Home >> Arkansas >> Fort Smith >> Accelerated Nursing Programs


Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Choose the Best RN School near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR Registered Nurse with Doctor and PatientSelecting the best nursing school near Fort Smith AR may seem like a challenging project, particularly if you have no idea what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you must acquire the appropriate education and training in order to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you study and assess the qualifications of each college you are considering before enrolling in your final selection. Unfortunately, too many potential students base their determination solely on the price of tuition and the nearness of the school. Deciding on the least costly program or the one that is local to your home is probably not the most ideal way to decide on a nursing program. There are several crucial additional aspects to check into before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first review the nursing degree alternatives that are offered as well as what the roles of nurses are in our medical care system.

Registered Nurse Job Activities

Fort Smith AR RN taking vital signs of elderly woman

Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the medical delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical environments, including Fort Smith AR hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general duty is to aid doctors in the care of their patients. However, the particular duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or specialization along with where they work. A few of the responsibilities of an RN may include:

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

Nurses with a higher degree may have more advanced 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 common illnesses or injuries.

Nursing Degree Options

Fort Smith Arkansas Nurse 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 earn a qualifying degree in just two years, or advance to earn a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some brief summaries of the nursing degrees that are available to aspiring students in the Fort Smith Arkansas area.

  • Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a two year program made available by Arkansas community colleges. It readies graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and later earn a higher degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more comprehensive training than the ADN. It is normally a 4 year program offered at Arkansas 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 may wish 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 obtaining 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 attained one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Other requirements for licensing vary from state to state, so make sure to check with the Arkansas board of nursing for any state requirements.

Online Nursing Classes

Fort Smith AR woman attending nursing school onlineAttending nursing colleges online is emerging as a more in demand way to receive training and attain a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and virtually all programs require a specified amount of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this option may be a more convenient solution to finding the time to attend classes for many Fort Smith AR students. Concerning tuition, some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more easily affordable. And many online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your work and family responsibilities have left you with limited time to work toward your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing training program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your active schedule.

Questions to Ask Nursing Colleges

Once you have decided on which nursing program to enroll in, along with if to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or online, you can utilize the following checklist to begin narrowing down your choices. As you undoubtedly are aware, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges throughout Arkansas and the United States. So it is essential to lower the number of schools to select from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we already pointed out, the site of the school and the cost of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two points that you will consider. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final decision, use the following questions to evaluate how your selection compares to the other schools.

  • Accreditation. It's a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program in addition to the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Aside from helping make sure that you obtain a quality education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often not available in Arkansas for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing prerequisites for registered nurses differ 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. Many states require a specific number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's important that the school you are attending not only delivers an outstanding education, but also preps you to meet the minimum licensing requirements for Arkansas or the state where you will be practicing.
  • Reputation. Check internet rating companies to see what the reviews are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. In addition, get in touch with the Arkansas school licensing authority to check 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 judgments are of the schools as well.
  • Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN colleges you are considering 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 essential that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only substantiate that the school has a good reputation within the Fort Smith AR medical 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. Essentially all nursing degree programs require a specified number of clinical hours be completed. A number of states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing as well. Check if the schools have associations 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 Program

Fort Smith Arkansas nurse holding patient chartPicking the ideal nursing school is probably the most critical step to beginning a new career in the healthcare field. There are various variables that you need to take into account when choosing a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career goals, lifestyle, and financial status. As we have emphasized within this post, it is critical that you choose a nursing college and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the healthcare 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 right degree and training, combined with your dedication and ambition to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Fort Smith AR.