How to Select a Nursing Program in Texas
Choosing the right nursing school in Texas may seem like a difficult undertaking, especially if you don’t know what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the appropriate education and training to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you research and measure the qualifications of each college you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate choice. Having said that, too many prospective students base their determination solely on the cost of tuition and the distance of the nursing school. Picking the least expensive college or the one that is local to your residence is most likely not the best way to choose a nursing program. There are many important additional considerations to investigate before you decide where to attend classes. But before we examine that checklist, let’s first cover what the role of a registered nurse is in our medical care system, together with the nursing degree alternatives that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Activities
Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the medical delivery system in Texas. RNs practice in a large number of different medical settings, including hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic function is to support doctors in the care of their patients. However, the specific duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or specialization along with where they work. A few of the duties of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Monitoring patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Managing care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Taking care of health records and charts
Nurses in Texas with a higher degree may have more high level job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master’s Degree and commonly work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can provide primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat common illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
There are multiple degrees offered to become a registered nurse. And to become an RN, a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A student can obtain a qualifying degree in as little as two years, or continue on to achieve a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are available in Texas.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is usually a two year program made available by community colleges. It readies graduates for an entry level position in nursing in Texas medical centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and later obtain a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more extensive training than the ADN. It is typically a 4 year program offered at Texas colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able 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 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 commonly a two year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example 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) so as to become licensed. Various other requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so be sure to contact the Texas board of nursing for any state mandates.
There are essentially two scholastic accreditations offered that provide training to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that can be finished in the shortest time period, usually about twelve months, is the certificate or diploma course. The 2nd choice is to obtain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma option and usually require 2 years to complete. The advantage of Associate Degrees, besides providing a higher credential and more in-depth training, are that they furnish more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. No matter the kind of credential you seek, it should be Texas approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or any other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC guarantees that the syllabus adequately prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that the majority of graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to some other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not need to earn a college degree. CNA training can be acquired at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The duration of the training can take anywhere from 1 to three months, resulting in either a certificate or a diploma. Under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are required to obtain at least 75 hours of training, 16 of which must be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Bear in mind that this is the minimal amount of training directed and each state has its specific requirements. So it’s crucial to make certain that the training program you enroll in not only satisfies the federal requirements, but also those for the state where you will be practicing. One suggestion is to contact the health or nursing board for Texas to make certain that the training course is state approved. 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 prerequisites as well.
Nursing Online Classes
Attending nursing programs online is emerging as a more in demand way to receive instruction and earn a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and nearly all programs require a certain number of clinical rotation hours performed in a local Texas healthcare facility. But since the remainder of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more practical solution to finding the time to attend school for many students. Pertaining to tuition, some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And many 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 obligations have left you with very little time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing training program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your active schedule.
Things to Ask Nurse Programs
Now that you have chosen which nursing program to pursue, and whether to attend your classes on campus or online, you can use the following checklist to begin narrowing down your choices. As you undoubtedly are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges within Texas and the United States. So it is necessary to decrease the number of schools to choose from so that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the location of the school and the expense of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two points that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So before making your final choice, use the following questions to evaluate how your selection compares to the other schools.
- 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 verify that you receive a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not offered for non-accredited schools in Texas.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing prerequisites for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) as well as graduation from an accredited school. Some 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 provides an excellent education, but also readies you to satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Texas or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Look at internet rating companies to see what the evaluations are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Additionally, contact the Texas school licensing authority to check out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some local 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 programs you are considering 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 confirm that the school has a superb reputation within the Texas medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students obtain employment.
- Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Virtually all Texas nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing too. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with local hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placing of students in internships.
Enroll in the Right RN Program in Texas
Enrolling in the right registered nursing school is arguably the most important step to beginning a new career in the health care industry. There are numerous factors that you need to consider when deciding on a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, lifestyle, and financial status. As we have pointed out in this post, it is essential that you pick an RN school and a degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care 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 final selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your hard work and ambition to succeed, you can become a licensed registered nurse in Texas.
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