How to Find the Best Nursing Degree Program near Huntsville Alabama
Choosing the best nursing college near Huntsville AL may feel like a complicated undertaking, particularly if you aren't sure what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and evaluate the qualifications of each school you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate selection. Regrettably, too many prospective students base their selection exclusively on the cost of tuition and the proximity of the school. Selecting the least costly school or the one that is local to your home is most likely not the most ideal way to pick a nursing program. There are various crucial additional aspects to check into before you determine where to attend classes. But before we examine that checklist, let's first cover what the job of a registered nurse is in our health system, along with the nursing degree options that are available.
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RN Job Responsibilities
Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical settings, such as Huntsville AL hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general duty is to support doctors in the care of their patients. Having said that, the particular duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization as well as where they work. Some of the functions of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Observing patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Managing care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Taking care of 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 commonly work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can administer primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
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 acquire a qualifying degree in just two years, or continue on to achieve a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short descriptions of the nursing degrees that are available in the Huntsville AL area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is generally 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 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 commonly a four year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be eligible to complete an accelerated program based on their past training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might wish 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 generally a two year program after receiving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
When a graduating student has obtained one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) so as 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 requirements.
Nursing Online Classes
Attending nursing programs online is becoming a more favored way to obtain instruction and earn a nursing degree. Some schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and almost all programs call for a specific amount of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training can be accessed online, this method may be a more accommodating solution to finding the free time to attend school for many Huntsville AL students. Concerning tuition, a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be lessened, 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. Therefore if your work and family responsibilities have left you with very little time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing training program will make it easier to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Things to Ask RN Degree Programs
Once you have determined which nursing degree to pursue, and if to attend your classes on campus near Huntsville AL or on the web, you can use the following checklist to start narrowing down your options. As you probably realize, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges within Alabama and the United States. So it is important to lower the number of schools to select from so that you will have a workable list. As we previously pointed out, the location of the school as well as the price of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the initial two factors that you will take into consideration. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So prior to making your ultimate choice, use the following questions to see how your selection compares to the field.
- 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 agency. Besides helping confirm that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are oftentimes not provided in Huntsville AL for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria 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. Many states require a specified number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's imperative that the school you are attending not only delivers an excellent education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working.
- Reputation. Check internet rating services to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Also, check with the Alabama school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some Huntsville 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 colleges 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 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 Huntsville AL medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students attain employment.
- Internship Programs. The best way to acquire experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Essentially all nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing also. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with Huntsville AL hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placement of students in internships.
Choose the Best Huntsville Nursing School
Deciding on the ideal nursing program is probably the most critical phase to beginning a new career in the health care field. There are a number of factors that you need to think about when choosing a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career goals, obligations, and economic status. As we have pointed out in this post, it is critical that you select a nursing college and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the healthcare community. By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a shortlist of schools to select from so that you can make your final selection. And with the right degree and training, combined with your dedication and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing RN in Huntsville Alabama.