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Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Choose an Accredited RN Training Program near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR Nurse with Doctor and PatientChoosing the right nursing school near Fort Smith AR may seem like a complicated endeavor, particularly if you aren't sure what to search for in a good degree program. As you may presently know, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is essential that you study and assess the qualifications of each program you are contemplating before enrolling in your ultimate selection. The fact is, too many prospective students base their determination entirely on the cost of tuition and the distance of the school. Picking the least costly school or the one that is nearest to your home is no doubt not the most reliable way to choose a nursing program. There are several essential additional considerations to investigate before you determine 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 roles of nurses are in our medical system.

Registered Nurse Job Activities

Fort Smith AR RN taking vital signs of woman

Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical settings, including Fort Smith AR hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary role is to assist doctors in the treatment of their patients. However, the particular 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
  • Observing patients
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Managing care
  • Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
  • Instructing patients and their families
  • Managing health records and charts

Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for instance, 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

Fort Smith Arkansas Nurse assisting surgeon

There are several degree options 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 earn a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to attain a graduate degree for a total of 6 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 usually a 2 year program offered by Arkansas community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare facilities including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently obtain a higher degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) offers more expansive training than the ADN. It is commonly 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 want to advance 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 2 year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.

Once a graduating student has received 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. Further requirements for licensing fluctuate from state to state, so don't forget to contact the Arkansas board of nursing for any state mandates.

Online Nursing Classes

Fort Smith Arkansas student attending nursing school onlineEnrolling in nursing programs online is becoming a more in demand way to get training and acquire a nursing degree. Many schools will require attendance on campus for part of the training, and virtually all programs require a certain amount of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local healthcare facility. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this option may be a more accommodating approach to finding the free time to attend school for many Fort Smith AR students. Pertaining to tuition, many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. 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 work and family obligations have left you with little 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.

Things to Ask Nursing Programs

Now that you have decided on which nursing program to pursue, along with if to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or online, you can utilize the following pointers to start 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 important to lower the number of schools to select from in order that you will have a workable list. As we already discussed, the location of the school along with the cost of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the primary two things that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So prior to making your final selection, use the following questions to evaluate how your pick compares to the other schools.

  • 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 agency. Besides helping ensure that you obtain a premium education, it may help in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are oftentimes not provided in Arkansas for non-accredited schools.
  • Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is required on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Certain 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 attending 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. Visit internet rating companies to see what the assessments are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews too. In addition, contact the Arkansas school licensing authority to find 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 opinions are of the schools as well.
  • Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN programs 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 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 substantiate that the school has a superb 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 best way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Almost all nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing also. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with Fort Smith AR area hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placement of students in internships.

Enroll in the Best Fort Smith AR RN Program

Enrolling in the right nursing college is potentially the most critical first step to launching a new career in the healthcare field. There are various factors that you must think about when deciding on a nursing program. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have emphasized in 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 using our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a short list of schools to select 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.