How to Select the Right RN College near Birmingham AL
Searching for the best nursing college near Birmingham AL may feel like a difficult undertaking, especially if you aren't sure what to search for in a good degree program. As you may presently understand, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the proper education and training in order to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and measure the qualifications of each school you are thinking about before enrolling in your ultimate selection. Unfortunately, too many prospective students base their determination entirely on the price of tuition and the distance of the school. Deciding on the least expensive school or the one that is local to your residence is probably not the most reliable way to pick a nursing program. There are many important additional factors to explore before you make a decision where to attend classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first look at the nursing degree alternatives that are available as well as what the jobs of nurses are in our healthcare system.
Registered Nurse Job Duties
Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of different medical settings, including Birmingham AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic job is to support 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 in addition to where they work. A portion of the duties of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Observing patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Managing care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Managing health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more advanced job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master's Degree and normally work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can deliver primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat common illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
There is more than one degree option to choose from to become a nurse. And in order to become a Registered Nurse (RN), a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A nursing student can earn a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or advance to earn a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short summaries of the nursing degrees that are available to aspiring students in the Birmingham Alabama area.
- Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a 2 year program offered by Alabama community colleges. It readies graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and afterwards attain a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more in depth training than the ADN. It is typically a 4 year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be allowed to complete an accelerated program based on their previous training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program may want to advance to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master's Degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is generally a 2 year program after attaining the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or focus on administration, management or teaching.
When 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) to become licensed. Additional requirements for licensing fluctuate from state to state, so make sure to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state requirements.
Nursing Online Degrees
Attending nursing colleges online is becoming a more popular way to receive training and acquire a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and virtually all programs require a certain number of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare center. But since the balance of the training can be accessed online, this alternative may be a more practical approach to finding the time to attend school for many Birmingham AL students. Pertaining to tuition, a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. So if your job and household commitments have left you with limited time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing training program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your active schedule.
Why Choose the Nursing Profession?Nurses are an important component of a Birmingham AL medical team, and for a large number of patients, their primary care providers. A nursing career can lead to many opportunities, such as research, health care education and specialty areas of practice. Nurses enter the profession for several reasons, among the most significant are its practical and personal advantages. Nurses provide personal, one-on-one care to patients. Many patients in a medical facility or home care environment have more contact with nurses than with physicians. Nurses often go into the profession due to a desire to tend to the needs of patients, including in situations of short-term treatment of illness and prolonged care of chronic conditions. This humanistic side of the health profession, rather than the analytical or research related facets, is attractive to many who elect to enter into a career in nursing. Nurses have extensive applicable skills and can choose from a variety of work settings, including home care facilities, doctor's offices, medical clinics, community centers and hospitals. Also, nurses can progress into a variety of specializations, such as addictions, critical care, neonatology and genetics. Although most nurses provide primary patient care, others choose to be teachers, policy advisers and pharmaceutical representatives.
What to Ask Nursing Schools
Once you have selected which nursing degree to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus near Birmingham AL or online, you can utilize the following checklist to start narrowing down your options. As you probably realize, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges within Alabama and the United States. So it is important to reduce the number of schools to choose from to ensure that you will have a manageable list. As we already mentioned, the location of the school and the expense of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the first two points that you will take into consideration. 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 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 acknowledged accrediting agency. Aside from helping make sure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not available in Alabama for non-accredited schools.
- Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria for registered nurses vary from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) along with graduation from an accredited school. Some states require a specified number of clinical hours be performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's essential that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an exceptional education, but also preps you to comply with the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working.
- Reputation. Visit online rating companies to see what the assessments are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews too. In addition, get in touch with the Alabama school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Birmingham 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 complete their programs. A low graduation rate may be an indication that students were displeased 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 Birmingham AL medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students obtain employment.
- 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 specific number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing as well. Ask if the schools have associations with Birmingham AL area hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placement of students in internships.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Nursing School
Picking the ideal nursing school is arguably the most important phase to launching a new career in the healthcare industry. There are numerous factors that you should consider when choosing a nursing program. These aspects will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career goals, lifestyle, and financial situation. As we have pointed out within this article, it is important that you select a nursing 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 produce a shortlist of schools to select from so that you can make your final selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your dedication and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Birmingham AL.