As someone with an interest in nursing and the health care field, choosing a nursing school is one of the most important decisions you need to make. The right program at the right school will ensure that you take classes relating to your future career and that you gain the knowledge needed to both take and pass the NCLEX, which is the examination required of all licensed nurses. When comparing nursing schools, there are a few key things you can look at to pick the right school for you.
Location is one of the first things you should look at when choosing a college or university. Some students choose a school simply because it’s within driving distance of their homes or because the campus is close to where their family and friends live. Before you enroll in the first nursing school you see near your home, make sure that the nursing program fits your needs. You may find that you’re willing to drive further because a campus an hour away from you offers the nursing specialty you want or offers a program that takes place at night for working students.
As you look at nursing schools, make sure that the one you select has both regional and specialty accreditation. Regional accreditation is the type that the government requires for students seeking financial aid. This lets you apply for student loans and take advantage of grants for students. You’ll also want to ensure that the program has specialty accreditation. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing offers accreditation for nursing programs in the United States. Another type of accreditation that you may want to look for when selecting a school is accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Accreditation.
A good nursing school will require that students split their time between the classroom and the field. The fieldwork component used in these programs is something called a clinical rotation. During your clinical rotations, you’ll work in some type of health care facility such as a hospital or a community clinic. While working under the supervision of licensed nurses, you’ll have the chance to spend time with real patients. You might get medical histories, take the vital signs of patients and speak with doctors about the condition of those patients. If the program that interests you does not have a clinical rotation component, keep looking.
Registered nurse Linda L. Amos recommends that students look at the experience that faculty members working for the program have when choosing a nursing school. Amos points out that those professors should have a deep understanding of modern medical techniques and be fully capable of teaching students how to work in modern facilities. Some of the programs you come across may feature professors and faculty members who haven’t worked in the field in years and may have little knowledge of the techniques and equipment used today. The top programs often have faculty members who split their time between teaching and working in the health care industry.
Whether you want to work as an RN, plan on attending graduate school or want to work in a specific field of nursing (please see: How Do I Choose My Nursing Specialization?) like pediatric or oncology nursing, you must choose the right program. Choosing a nursing school requires looking at accreditation, location and other factors.