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Nursing School Degree Programs Decatur Alabama

How to Find the Right Nursing Degree Program near Decatur AL

Decatur AL Registered Nurse with Physician and PatientLocating the best nursing school near Decatur AL may feel like a challenging endeavor, especially if you don't know what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the necessary education and training in order to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you study and assess the qualifications of each program you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate selection. Regrettably, too many future students base their selection entirely on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the school. Picking the least costly program or the one that is local to your home is undoubtedly not the best way to pick a nursing program. There are a number of important additional aspects to look into before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first discuss the nursing degree alternatives that are available together with what the roles of nurses are in our health system.

Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities

Decatur AL Nurse taking blood pressure of patient

Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical environments, namely Decatur AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general function is to support doctors in the care of their patients. Having said that, the specific duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise in addition to where they work. A portion of the duties of an RN may include:

  • Administering medications
  • Observing patients
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Managing care
  • Managing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
  • Instructing patients and their families
  • Managing health records and charts

Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more advanced job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master's Degree and normally work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can provide primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.

Nursing Degree Options

Decatur Alabama Registered Nurse assisting surgeon

There are several degree options offered to become a nurse. And in order to become a Registered Nurse (RN), a student must attend an accredited school and program. A nursing student can acquire a qualifying degree in as little as two years, or continue on to obtain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are available to aspiring students in the Decatur Alabama area.

  • Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is usually a 2 year program made available by Alabama community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and ultimately achieve a more advanced degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more comprehensive training than the ADN. It is normally a four year program offered at Alabama 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 might want to advance to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the job market.
  • Master's Degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is usually a two year program after receiving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or focus on administration, management or teaching.

Once a graduating student has received one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) so as 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 Classes

Decatur Alabama student attending nursing school onlineEnrolling in nursing schools online is emerging as a more in demand way to receive instruction and acquire a nursing degree. Many schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and almost all programs require a certain amount of clinical rotation hours performed in a local healthcare facility. But since the remainder of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more practical answer to finding the time to attend college for some Decatur AL students. Regarding tuition, many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials can 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 family obligations have left you with little 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 active schedule.

Things to Ask Nursing Degree Programs

Once you have determined which nursing program to enroll in, and whether to attend your classes on campus near Decatur AL or online, you can utilize the following pointers to start narrowing down your options. As you probably realize, there are many nursing schools and colleges within Alabama and the United States. So it is important to lower 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 as well as the price of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two points that you will consider. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final choice, use the following questions to see how your pick measures up to the field.

  • Accreditation. It's a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program as well as the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to helping confirm that you get a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided in Alabama for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing prerequisites for registered nurses vary from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) as well as graduation from an accredited school. Some states require a specified number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's imperative that the school you are attending not only provides an excellent education, but also readies you to satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working.
  • Reputation. Check online rating services to see what the evaluations are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews too. In addition, contact the Alabama school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can contact some Decatur 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 considering 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 verify that the school has a good reputation within the Decatur AL healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students gain a position.
  • Internship Programs. The best way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Almost all nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing as well. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with Decatur AL area hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placement of students in internships.

Choose the Right Decatur AL Nursing School

Deciding on the ideal nursing degree program is probably the most crucial step to starting a new career in the healthcare field. There are a number of factors that you need to take into account when picking a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career goals, obligations, and financial situation. As we have emphasized within this article, it is important that you select a nursing school and a degree program that are both 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 appropriate degree and training, combined with your hard work and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Decatur AL.