How to Choose a Nursing Program in Washington District of Columbia
Finding the best nursing school in Washington DC may seem like a challenging undertaking, especially if you aren’t sure what to search for in a good degree program. As you may presently understand, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you need to acquire the necessary education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and measure the qualifications of each college you are contemplating before enrolling in your final choice. Unfortunately, too many potential students base their determination solely on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the nursing school. Deciding on the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your residence is most likely not the best way to decide on a nursing program. There are several crucial additional considerations to check out before you make a decision where to attend classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first go over what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, along with the nursing degree choices that are offered.
Registered Nurse Job Activities
Registered nurses are the largest occupation in the healthcare delivery system in Washington DC. RNs practice in a large number of different medical settings, such as hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general 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 specialization as well as where they work. A few of the functions of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Monitoring patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses in Washington DC with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for instance, must hold a Master’s Degree and often 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 Degrees Available
There are multiple degrees to choose from 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 receive a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or continue on to obtain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short summaries of the nursing degrees that are available in Washington DC.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is generally a 2 year program made available by community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in Washington DC healthcare facilities including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and afterwards achieve a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers more extensive training than the ADN. It is commonly a 4 year program offered at Washington DC colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be eligible to complete an accelerated program based on their prior 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 normally a two year program after obtaining 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 received one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) so as to become licensed. Further requirements for licensing change from state to state, so don’t forget to get in touch with the Washington DC board of nursing for any state mandates.
LPN and LVN Courses
There are basically two scholastic accreditations available that provide training to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that can be concluded in the shortest time frame, generally about 1 year, is the certificate or diploma course. The second alternative is to obtain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma option and normally require 2 years to finish. The benefit of Associate Degrees, aside from providing a higher credential and more extensive training, are that they provide more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. No matter the type of credential you seek, it should be Washington DC approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or any other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC guarantees that the course of study adequately prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that the majority of graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
Unlike other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not need to obtain a college degree. CNA instruction can be received at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The duration of the instruction can take anywhere from one to 3 months, leading to either a certificate or a diploma. Under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are required to obtain at least 75 hours of instruction, 16 of which need to be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Bear in mind that this is the minimal amount of training required and that each state has its own prerequisites. So it’s crucial to make sure that the training program you enroll in not only complies with the federal requirements, but likewise those for the state where you will be practicing. One recommendation is to check with the health or nursing board for Washington DC to make certain that the training course is state certified. As well as the training, each state requires a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there can be additional requirements as well.
Nursing Online Programs
Enrolling in nursing colleges online is becoming a more in demand way to receive instruction and acquire a nursing degree. Some schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and nearly all programs call for a specified amount of clinical rotation hours completed in a local Washington DC healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this option may be a more convenient answer to finding the time to attend college for some students. Concerning tuition, some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even additional expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more easily 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 household commitments have left you with limited time to work toward your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
Things to Ask Nurse Colleges
Once you have chosen which nursing degree to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus or online, you can use the following checklist to start narrowing down your choices. As you undoubtedly are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges within Washington DC and the United States. So it is essential to decrease the number of schools to choose from to ensure that you will have a workable list. As we already pointed out, the location of the school along with the price of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two factors that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your ultimate selection, use the following questions to evaluate how your selection measures up to the other programs.
- Accreditation. It’s a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program along with the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to helping verify that you obtain an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided for non-accredited schools in Washington DC.
- 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) along with graduation from an accredited school. Many states require a specific number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s important that the school you are enrolled in not only delivers an exceptional education, but also preps you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for District of Columbia or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Visit online rating services to see what the evaluations are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Additionally, contact the District of Columbia school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some local Washington DC healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their assessments are of the schools as well.
- Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN schools you are looking at 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 important that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only verify that the school has a good reputation within the Washington DC medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students gain employment.
- Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a Washington DC clinical setting. Almost all District of Columbia nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing too. Ask if the schools have associations with regional hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the positioning of students in internships.
Pick the Right RN Program in Washington DC
Choosing the ideal registered nursing program is potentially the most critical first step to beginning a new career in the healthcare field. There are a number of factors that you need to consider when selecting a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your current career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have pointed out in this article, it is important that you pick an RN college and a degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the medical community. By utilizing our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a short list of schools to choose from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your hard work and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing RN in Washington DC.
Why Did You Desire to Become an RN?When preparing to interview for a nursing position, it's helpful to consider questions you could be asked. One of the things that interviewers typically ask nursing applicants is "What drove you to decide on nursing as a profession?". What the interviewer is hoping to discover is not only the private reasons you may have for being a registered nurse, but also what attributes and talents you have that make you good at what you do. You will undoubtedly be asked questions pertaining exclusively to nursing, in addition to a certain number of typical interview questions, so you must prepare several approaches about how you would like to address them. Given that there are so many variables that go into choosing a career, you can address this fundamental question in a multitude of ways. When readying an answer, try to include the reasons the profession interests you in addition to the talents you possess that make you an outstanding nurse and the ideal choice for the position. Don't make an effort to memorize a response, but take down several ideas and talking points that pertain to your personal strengths and experiences. Going over sample answers can help you to develop your own thoughts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to enthuse the recruiter.
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