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Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Enroll In the Best Nursing Degree Program near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR Registered Nurse with Doctor and PatientLocating the right nursing college near Fort Smith AR may feel like a formidable project, 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 vitally important that you study and determine the qualifications of each program you are thinking about before enrolling in your final choice. Regrettably, too many future students base their decision entirely on the cost of tuition and the proximity of the school. Choosing the least costly program or the one that is nearest to your residence is no doubt not the most reliable way to select a nursing program. There are many key additional aspects to look into before you decide where to attend classes. But before we explore that checklist, let's first discuss the nursing degree choices that are available as well as what the jobs of nurses are in our medical system.

Registered Nurse Job Activities

Fort Smith AR RN taking vital signs of patient

Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical environments, namely Fort Smith AR hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary role is to assist doctors in the care of their patients. However, the specific duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise as well as where they work. A few of the responsibilities of an RN may include:

  • Administering medications
  • Monitoring patients
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Coordinating care
  • Managing 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 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 deliver primary or specialty care services, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.

Nursing Degrees Available

Fort Smith Arkansas RN assisting surgeon

There are multiple degrees offered 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 earn a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to obtain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short summaries 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 normally a 2 year program offered by Arkansas community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently earn a more advanced degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more extensive training than the ADN. It is commonly 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 desire 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 typically a two year program after receiving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner or focus 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) so as to become licensed. Various other requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so make sure to contact the Arkansas board of nursing for any state requirements.

Nursing Online Schools

Fort Smith AR student attending nursing college onlineEnrolling in nursing colleges online is growing into a more favored way to receive instruction and attain a nursing degree. Some schools will require attendance on campus for part of the training, and almost all programs call for a specified amount of clinical rotation hours conducted in a local healthcare facility. But since the remainder of the training may be accessed online, this alternative may be a more convenient approach to finding the free time to attend classes for some Fort Smith AR students. Pertaining to tuition, some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. 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 like 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 work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing school will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your active schedule.

Why Enter the Nursing Profession?

Nurses are an integral part of a Fort Smith AR medical team, and for a large number of patients, their primary care providers. A nursing career can lead to many opportunities, such as research, health care education and specialty areas of practice. Nurses enter the profession for several reasons, the most meaningful are its personal and practical advantages. Nurses provide personal, one-on-one care to patients. Many individuals in a medical facility or home care environment have more contact with nurses than with doctors. Nurses frequently choose the profession out of a desire to tend to the needs of patients, including in cases of short-term treatment of illness and extended care of chronic ailments. This humanistic aspect of the health profession, rather than the research or analytical related aspects, is appealing to many who elect to enter into a nursing career. Nurses have a wide range of applicable skills and can select from a number of work settings, including nursing homes, doctor's offices, medical clinics, community centers and hospitals. Also, nurses can progress into a number of specialties, such as substance addictions, critical care, genetics and neonatology. Although most nurses provide primary patient care, others elect to be educators, policy advisers or pharmaceutical representatives.

Questions to Ask Nursing Degree Programs

what to ask Fort Smith AR nursing training programsNow that you have selected which nursing program to enroll in, and if to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or online, you can utilize the following checklist to start narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt realize, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges within Arkansas and the United States. So it is essential to lower the number of schools to choose from to ensure that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the location of the school along with the price of tuition are probably going to be the initial two factors that you will take into consideration. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final selection, 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 in addition to the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Aside from helping ensure that you get a quality education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not provided in Arkansas for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria for registered nurses are different 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 essential that the school you are attending not only provides an outstanding education, but also preps you to meet the minimum licensing standards for Arkansas or the state where you will be practicing.
  • Reputation. Look at online rating services to see what the assessments are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Also, contact the Arkansas school licensing authority to determine 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 assessments 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 finish their programs. A low graduation rate may be an indication that students were dissatisfied 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 favorable reputation within the Fort Smith AR healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students gain employment.
  • Internship Programs. The best way to obtain 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. Various states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing as well. Check if the schools have associations with Fort Smith AR area hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placement of students in internships.

Enroll in the Right Fort Smith AR RN School

Fort Smith AR RN holding babyDeciding on the right nursing college is arguably the most crucial step to starting a new career in the healthcare industry. There are numerous variables that you should take into account when choosing a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have emphasized within this article, it is important that you choose a nursing college and a degree program that are both accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care community.  By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a shortlist of schools to select from so that you can make your final selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Fort Smith AR.