How to Find the Right Nursing School near Birmingham Alabama
Selecting the right nursing school near Birmingham AL may feel like a difficult undertaking, particularly if you aren't sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you need to obtain the necessary education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and assess the qualifications of each program you are contemplating before enrolling in your final selection. Regrettably, too many potential students base their selection entirely on the cost of tuition and the proximity of the school. Going with the least expensive college or the one that is closest to your home is most likely not the best way to decide on a nursing program. There are various key additional things to check out before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first go over what the function of a registered nurse is in our health system, along with the nursing degree choices that are available.
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RN Job Duties
Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of different medical environments, such as Birmingham AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic role is to support doctors in the treatment of their patients. However, the particular duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise as well as where they work. A portion of the functions of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Monitoring patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Educating patients and their families
- Managing health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more complex job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master's Degree and normally 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 Available
There are several degree options to choose from to become a registered nurse. And in order to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can receive a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or continue on to achieve a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are offered in the Birmingham AL area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a 2 year program offered by Alabama community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level position in nursing in medical centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and afterwards obtain a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor's. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers more extensive training than the ADN. It is usually a 4 year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be eligible to complete an accelerated program based on their previous training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program may wish to advance to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the job market.
- Master's. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is typically a two year program after acquiring the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for instance 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 fluctuate from state to state, so be sure to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state mandates.
Nursing Online Courses
Enrolling in nursing colleges online is emerging as a more popular way to receive instruction and earn a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and nearly all programs call for a specified number of clinical rotation hours conducted in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training may be accessed online, this option may be a more accommodating answer to finding the free time to attend classes for many Birmingham AL students. Pertaining to tuition, some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. So if your job and household responsibilities have left you with very little time to pursue your academic goals, it could be that an online nursing training program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Things to Ask Nursing Programs
Once you have determined which nursing degree to enroll in, as well as if to attend your classes on campus near Birmingham AL or online, you can use the following checklist to begin narrowing down your options. As you probably realize, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges throughout Alabama and the United States. So it is necessary to reduce the number of schools to select from to ensure that you will have a manageable list. As we already discussed, the location of the school as well as the price of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two factors that you will take into consideration. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So before making your final selection, use the following questions to see how your selection compares to the other programs.
- Accreditation. It's a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program in addition to the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to helping confirm that you receive a quality education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available in Birmingham AL for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Certain states require a certain number of clinical hours be performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's essential that the school you are attending not only delivers an outstanding education, but also prepares you to meet the minimum licensing standards for Alabama or the state where you will be working.
- Reputation. Check online rating companies to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Additionally, check with the Alabama school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can contact 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 programs you are looking at what their graduation rates are as well as how long on average it takes students to finish their programs. A low graduation rate may be an indication that students were dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It's also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only substantiate that the school has a favorable reputation within the Birmingham AL healthcare community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students obtain employment.
- Internship Programs. The most effective way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Virtually all nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing as well. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placing of students in internships.
Select the Right Birmingham Nursing Program
Choosing the ideal nursing school is perhaps the most crucial phase to starting a new career in the healthcare field. There are a number of factors that you need to consider when choosing a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have emphasized in this article, it is important that you choose a nursing college and a degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the healthcare community. By utilizing our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a short list of schools to pick from so that you can make your final selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your dedication and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing RN in Birmingham Alabama.