How to Find the Right Nursing Degree Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Searching for the best nursing program near Fairbanks AK may seem like a complicated undertaking, especially if you aren't sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, to practice as a registered nurse, you need to obtain the necessary education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you research and determine the qualifications of each program you are considering before enrolling in your final selection. Regrettably, too many potential students base their determination solely on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the school. Going with the least expensive program or the one that is closest to your residence is most likely not the most reliable way to decide on a nursing program. There are a number of crucial additional factors to investigate before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first review what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, along with the nursing degree alternatives that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Activities
Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical environments, including Fairbanks AK hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary function is to aid doctors in the treatment of their patients. Having said that, the specific duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or area of expertise along with where they work. A portion of the duties of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Monitoring patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Managing care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Maintaining health records and charts
Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more advanced job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master's Degree and generally work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can administer primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic 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 obtain a qualifying degree in just two years, or continue on to earn a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are available in the Fairbanks AK area.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a two year program offered by community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level position in nursing in healthcare centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently obtain a more advanced 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 able to complete an accelerated program based on their prior training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program may desire to progress to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the job 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 concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
After a graduating student has attained one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Further requirements for licensing vary from state to state, so be sure to contact the Alaska board of nursing for any state requirements.
LVN and LPN Courses
There are principally two academic accreditations available that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be completed in the shortest time period, generally about 12 months, is the certificate or diploma course. The 2nd alternative is to attain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma option and typically require 2 years to finish. The advantage of Associate Degrees, along with offering a higher credential and more in-depth training, are that they furnish more transferable credit toward a Bachelor's Degree in nursing. No matter the type of credential you pursue, it should be Alaska approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or some other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC guarantees that the course of study adequately prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have to earn a college degree. CNA training can be obtained at Fairbanks AK area community colleges or at vocational or trade schools. The length of the training program can take anywhere from one to 3 months, leading to either a certificate or a diploma. Within the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are mandated 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 minimum period of instruction mandated and that every state has its own requirements. So it's important to make certain that the program you enroll in not only meets the federal requirements, but also those for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. One tip is to check with the health or nursing board for your state to make sure that the education is state approved. 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.
Online Nursing Degrees
Attending nursing schools online is emerging as a more popular way to get training and attain a nursing degree. Many schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and virtually all programs require a certain number of clinical rotation hours performed in a local healthcare center. But since the rest of the training can be accessed online, this option may be a more practical approach to finding the time to attend school for many Fairbanks AK students. Concerning tuition, a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. So if your work and family obligations have left you with very little time to pursue your academic goals, maybe an online nursing training program will make it easier to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
Things to Ask Nursing Degree Programs
Now that you have chosen which nursing degree to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus near Fairbanks AK or online, you can use the following pointers to start narrowing down your options. As you no doubt are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges throughout Alaska and the United States. So it is essential to reduce the number of schools to select from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we previously pointed out, the site of the school and the expense of tuition are most likely going to be the first two factors that you will look at. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your ultimate selection, use the following questions to see how your pick compares to the field.
- 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. Besides helping make sure that you obtain a quality education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided in Fairbanks AK for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria for registered nurses are different from state to state. In all states, a passing score is required on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Many states require a specific number of clinical hours be performed, 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 prepares you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing.
- Reputation. Visit internet rating companies to see what the evaluations are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. In addition, check with the Alaska school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some Fairbanks AK 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 important that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only verify that the school has a favorable reputation within the Fairbanks AK medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students obtain a position.
- Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Essentially all nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing too. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with Fairbanks AK hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placement of students in internships.
Enroll in the Best Fairbanks Nursing College
Deciding on the ideal registered nursing program is perhaps the most important step to starting a new career in the healthcare field. There are numerous factors that you need to think about when picking a nursing school. These aspects will be prioritized differently depending on your current career goals, obligations, and financial situation. As we have stressed in this content, it is important that you select an RN school 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 create a short list of schools to select from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the right degree and training, combined with your dedication and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing RN in Fairbanks AK.