to part-time faculty, and at least some faculty should have a doctoral degree in nursing. If you have a specific area of interest in nursing such as pediatrics or mental health, check to see if the school offers specialized courses or if faculty members have a background in those areas.
  • Clinical rotations: Nursing programs for first-time nurses require students to complete clinical rotations, and this hands-on component is critical to ensuring new nurses have the patient-care and hands-on skills necessary to succeed. Find out when and where clinical rotations are scheduled to ensure that you have plenty of clinical hours and gain experience in hospital settings. If you are attending part-time or online nursing school, find out how clinical requirements can be fit into your schedule and where they are located.
  • There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a nursing school, but with some research, you can identify the elements that are crucial to you. Once you've made a list of schools that meet your basic criteria, make a campus visit or arrange to speak with program representatives on the phone to get your questions answered and find out if the program seems like a good fit for you.
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              M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Leadership in Health Care Systems (Bridge)
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