Navigating the path towards a career as a professional nurse isn’t easy but nursing schools play the important role of setting students on the right track. Below is an important breakdown of what future nurses can expect and what is needed.
What Are Nursing Schools?
In order for anyone to become a licensed and practicing nurse, they must have the right training and hands-on experience working in a medical facility. While there are traditional colleges and universities offering nursing degree programs, there is also the option of enrolling in a nursing school. Unlike other educational institutions, nursing schools focus solely on this discipline and typically offer a wider range of degree programs and resources for students.
Due to the advancements in technology and the creation of distance learning, there are also online nursing schools. With a combination of offline and online learning methods, pursuing an online nursing degree allows students the comfort of working from home on their own time, while receiving their hands-on training at a local medical facility. There is no particular preference as to which type of nursing school is better—that is all mainly determined by each individual, according to his/her educational needs and lifestyle.
How Much Does Nursing School Cost?
The exact figures students can expect to pay for attending nursing school varies from program to program. The cost of enrolling in an online school versus a traditional nursing school also plays a role. For example, students in regular nursing schools not only have tuition, books, fees, supplies and state nursing license exams to pay for, expenses related to commuting and/or living accommodations are added into the equation as well. In general, pursuing the traditional nursing school route could cost anywhere from $5,000 to as much as $40,000 per semester. It is important to keep in mind that some nursing school degree programs cost much more than others.
A common misconception many have about distance learning is that it is much cheaper than going to a regular college or university. However, this isn’t very accurate. The reality is that many online degree programs cost about the same—but the main factor to keep in mind is the fact that it is still a cost-effective way of receiving an education. That is because this particular method of learning typically eliminates any costs associated with living expenses, commuting, gas prices and certain supplies (i.e. text books and other material is usually available in a digital format for free instead of requiring a student to spend money at the bookstore). The average cost of attending an online school is around $7,500 per semester.
When comparing nursing schools, make sure to calculate the total costs and breakdown what is included in that final amount. Also take into account how much financial aid would be needed and what type(s) you’re eligible to receive. Nurses already employed in the field that are returning to school to advance their skills in their careers should also be aware that obtaining higher degrees in nursing, such as an MSN or Ph.D., will cost a lot more compared to pursuing a BSN.
What Can Students Expect?
In the beginning, nursing students mainly deal with undergraduate courses and can expect to learn about various topics, including but not limited to: physiology, human anatomy, pharmacology, psychology, nutrition, biology, physics and chemistry. There are regular classes, such as English, math and other basic courses. This part of the educational process typically takes about two to two-and-a-half years to complete.
The latter half of the degree program focuses on the hands-on aspect, which is known as the clinical portion. Because nurses must interact and care for patients, it is essential for nursing schools to immerse its students in actual medical facilities, where they put what they have learned into practice. Clinical duties include going on rotations, observing medical professionals in various departments and eventually being responsible for caring for patients, under close.
Nursing Schools and the NCLEX
After completing the degree program, nurses must take a very important exam, known as the NCLEX, which is short for National Council Licensure Examination. Each state has its own version of the NCLEX and only by successfully passing this test can a nurse be allowed to seek employment at a medical facility. Depending on the state, some nurses may be required to take additional educational courses in nursing in order to keep their license.
There are two versions of the NCLEX. The NCLEX-PN is for individuals wishing to pursue practical nursing and consists of between 75-265 test items, which must be completed within six hours. The NCLEX-RN is for registered nursing and contains between 85-205 test items, with a five hour time limit for completion.
Tips for Choosing the Right Nursing School
Request Material. While it’s convenient to do an online search for nursing schools (both traditional as well as online institutions), it’s a good idea to request actual material about their degree programs, curriculum and other information. This makes it much easier to compare nursing schools and see which one would be the right fit.
Only Consider Relevant Options. Maximize your results by only considering schools that have a strong degree program in the type of nursing you wish to pursue professionally. If a school doesn’t have the program you’re looking for or if the curriculum appears to be lacking, compared to the other choices, toss it and move on.
Work Out a Budget. Nursing school is going to be expensive. Period. However, taking time to work your numbers and come up with an amount you can comfortably afford (with or without some financial aid assistance) will also help you decide which nursing schools not only meet your educational needs but your financial situation as well.
Accreditation is Key. Always play it safe and opt for a nursing school that is accredited. While being accredited is not mandatory for nursing schools, it ensures students that the educational institution is recognized as upholding high standards of excellence and ethics.