What to look for when choosing a nursing school

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Two gap medics students waiting on the wards in Iringa, Tanzania. Once you have decided you want to become a nurse, you have some decisions to make. One of the first things you will need to decide is where to attend nursing school. Choosing the right nursing program is an important step and should be carefully considered. There are many factors to keep in mind when selecting a nursing school.

One of the first things you want to consider is accreditation. Make sure your school is accredited either regionally or nationally by a recognized accreditation agency, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

You should also consider your career goals before selecting a nursing program to attend. There are different specialties of nursing which will require a four-year degree as opposed to an associate degree in nursing. When narrowing down your options, be sure to consider the degrees that are offered. 

Although it may not be a concern for everyone, choosing a program that has some flexibility may be helpful. For example, certain classes may be offered online, or part-time options may be available. Evening, weekend and accelerated classes are also convenient options that may be offered at some nursing schools.

Find out where clinical rotations are held. Clinical rotations are a critical part of nursing school. Although classroom work is important, the clinical experience you gain as a student is a major part of your education. Consider the type of healthcare facilities the school uses for their clinical rotations. Ask if the hospitals where clinical rotations are held provide plenty of learning opportunities. Are all facilities the same size? Varied clinical assignment locations, such as both large teaching hospitals and small community hospitals, may give you a broader sense of what a nurse does day-to-day.

Another factor to consider when picking a nursing program to attend is the school’s reputation. If possible, ask people in the field which schools are considered the best and why. Do your research and determine the credentials of some of the staff. Do most instructors have at least a master’s degree?

Of course, you have to take practical things into consideration, like cost and the availability of financial aid. Remember that if you take out student loans, you will have to pay them back. Carefully consider the cost of your nursing school. Remember that just because a nursing program costs more, it does not necessarily mean you will get a better education.

Also, find out the pass rates for the NCLEX exam. The NCLEX exam is the test graduates need to take in order to become licensed to work in their state. Knowing what the school’s pass rates for the exam are will give you an idea of how well the program and curriculum prepares students to pass the test and become licensed.

Lastly, take into consideration your personal preferences. For example, consider location if distance from home is a concern or determine class size if you have an inclination for either small or large classes.  

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