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How to Select the Best Nursing Degree Program near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama nurse with physician and patientSearching for the best nursing school near Bessemer AL may feel like a complicated project, especially if you aren't sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may presently understand, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the necessary education and training to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you research and measure the qualifications of each program you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate choice. Unfortunately, too many potential students base their decision exclusively on the price of tuition and the nearness of the school. Picking the least costly college or the one that is closest to your home is most likely not the most ideal way to select a nursing program. There are various key additional factors to look into before you decide where to enroll in classes. But before we examine that checklist, let's first discuss what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, as well as the nursing degree choices that are offered.

Registered Nurse Job Functions

Bessemer Alabama nurse taking care of a nursing home patient

Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, such as Bessemer AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary role is to assist doctors in the treatment 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
  • Overseeing patients
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Managing care
  • Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
  • Educating patients and their families
  • Taking care of health records and charts

Nurses with a higher degree may have more high level 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 provide primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat common illnesses or injuries.

Nursing Degree Options

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 two years, or advance to achieve a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some short descriptions of the nursing degrees that are available in the Bessemer AL area.

  • Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is typically a two year program made available by community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical facilities including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many use the ADN as an entry into nursing and ultimately obtain a higher degree.
  • Bachelor's. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more expansive training than the ADN. It is normally a four year program offered at 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 may 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 2 year program after obtaining 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 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. Other requirements for licensing fluctuate from state to state, so don't forget to contact the Alabama board of nursing for any state mandates.

LVN and LPN Training

Bessemer Alabama LVN greeting man on crutchesThere are generally two scholastic credentials offered that provide instruction to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be completed in the shortest amount of time, typically about 12 months, is the certificate or diploma course. The next choice is to attain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma alternative and commonly require 2 years to complete. The benefit of Associate Degrees, aside from offering a higher credential and more comprehensive instruction, are that they furnish more transferable credit toward a Bachelor's Degree in nursing. Regardless of the kind of credential you seek, it needs to be Alabama approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or another national accrediting organization. The NLNAC guarantees that the syllabus effectively prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.

CNA Certificates

Unlike other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have to attain a college degree. CNA education can be received at Bessemer AL area community colleges or at vocational or trade schools. The length of the instruction can take anywhere from one to three 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 instruction, 16 of which must be clinical or "hands-on" training hours. Bear in mind that this is the minimum period of training required and that every state has its specific requirements. So it's necessary to make sure that the training program you enroll in not only satisfies the federal requirements, but also those for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. One recommendation is to check with the health or nursing board for your state to make sure that the education 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 may be additional requirements as well.

Online Nursing Degrees

Bessemer Alabama nurse assisting surgeon with operationAttending nursing colleges online is growing into a more popular way to get training and acquire a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attendance on campus for part of the training, and virtually all programs call for a specified amount of clinical rotation hours performed in a local healthcare facility. But since the remainder of the training can be accessed online, this alternative may be a more convenient approach to finding the free time to attend college for some Bessemer AL 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 may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. Therefore if your job and family 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 Nursing Programs

Now that you have chosen which nursing program to pursue, and if to attend your classes on campus near Bessemer AL or on the web, you can use the following pointers to start narrowing down your options. As you no doubt realize, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges within Alabama and the United States. So it is essential to lower the number of schools to choose from so that you will have a workable list. As we previously mentioned, the site of the school and the price of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two things that you will look at. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final decision, use the following questions to see how your pick compares to the other programs.

  • 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 agency. In addition to helping make sure that you obtain a premium education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not offered in Bessemer AL for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) together with graduation from an accredited school. Certain states require a certain number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's essential that the school you are attending not only provides an outstanding education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing.
  • Reputation. Visit internet rating services to see what the assessments are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Also, get in touch with the Alabama school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Bessemer AL healthcare organizations you're interested in working for after graduation and ask what their judgments are of the schools as well.
  • Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN colleges 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 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 substantiate that the school has a good reputation within the Bessemer AL medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students obtain employment.
  • Internship Programs. The best way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Essentially all nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing too. Check if the schools have associations with Bessemer AL hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placement of students in internships.

Learn More About Bessemer Nursing Online Programs

Select the Best Bessemer Nursing Degree Program

Deciding on the right registered nursing program is probably the most crucial first step to beginning a new career in the health care industry. There are a number of factors that you must take into account when selecting a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have pointed out in this post, it is essential that you select an RN college and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the medical community. By utilizing our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a shortlist of schools to select 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 Bessemer AL.



 

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