How to Choose the Best Nursing Program Online in Birmingham Alabama
Searching for the right nursing program near Birmingham AL may feel like a challenging undertaking, particularly if you aren't sure what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, to practice as a registered nurse, you need to obtain the proper education and training in order to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you research and measure the qualifications of each college you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate choice. The fact is, too many potential students base their determination solely on the price of tuition and the distance of the school. Deciding on the least costly school or the one that is local to your house is most likely not the most reliable way to decide on a nursing program. There are many essential additional factors to check into before you make a decision where to enroll in classes. But before we explore that checklist, let's first discuss what the job of a registered nurse is in our healthcare system, together with the nursing degree alternatives that are offered.
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RN Job Responsibilities
Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, including Birmingham AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic duty is to assist doctors in the care of their patients. However, the specific duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or area of expertise in addition to where they work. A few of the functions of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Overseeing patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Managing care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more advanced job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master's Degree and commonly work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can provide primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degrees Offered
There are multiple degrees offered to become a registered nurse. And in order to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can obtain a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or advance to attain a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some brief explanations of the nursing degrees that are offered in the Birmingham AL area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is typically a 2 year program offered by Alabama community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently earn a higher degree.
- Bachelor's. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more expansive training than the ADN. It is generally a four year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be allowed to complete an accelerated program based on their prior training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might desire to advance to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master's. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is normally a two year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or focus on administration, management or teaching.
When a graduating student has obtained one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to become licensed. Additional requirements for licensing change from state to state, so don't forget to get in touch with the Alabama board of nursing for any state mandates.
Online Nursing Programs
Enrolling in nursing colleges online is emerging as a more preferred way to receive training and acquire a nursing degree. Some schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and almost all programs require a certain number of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this option may be a more practical approach to finding the time to attend classes for some Birmingham AL students. Concerning tuition, a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your work and family commitments have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing school will make it easier to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask RN Programs
Now that you have decided on which nursing degree to pursue, as well as if to attend your classes on campus near Birmingham AL or on the web, you can use the following guidelines to begin narrowing down your options. As you probably realize, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges throughout Alabama and the United States. So it is important to decrease the number of schools to select from so that you will have a workable list. As we previously discussed, the site of the school as well as the expense of tuition are probably going to be the first two factors that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your final selection, use the following questions to evaluate how your pick measures up to the other schools.
- Accreditation. It's a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program as well as the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides helping verify that you receive a premium education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not offered in Birmingham AL for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is required on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Certain states require a specified number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's important that the school you are attending not only delivers an outstanding education, but also readies you to comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Check online rating services to see what the evaluations are for each of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Additionally, contact the Alabama school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Birmingham AL healthcare organizations you're interested in working for after graduation and ask what their opinions are of the schools as well.
- Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN colleges you are considering what their graduation rates are as well as how long on average it takes students to complete their programs. A low graduation rate may be an indication that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only verify that the school has a superb reputation within the Birmingham AL medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students obtain a position.
- Internship Programs. The most effective way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Almost all nursing degree programs require a specified number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing as well. Check if the schools have a working relationship with Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the positioning of students in internships.
Enroll in the Best Birmingham Nursing Degree Program
Picking the ideal nursing program is potentially the most critical step to beginning a new career in the medical care field. There are various variables that you need to take into account when picking a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently contingent on your current career objectives, obligations, and financial status. As we have highlighted in this post, it is important that you select a nursing college and a degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care community. By using our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a shortlist of schools to pick from so that you can make your final selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your hard work and ambition to succeed, you can become a licensed registered nurse in Birmingham Alabama.