The beauty of the nursing profession is that there is more than one way to get into it. The most popular options these days are attending nursing schools, where students can receive hands-on classroom instruction, participate in clinicals and prepare for the NCLEX. However, just a few decades ago, the more common approach to becoming a nurse was to enroll in a nursing diploma program. This changed in the mid 1960s, after the American Nurses Association recommended that this type of training and education be conducted at traditional colleges and universities.
Despite the shift, nursing diploma programs still exist and are worth looking into. But this approach does come with its own set of advantages and disadvantages students should take note of when making their decision.
Pro: Hands-On Training From the Get Go
Regular nursing students often don’t get to interact with patients or work in a healthcare environment until later in their schooling during the clinical portion. Those in a nursing diploma program, however, operate in an apprenticeship capacity, which means exposing them to the inner workings of a hospital sooner under the close supervision of licensed nurses and other professional medical staff.
Con: Still Required to Hit the Books
Students hoping to skip the textbooks and classrooms will be disappointed to know that their education through a nursing diploma program still requires them to take traditional courses in subjects both related and non-related to nursing. Such courses include but are not limited to: physiology, anatomy, sociology, liberal arts and science.
Pro: Doesn’t Take Forever to Complete
The length of time it takes to complete a nursing degree is often discouraging for some people. The majority of diploma programs take between 2-3 years to complete, which many may find more appealing compared to 4 or more years of schooling. Students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds could find participating in a nursing diploma program to be more affordable in the long run.
Con: You Only Get a Diploma
Earning a diploma after completing the program is an accomplishment but for those hoping to advance in their nursing careers in the future, further schooling will be required in order to be considered for certain nursing professions. However, many diploma programs make it possible to continue earning credits at a community college or apply the credits they’ve already earned to more traditional nursing programs at a college or university.
Pro: Easy Prerequisites
Qualifying for nursing school often means fulfilling certain prerequisites. Because nursing diploma programs take place in a hospital setting, these same prerequisites don’t apply. Those interested in applying typically only need a high school diploma or equivalent to be considered. Of course taking science courses and other medical related subjects in high school can improve a person’s odds of getting accepted.
Con: Difficulty Finding Diploma Programs
Because of the educational changes within the nursing field, access to nursing diploma programs have decreased although these opportunities do still exist. Approximately 100 hospitals around the U.S. currently offer this type of training, which could make it difficult for students to find a program close enough to where they live.