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Nursing School Degree Programs Decatur Alabama

How to Choose an Accredited RN Program near Decatur AL

Decatur AL RN with Physician and PatientSearching for the right nursing program near Decatur AL may seem like a complicated endeavor, 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 need to acquire the necessary education and training to become licensed. So it is essential that you study and evaluate the qualifications of each college you are contemplating before enrolling in your ultimate choice. Regrettably, too many prospective students base their determination entirely on the price of tuition and the distance of the school. Deciding on the least costly school or the one that is nearest to your residence is probably not the best way to decide on a nursing program. There are several important additional aspects to investigate before you make a decision where to attend classes. But before we explore that checklist, let's first discuss the nursing degree choices that are available along with what the jobs of nurses are in our medical care system.

Registered Nurse Job Duties

Decatur AL Nurse taking blood pressure of woman

Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, such as Decatur AL hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic function is to help doctors in the care of their patients. However, the specific duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or area of expertise in addition to where they work. Some of the functions of an RN may include:

  • Administering medications
  • Monitoring patients
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Coordinating 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 high level job duties and accountabilities. 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 routine illnesses or injuries.

Nursing Degrees

Decatur Alabama RN assisting surgeon

There are multiple degrees to choose from to become a nurse. And to become a Registered Nurse (RN), a student must attend an accredited school and program. A nursing student can acquire a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or continue on to achieve a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some brief descriptions of the nursing degrees that are offered to aspiring students in the Decatur Alabama area.

  • Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is typically a two year program offered by Alabama community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and later achieve a more advanced degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more comprehensive training than the ADN. It is commonly a 4 year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be qualified 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 progress 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 typically a two year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate 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) in order to become licensed. Various other requirements for licensing change from state to state, so be sure to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state mandates.

Online Nursing Programs

Decatur Alabama student attending nursing classes onlineAttending nursing colleges online is emerging as a more in demand way to receive training and attain a nursing degree. Some schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and almost all programs call for a certain number of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more practical approach to finding the free time to attend college for many Decatur AL students. Concerning tuition, a number of online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be reduced, helping to make education more easily affordable. And numerous online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your job and household responsibilities have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing school will make it easier to fit a degree into your active schedule.

What to Ask Nursing Colleges

Once you have decided on which nursing program to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus near Decatur AL or online, you can utilize the following checklist to start narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt realize, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges throughout Alabama and the United States. So it is necessary to lower the number of schools to choose from in order that you will have a workable list. As we already discussed, the location of the school as well as the expense of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two points that you will take into consideration. But as we also stressed, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So before making your ultimate selection, use the following questions to evaluate how your selection compares 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 recognized accrediting organization. In addition to helping ensure that you receive an excellent education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available in Alabama for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses vary 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. Some states require a certain number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's essential that the school you are attending not only provides an excellent education, but also preps you to satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Alabama 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. Additionally, contact the Alabama school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Decatur AL healthcare organizations you're interested in working for after graduation and ask what their assessments 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 complete 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 substantiate that the school has a good reputation within the Decatur AL healthcare community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students gain a position.
  • Internship Programs. The most ideal way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Virtually all nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing too. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with Decatur AL area hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placement of students in internships.

Choose the Right Decatur AL RN School

Deciding on the right nursing school is perhaps the most critical phase to launching a new career in the medical care industry. There are many aspects that you must take into account when picking a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently depending on your current career objectives, obligations, and financial status. As we have stressed within this content, it is essential that you select a nursing school and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the health care community.  By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a short list of schools to pick from so that you can make your final selection. And with the right degree and training, combined with your hard work and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Decatur AL.