How to Pick a Nursing Program in Iowa
Finding the right nursing school in Iowa may feel like a complex undertaking, especially if you have no idea what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already know, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you must receive the appropriate education and training to become licensed. So it is essential that you study and determine the qualifications of each program you are thinking about before enrolling in your ultimate selection. Having said that, too many future students base their decision exclusively on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the nursing school. Picking the least expensive program or the one that is closest to your home is probably not the best way to select a nursing program. There are a number of essential additional factors to explore before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first discuss what the role of a registered nurse is in our medical system, together with the nursing degree alternatives that are offered.
Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities
Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical care delivery system in Iowa. RNs practice in a large number of different medical environments, namely hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary duty is to help doctors in the care of their patients. However, the specific duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise as well as where they work. A few of the duties of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Observing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Managing care
- Managing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Instructing patients and their families
- Taking care of health records and charts
Nurses in Iowa with a more advanced degree may have more advanced job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master’s Degree and typically work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can deliver primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.
There is more than one degree option offered to become a registered nurse. And to become an RN, a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A student can acquire a qualifying degree in just two years, or advance to attain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short descriptions of the nursing degrees that are available in Iowa.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a 2 year program offered by community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level position in nursing in Iowa healthcare centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and ultimately achieve a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more in depth training than the ADN. It is commonly a 4 year program offered at Iowa colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be qualified to complete an accelerated program based on their prior training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might want to progress to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master’s. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is commonly a two year program after attaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
Once a graduating student has acquired 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 fluctuate from state to state, so make sure to get in touch with the Iowa board of nursing for any state mandates.
LPN and LVN Training
There are generally two scholastic accreditations offered that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that can be finished in the shortest amount of time, typically about one year, is the certificate or diploma program. The 2nd alternative is to attain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma option and commonly require 2 years to finish. The benefit of Associate Degrees, besides offering a higher credential and more extensive training, are that they furnish more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Regardless of the type of credential you seek, it should be Iowa approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or another national accrediting organization. The NLNAC warrants that the core curriculum effectively prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have 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 training can take anywhere from just one to 3 months, resulting in either a certificate or a diploma. Within the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are mandated to obtain at least 75 hours of training, 16 of which need to be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Keep in mind that this is the minimum amount of instruction directed and each state has its specific requirements. So it’s essential to make certain that the program you enroll in not only satisfies the federal requirements, but likewise those for the state where you will be practicing. One suggestion is to get in touch with the health or nursing board for Iowa to make sure that the training course is state certified. As well as the training, each state mandates a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there might be additional requirements as well.
Nursing Online Schools
Enrolling in nursing programs online is emerging as a more favored way to receive instruction and attain a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and nearly all programs call for a specific amount of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local Iowa healthcare center. But since the rest of the training can be accessed online, this option may be a more practical answer to finding the time to attend school for some students. Concerning tuition, a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even additional 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 like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your work and family obligations have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
What to Ask Nurse Courses
Now that you have selected which nursing degree to pursue, as well as whether to attend your classes on campus or on the internet, you can use the following guidelines to start narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges throughout Iowa and the United States. So it is necessary to decrease the number of schools to select from to ensure that you will have a workable list. As we already discussed, the location of the school along with the cost of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two factors that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final choice, use the following questions to see how your pick compares 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 acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a premium education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided for non-accredited schools in Iowa.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses vary 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. Some states require a specific number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s imperative that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an excellent education, but also readies you to comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Iowa or the state where you will be working.
- Reputation. Look at internet rating services to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. In addition, check with the Iowa school licensing authority to check out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can contact some regional healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their judgements 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 confirm that the school has a superb reputation within the Iowa medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students obtain employment.
- Internship Programs. The most ideal way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Almost all Iowa nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing as well. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with local hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placing of students in internships.
Select the Right RN Degree in Iowa
Deciding on the right registered nursing program is probably the most crucial phase to beginning a new career in the health care industry. There are numerous aspects that you should consider when deciding on a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career goals, obligations, and financial situation. As we have stressed within this post, it is critical that you choose an RN college and a degree program that are each accredited and have exceptional reputations within the healthcare community. By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a short list of schools to pick from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a licensed RN in Iowa.
Some Cities in Iowa You May be Interested In