How to Pick the Best Nursing Degree Program near Tuscaloosa AL
Searching for the best nursing program near Tuscaloosa AL may seem like a complex endeavor, particularly if you have no idea what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already know, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you need to obtain the appropriate education and training in order to become licensed. So it is critically important that you research and evaluate the qualifications of each program you are thinking about before enrolling in your final selection. Regrettably, too many potential students base their determination entirely on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the school. Selecting the least expensive college or the one that is nearest to your home is no doubt not the best way to choose a nursing program. There are a number of important additional aspects to check into before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first look at the nursing degree choices that are available together with what the functions of nurses are in our medical care system.
Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities
Registered nurses are the largest occupation in the medical delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, including Tuscaloosa AL hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic duty is to support doctors in the care of their patients. Having said that, the particular duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization in addition to where they work. A portion of the duties of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Observing patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Managing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Managing health records and charts
Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master's Degree and commonly work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can administer primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
There are multiple degrees available to become a nurse. And to become a Registered Nurse (RN), a student must attend an accredited school and program. A nursing student can receive 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 Tuscaloosa Alabama area.
- Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is usually 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 use the ADN as an entry into nursing and later achieve a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers more expansive training than the ADN. It is generally a four year program offered at Alabama 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 employment market.
- Master's Degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is typically a two year program after attaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
After a graduating student has obtained one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) so as to become licensed. Other requirements for licensing fluctuate from state to state, so make sure to check with the Alabama board of nursing for any state mandates.
Online Nursing Degrees
Enrolling in nursing schools online is growing into a more favored way to obtain training and attain a nursing degree. Some schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and almost all programs call for a specified amount of clinical rotation hours performed in a local healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training can be accessed online, this method may be a more convenient approach to finding the time to attend college for many Tuscaloosa AL students. Concerning tuition, many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even additional expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. 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 limited time to pursue your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Why Nursing?Nurses are an indispensable part of a Tuscaloosa AL medical team, and for many patients, their primary care providers. A career in nursing opens doors to many opportunities, including healthcare education, research and specialty areas of practice. Nurses enter the profession for many reasons, among the most notable are its personal and practical advantages. Nurses provide direct, one-on-one care to patients. Most individuals in a hospital or home care environment spend more time with nurses than with physicians. Nurses often choose the profession due to a desire to administer to the needs of patients, including in instances of short-term treatment of illness and extended care of chronic ailments. This human aspect of the health profession, rather than the analytical or research related facets, is attractive to many who elect to enter into a nursing career. Nurses have extensive applicable skills and can choose from a number of work settings, including nursing homes, physician's offices, health clinics, community centers and hospitals. Also, nurses can advance into a variety of specializations, including addictions, critical care, genetics and neonatology. Although most nurses deliver direct patient care, others choose to be educators, policy advisers or pharmaceutical representatives.
Questions to Ask Nursing Schools
Once you have decided on which nursing degree to enroll in, as well as if to attend your classes on campus near Tuscaloosa AL or online, you can use the following pointers to start narrowing down your options. As you undoubtedly realize, there are many nursing schools and colleges throughout Alabama and the United States. So it is essential to decrease the number of schools to select from to ensure that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the location of the school and the price of tuition are probably going to be the primary two points that you will look at. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So prior to making your ultimate choice, 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 along with the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to helping confirm that you get a premium education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available 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 required 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 performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's important that the school you are attending not only delivers an exceptional education, but also prepares you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for Alabama or the state where you will be working.
- Reputation. Visit online rating companies to see what the reviews are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews too. Also, get in touch with the Alabama school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some Tuscaloosa 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 looking at what their graduation rates are as well as how long on average it takes students to finish 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 Tuscaloosa AL healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students obtain employment.
- Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Virtually all nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing as well. Check if the schools have a working relationship with Tuscaloosa AL area hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placement of students in internships.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa AL RN School
Enrolling in the ideal nursing school is potentially the most important phase to launching a new career in the health care field. There are numerous factors that you need to think about when choosing a nursing program. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your current career goals, obligations, and financial status. As we have highlighted within this content, it is important that you select a nursing school 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 develop a shortlist of schools to pick from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the right degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Tuscaloosa AL.