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Nursing School Degree Programs Decatur Alabama

How to Enroll In the Best RN College near Decatur AL

Decatur AL RN with Doctor and PatientFinding the best nursing college near Decatur AL may seem like a complicated undertaking, particularly if you have no idea what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the proper education and training in order to become licensed. So it is essential that you study and evaluate the qualifications of each college you are thinking about before enrolling in your final selection. Unfortunately, too many future students base their selection exclusively on the price of tuition and the nearness of the school. Deciding on the least expensive school or the one that is closest to your house is no doubt not the most ideal way to pick a nursing program. There are a number of important additional aspects to check into before you decide where to attend classes. But before we examine that checklist, let's first go over the nursing degree choices that are offered along with what the roles of nurses are in our health system.

Registered Nurse Job Duties

Decatur AL RN taking vital signs of patient

Registered nurses are the largest occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of different medical environments, such as Decatur AL hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general job is to support doctors in the care of their patients. However, the exact duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization along with where they work. A few of the responsibilities of an RN may include:

  • Providing medications
  • Overseeing patients
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Managing care
  • Managing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
  • Informing patients and their families
  • Taking care of health records and charts

Nurses with a higher degree may have more high level job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master's Degree and often 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 Nurse assisting surgeon

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

  • Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a two year program offered by Alabama community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level position in nursing in medical centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and later attain a higher degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more in depth training than the ADN. It is generally a 4 year program offered at Alabama colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able 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 progress 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 2 year program after attaining 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 acquired one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to become licensed. Other requirements for licensing change from state to state, so make sure to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state requirements.

Online Nursing Programs

Decatur Alabama woman attending nursing school onlineEnrolling in nursing schools online is emerging as a more preferred way to obtain instruction and earn a nursing degree. Some schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and virtually all programs call for a specific amount of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training can be accessed online, this method may be a more practical solution to finding the free time to attend school for some Decatur AL students. Pertaining to tuition, a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. 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 very little time to work toward 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 Colleges

Now that you have chosen which nursing degree to pursue, as well as whether to attend your classes on campus near Decatur AL or online, you can use the following guidelines to start narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt are aware, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges within Alabama and the United States. So it is important to reduce the number of schools to choose from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we already mentioned, the site of the school as well as the price of tuition are most likely going to be the primary two points that you will take into consideration. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So before making your final choice, 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 along with the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to helping verify that you obtain a quality education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are oftentimes not offered in Alabama for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is required 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 important that the school you are attending not only provides an excellent education, but also prepares you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing.
  • Reputation. Look at online rating companies to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Also, check with 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 judgments 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 dissatisfied 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 superb reputation within the Decatur AL healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students attain employment.
  • Internship Programs. The most effective way to acquire experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Virtually all nursing degree programs require a specified number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing too. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with Decatur AL area hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the positioning of students in internships.

Choose the Right Decatur AL Nursing School

Picking the ideal nursing program is arguably the most important first step to starting a new career in the medical care industry. There are various aspects that you should think about when choosing a nursing program. These factors will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career goals, obligations, and economic situation. As we have highlighted within this post, it is essential that you select a nursing college and a degree program that are each accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care community.  By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a short list of schools to pick 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.