How to Find the Right Nursing Program near Decatur Alabama
Locating the best nursing program near Decatur AL may seem like a complicated project, especially if you don't know what to look for in a good degree program. As you may presently understand, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you need to acquire the appropriate education and training to become licensed. So it is essential that you research and determine the qualifications of each school you are contemplating before enrolling in your final selection. The fact is, too many potential students base their determination exclusively on the cost of tuition and the distance of the school. Deciding on the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your residence is no doubt not the best way to pick a nursing program. There are several essential additional things to explore before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we examine that checklist, let's first discuss what the role of a registered nurse is in our medical system, along with the nursing degree alternatives that are available.
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Registered Nurse Job Functions
Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical environments, including Decatur AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general role is to assist doctors in the treatment of their patients. However, the particular duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise along with where they work. A portion of the functions of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Overseeing patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Instructing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master's Degree and typically work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can administer primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degrees Offered
There is more than one degree option offered to become a registered nurse. And in order to become an RN, a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A student can acquire a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to obtain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some brief explanations of the nursing degrees that are available in the Decatur AL area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is usually a two year program made available by Alabama community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many use the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently obtain a higher degree.
- Bachelor's. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more in depth training than the ADN. It is usually a 4 year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be qualified to complete an accelerated program based on their previous training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program may want to progress 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 attaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
After a graduating student has earned one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Various other requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so don't forget to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state requirements.
Nursing Online Courses
Attending nursing colleges online is growing into a more popular way to receive instruction and acquire a nursing degree. Some schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and almost all programs require a specified number of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this alternative may be a more convenient answer to finding the free time to attend school for many Decatur AL students. Concerning tuition, many online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous 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 household responsibilities have left you with limited time to pursue your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask RN Programs
Once you have chosen which nursing degree to enroll in, and whether to attend your classes on campus near Decatur AL or on the web, you can use the following checklist to begin narrowing down your options. As you probably are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges throughout Alabama and the United States. So it is important to lower the number of schools to select from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the location of the school and the expense of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two points that you will take into consideration. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So before making your ultimate 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 acknowledged accrediting organization. Aside from helping confirm that you receive a premium education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided in Decatur AL for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses are different from state to state. In all states, a passing score is required on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) as well as 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 essential that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an exceptional education, but also preps you to comply with the minimum licensing standards for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Look at online rating services to see what the assessments are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews too. Also, contact the Alabama school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Decatur AL healthcare organizations you're interested in working for after graduation and ask what their judgments are of the schools as well.
- Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN schools you are considering 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 unhappy with the program and dropped out. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only substantiate that the school has a superb reputation within the Decatur AL medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students attain a position.
- Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Essentially all nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing too. Ask if the schools have associations with Decatur AL hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the positioning of students in internships.
Enroll in the Best Decatur Nursing Degree Program
Selecting the ideal nursing degree program is arguably the most important step to beginning a new career in the healthcare field. There are numerous factors that you must take into account when selecting a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career goals, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have emphasized within this content, it is essential that you choose a nursing school and a degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care community. By utilizing our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a shortlist of schools to select from so that you can make your final selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your hard work and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing RN in Decatur Alabama.