How to Choose the Right Nursing College near Anchorage Alaska
Locating the best nursing program near Anchorage AK may feel like a complicated endeavor, particularly if you aren't sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you need to receive the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you research and measure the qualifications of each college you are thinking about before enrolling in your ultimate selection. Regrettably, too many potential students base their determination exclusively on the cost of tuition and the distance of the school. Deciding on the least expensive college or the one that is local to your residence is most likely not the best way to decide on a nursing program. There are many key additional things to look into before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first go over what the job of a registered nurse is in our health system, along with the nursing degree options that are offered.
Registered Nurse Job Functions
Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of different medical settings, including Anchorage AK hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary role is to assist doctors in the care of their patients. Having said that, the exact duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization as well as where they work. Some of the responsibilities of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Overseeing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Managing care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more advanced job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master's Degree and often work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can deliver primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.
There is more than one degree option to choose from to become a registered nurse. And to become an RN, a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A student can earn a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or advance to achieve a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are offered in the Anchorage AK area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is usually a two year program made available by community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently obtain a higher degree.
- Bachelor's. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more expansive training than the ADN. It is usually a four year program offered at colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be allowed to complete an accelerated program based on their prior training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might desire 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 normally a 2 year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner or focus on administration, management or teaching.
When a graduating student has received one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to become licensed. Various other requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so don't forget to get in touch with the Alaska board of nursing for any state mandates.
LPN and LVN Programs
There are essentially two academic credentials offered that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be completed in the shortest period of time, typically about 1 year, is the certificate or diploma course. The 2nd alternative is to earn a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma alternative and normally require 2 years to finish. The benefit of Associate Degrees, aside from supplying a higher credential and more extensive training, are that they provide more transferable credit toward a Bachelor's Degree in nursing. No matter the kind of credential you seek, it needs to be Alaska approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or some other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC warrants that the core curriculum adequately prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that the majority of graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
Unlike many other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not need to attain a college degree. CNA training can be received at Anchorage AK area community colleges or at vocational or trade schools. The duration of the instruction can take anywhere from 1 to three months, resulting in either a certificate or a diploma. Within the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are required to have at least 75 hours of instruction, 16 of which must be clinical or "hands-on" training hours. Keep in mind that this is the minimal amount of instruction directed and every state has its specific prerequisites. So it's important to make sure that the training program you enroll in not only complies with the federal requirements, but likewise those for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. One tip is to contact the health or nursing board for your state to make sure that the training is state certified. In addition to the training, each state mandates a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there may be other prerequisites as well.
Nursing Online Programs
Attending nursing schools online is emerging as a more popular way to get training and acquire a nursing degree. Some schools will require attendance on campus for part of the training, and nearly all programs call for a certain amount of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local healthcare center. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this option may be a more practical approach to finding the free time to attend classes for some Anchorage AK students. Regarding tuition, many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even additional expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. Therefore if your work and family responsibilities have left you with limited time to pursue your academic goals, it could be that an online nursing school will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your active schedule.
What to Ask Nursing Degree Programs
Now that you have determined which nursing program to pursue, as well as whether to attend your classes on campus near Anchorage AK or online, you can use the following checklist to start narrowing down your options. As you probably are aware, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges within Alaska and the United States. So it is necessary to decrease the number of schools to select from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the location of the school along with the cost of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two things that you will take into consideration. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final decision, use the following questions to see 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 recognized accrediting organization. In addition to helping confirm that you obtain a premium education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not offered in Anchorage AK for non-accredited schools.
- 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) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Some states require a certain number of clinical hours be performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's imperative that the school you are enrolled in not only delivers a top-notch education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing standards for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Visit online rating companies to see what the evaluations are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. In addition, get in touch with the Alaska school licensing authority to check out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Anchorage AK 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 schools 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 unhappy with the program and dropped out. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only confirm that the school has a superb reputation within the Anchorage AK healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students attain employment.
- Internship Programs. The most ideal way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Almost all nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing too. Find out if the schools have associations with Anchorage AK hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placing of students in internships.
Pick the Best Anchorage Nursing School
Deciding on the ideal registered nursing degree program is potentially the most critical first step to launching a new career in the healthcare industry. There are numerous factors that you need to think about when choosing a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career goals, lifestyle, and financial situation. As we have highlighted within this content, it is critical that you select an RN school and a degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the medical community. By using our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a shortlist 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 practicing RN in Anchorage AK.