How to Enroll In the Right Nursing School near Northport Alabama
Searching for the right nursing program near Northport AL may feel 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 acquire the proper education and training in order to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you study and determine the qualifications of each college you are contemplating before enrolling in your final selection. Unfortunately, too many prospective students base their determination exclusively on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the school. Going with the least costly school or the one that is local to your house is no doubt not the best way to choose a nursing program. There are many crucial additional things to check into before you determine where to attend classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first cover what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, along with the nursing degree alternatives that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Functions
Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical environments, such as Northport AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary job is to help doctors in the care of their patients. However, the particular duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise along with where they work. A few of the functions of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Observing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Managing care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Educating patients and their families
- Managing health records and charts
Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more high level job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for instance, must hold a Master's Degree and typically work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can provide primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degrees Available
There are several degree options offered to become a registered nurse. And in order to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can acquire a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to earn a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some brief summaries of the nursing degrees that are offered in the Northport AL area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a 2 year program offered by community colleges. It readies graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently earn a higher degree.
- Bachelor's. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more comprehensive training than the ADN. It is usually a four year program offered at colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able to complete an accelerated program based on their previous training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might want to advance to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master's. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is generally a two year program after acquiring the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner or focus on administration, management or teaching.
Once a graduating student has attained 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. Additional requirements for licensing vary from state to state, so make sure to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state mandates.
LVN and LPN Training
There are principally two academic credentials offered that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be concluded in the shortest time period, commonly about one year, is the certificate or diploma course. The other alternative is to obtain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma alternative and generally require 2 years to complete. The benefit of Associate Degrees, aside from offering a higher credential and more in-depth instruction, are that they provide more transferable credit toward a Bachelor's Degree in nursing. No matter the kind of credential you pursue, it should be Alabama approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or some other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC attests that the course of study properly prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that the majority of graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to many other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have to earn a college degree. CNA training can be received at Northport AL area community colleges or at vocational or trade schools. The length of the training program 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 receive at least 75 hours of instruction, 16 of which have to be clinical or "hands-on" training hours. Keep in mind that this is the minimal period of training directed and that each state has its specific requirements. So it's essential to make certain that the program you enroll in not only fulfills the federal requirements, but additionally those for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. One tip is to contact the health or nursing board for your state to make certain that the training is state certified. Along with the training, each state requires a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there may be additional prerequisites as well.
Online Nursing Courses
Enrolling in nursing colleges online is becoming a more preferred way to obtain instruction and earn a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attendance on campus for part of the training, and nearly all programs call for a specific number of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more practical approach to finding the free time to attend college for some Northport AL students. Pertaining to tuition, some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus alternatives. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more easily affordable. And many online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. So if your job and household responsibilities have left you with limited time to pursue your academic goals, it could be that an online nursing training program will make it easier to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask Nursing Schools
Now that you have chosen which nursing program to enroll in, and if to attend your classes on campus near Northport AL or online, you can utilize the following pointers to begin narrowing down your choices. As you undoubtedly are aware, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges throughout Alabama and the United States. So it is necessary to decrease the number of schools to choose from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier mentioned, the site of the school and the expense of tuition are probably going to be the primary two things that you will consider. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your final decision, use the following questions to see how your selection measures up to the other schools.
- Accreditation. It's a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program along with the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Aside from helping confirm that you obtain an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are oftentimes not provided in Northport AL for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria 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 important that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an outstanding education, but also readies you to satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Look at internet rating services to see what the evaluations are for each of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews too. Also, contact the Alabama school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some Northport AL healthcare organizations you're interested in working for after graduation and ask what their opinions are of the schools as well.
- Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN programs you are looking at 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 dissatisfied 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 good reputation within the Northport AL medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to help students attain employment.
- Internship Programs. The most effective way to acquire experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Essentially all nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing as well. Find out if the schools have associations with Northport AL hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placing of students in internships.
Pick the Right Northport Nursing College
Enrolling in the right registered nursing college is perhaps the most important step to beginning a new career in the healthcare field. There are many factors that you must take into account when picking a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently depending on your current career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have emphasized within this post, it is important that you choose an RN college and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the healthcare community. By utilizing our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a short list of schools to pick from so that you can make your final selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your hard work and desire to succeed, you can become a licensed registered nurse in Northport AL.