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Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Enroll In an Accredited RN Degree Program near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR RN with Doctor and PatientChoosing the right nursing school near Fort Smith AR may seem like a difficult endeavor, especially if you don't know what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, for you 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 assess the qualifications of each program you are considering before enrolling in your final choice. Regrettably, too many prospective students base their determination solely on the price of tuition and the distance of the school. Selecting the least expensive program or the one that is nearest to your residence is most likely not the most reliable way to pick a nursing program. There are various crucial additional aspects to investigate before you decide where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first discuss the nursing degree alternatives that are offered as well as what the roles of nurses are in our healthcare system.

Registered Nurse Job Functions

Fort Smith AR RN taking vital signs of patient

Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, such as Fort Smith AR hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic role is to help doctors in the treatment of their patients. However, the specific duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization in addition to where they work. A portion of the responsibilities of an RN may include:

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

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

Nursing Degrees Available

Fort Smith Arkansas Registered Nurse assisting surgeon

There is more than one degree option offered to become a nurse. And to become a Registered Nurse (RN), a student must attend an accredited school and program. A nursing student can obtain a qualifying degree in as little as two 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 Fort Smith Arkansas area.

  • Associates Degree. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a 2 year program offered by Arkansas community colleges. It readies 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 achieve a more advanced degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers more extensive training than the ADN. It is typically a 4 year program offered at Arkansas colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be eligible to complete an accelerated program based on their past training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program may wish 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 commonly a two year program after attaining the BSN. The MSN program provides 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 vary from state to state, so be sure to check with the Arkansas board of nursing for any state requirements.

Online Nursing Degrees

Fort Smith Arkansas woman attending RN college onlineAttending nursing programs online is growing into a more preferred way to obtain training and earn a nursing degree. Many schools will require attendance on campus for part of the training, and almost all programs call for a certain number of clinical rotation hours performed 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 school for some Fort Smith AR students. Concerning tuition, some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be lessened, 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 family obligations have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your busy schedule.

Things to Ask Nursing Degree Programs

Now that you have decided on which nursing program to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or online, you can utilize the following guidelines to begin narrowing down your options. As you undoubtedly are aware, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges throughout Arkansas and the United States. So it is essential to reduce the number of schools to choose from to ensure that you will have a workable list. As we already discussed, the site of the school along with the cost of tuition are most likely going to be the primary two points that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your ultimate choice, use the following questions to see how your selection measures up 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. Besides helping ensure that you receive a premium education, it may assist in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available in Arkansas 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) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Many states require a certain number of clinical hours be performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's imperative that the school you are enrolled in not only provides a top-notch education, but also preps you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for Arkansas or the state where you will be working.
  • Reputation. Check internet rating services to see what the assessments are for each of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Also, get in touch with the Arkansas school licensing authority to check out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some Fort Smith AR 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 programs 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 essential that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only verify that the school has a good reputation within the Fort Smith AR healthcare community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students gain a position.
  • Internship Programs. The most ideal way to acquire 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. Various 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 Best Fort Smith AR RN School

Deciding on the right nursing degree program is perhaps the most crucial first step to beginning a new career in the health care field. There are many aspects that you must think about when choosing a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, obligations, and economic situation. As we have pointed out in this content, it is essential that you pick a nursing college and a degree program that are each accredited and have excellent reputations within the health care community.  By using our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a short list of schools to choose from so that you can make your final selection. And with the right degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Fort Smith AR.