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Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Pick an Accredited Nursing School near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR Nurse with Physician and PatientLocating the right nursing program near Fort Smith AR may feel like a complicated project, especially if you don't know what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you need to receive the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you study and evaluate the qualifications of each college you are considering before enrolling in your final selection. Regrettably, too many future students base their selection solely on the cost of tuition and the proximity of the school. Deciding on the least costly program or the one that is local to your home is most likely not the most ideal way to pick a nursing program. There are various key additional aspects to investigate before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we delve into that checklist, let's first go over the nursing degree options that are offered together with what the roles of nurses are in our medical system.

Registered Nurse Job Functions

Fort Smith AR RN taking blood pressure of patient

Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the medical care delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of 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 treatment of their patients. Having said that, the exact duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or area of expertise in addition to where they work. Some of the responsibilities of an RN may include:

  • Providing medications
  • Observing patients
  • Conducting 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 more advanced degree may have more high level job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for instance, must hold a Master's Degree and normally 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 Degrees

Fort Smith Arkansas RN assisting surgeon

There is more than one degree option offered to become a nurse. And in order to become a Registered Nurse (RN), a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A nursing student can obtain a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to achieve a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some brief 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 typically a 2 year program made available by Arkansas community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many employ the ADN as an entry into nursing and afterwards attain a more advanced degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more extensive training than the ADN. It is commonly a four year program offered at Arkansas colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be eligible 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 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 usually a two year program after attaining 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 received one of the above degrees, he or she 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 don't forget to check with the Arkansas board of nursing for any state mandates.

Online Nursing Schools

Fort Smith AR woman attending nursing college onlineEnrolling in nursing programs online is becoming a more favored way to receive instruction and attain a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and virtually all programs call for a specific number 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 practical solution to finding the time to attend college for some Fort Smith AR students. Pertaining to tuition, many online degree programs are less costly than other on campus choices. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous 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 household commitments have left you with very little time to work toward your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing school will make it easier to fit a degree into your active schedule.

Why Become a Nurse?

Nurses are an important part of a Fort Smith AR medical team, and for a large number of patients, their primary care providers. A nursing career opens doors to many opportunities, including research, health care education and specialty areas of practice. Nurses go into the profession for various reasons, among the most significant are its practical and personal advantages. Nurses provide direct, one-on-one care to patients. Many individuals in a hospital or home care setting spend more time with nurses than with physicians. Nurses often choose the profession due to a desire to tend to the needs of patients, including in situations of short-term treatment of illness and long-term care of chronic conditions. This humanistic side of the medical profession, rather than the analytical or research related elements, is attractive to many who decide to enter into a career in nursing. Nurses have extensive applicable skills and can choose from a variety of work settings, such as nursing homes, physician's offices, health clinics, community centers and hospitals. Also, nurses can progress into a number of specializations, such as substance addictions, critical care, genetics and neonatology. Although many nurses deliver direct patient care, others choose to be educators, policy advisers and pharmaceutical representatives.

Things to Ask Nursing Colleges

questions to ask Fort Smith AR nursing training programsOnce you have determined which nursing degree to pursue, and whether to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or on the internet, you can use the following pointers to start narrowing down your options. As you no doubt realize, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges within Arkansas and the United States. So it is essential to reduce the number of schools to choose from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we already pointed out, the location of the school as well as the expense of tuition are probably going to be the first two things that you will look at. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final selection, use the following questions to evaluate how your selection measures up to the other programs.

  • 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 verify that you receive a premium 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 vary 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. Some 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 delivers an outstanding education, but also preps you to satisfy the minimum licensing standards for Arkansas or the state where you will be working.
  • Reputation. Visit online rating services to see what the evaluations are for each of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Additionally, get in touch with the Arkansas school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with 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 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 unhappy 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 medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students gain a position.
  • Internship Programs. The most effective way to acquire 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 too. Find out 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.

Choose the Right Fort Smith AR Nursing School

Fort Smith AR nurse holding babySelecting the ideal nursing school is potentially the most critical first step to launching a new career in the medical care field. There are numerous factors that you must consider when deciding on a nursing program. These factors will be prioritized differently depending on your existing career objectives, obligations, and economic situation. As we have pointed out in this post, it is critical that you choose a nursing college and a degree program that are each accredited and have exceptional reputations within the healthcare community.  By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a short list of schools to select from so that you can make your ultimate 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.