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Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Pick the Right Nursing Training Program near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR Registered Nurse with Physician and PatientFinding the right nursing school near Fort Smith AR may seem like a formidable project, especially if you have no idea what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already know, to practice as a registered nurse, you must acquire the proper education and training in order to become licensed. So it is essential that you research and assess the qualifications of each program you are thinking about before enrolling in your ultimate choice. Regrettably, too many prospective students base their selection exclusively on the cost of tuition and the proximity of the school. Choosing the least expensive college or the one that is local to your house is undoubtedly not the most ideal way to select a nursing program. There are various crucial additional considerations to investigate before you decide where to attend classes. But before we examine that checklist, let's first cover the nursing degree alternatives that are available as well as what the functions of nurses are in our medical system.

Registered Nurse Job Duties

Fort Smith AR RN taking blood pressure of elderly woman

Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical environments, including Fort Smith AR hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary job 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 specialization along with where they work. Some of the duties of an RN may include:

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

Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master's Degree and generally 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 Degrees Available

Fort Smith Arkansas RN assisting surgeon

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 attend an accredited school and program. A nursing student can receive a qualifying degree in just two years, or advance to earn a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are offered to aspiring students in the Fort Smith Arkansas area.

  • Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is usually a 2 year program made available by Arkansas community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level position in nursing in healthcare centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently achieve a higher degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers more expansive training than the ADN. It is usually a 4 year program offered at Arkansas colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able to complete an accelerated program based on their past 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 job market.
  • Master's Degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is usually a 2 year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.

After 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. Various other requirements for licensing fluctuate from state to state, so make sure to get in touch with the Arkansas board of nursing for any state mandates.

Nursing Online Programs

Fort Smith AR woman attending RN school onlineAttending nursing schools online is becoming a more favored way to receive training and attain a nursing degree. Many schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and almost all programs call for a certain amount of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training can be accessed online, this method may be a more accommodating answer to finding the free time to attend school for some Fort Smith AR students. Concerning tuition, a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And many online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. So if your job and household commitments 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 hectic schedule.

Questions to Ask Nursing Schools

Once you have decided on which nursing program to enroll in, and if to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or on the web, you can use the following guidelines to start narrowing down your choices. As you probably realize, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges throughout Arkansas and the United States. So it is essential to decrease the number of schools to select from in order that you will have a workable list. As we already mentioned, the location of the school as well as the price of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two things that you will consider. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your ultimate choice, use the following questions to evaluate how your pick compares to the other programs.

  • 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 organization. In addition to helping confirm that you get a premium education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not offered in Arkansas for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses are different 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. Many states require a specific number of clinical hours be performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's important that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an excellent education, but also readies you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for Arkansas or the state where you will be working.
  • Reputation. Look at online rating services to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Also, contact the Arkansas school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can contact some Fort Smith AR 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 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 displeased with the program and dropped out. It's also important that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only confirm that the school has a good reputation within the Fort Smith AR healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students attain employment.
  • Internship Programs. The most ideal way to obtain 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. Many states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing also. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with Fort Smith AR area hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the positioning of students in internships.

Choose the Right Fort Smith AR RN School

Fort Smith Arkansas RN holding medical chartEnrolling in the ideal nursing school is arguably the most crucial first step to launching a new career in the healthcare industry. There are many aspects that you should take into account when deciding on a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career goals, obligations, and financial situation. As we have stressed within this post, it is important that you pick a nursing college and a degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the healthcare community.  By using our checklist 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 right degree and training, combined with your hard work and drive to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Fort Smith AR.