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Nursing School Degree Programs Fort Smith Arkansas

How to Pick the Right RN Degree Program near Fort Smith AR

Fort Smith AR RN with Physician and PatientFinding the right nursing college near Fort Smith AR may feel like a difficult project, especially if you aren't sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you need to receive the appropriate 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. Unfortunately, too many potential students base their decision exclusively on the cost of tuition and the distance of the school. Going with the least expensive school or the one that is local to your house is undoubtedly not the most ideal way to decide on a nursing program. There are various key additional considerations to investigate before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we examine that checklist, let's first go over the nursing degree choices that are available as well as what the functions of nurses are in our medical system.

Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities

Fort Smith AR RN taking vital signs of elderly woman

Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the medical delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, such as Fort Smith AR hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic function is to help doctors in the care of their patients. Having said that, the specific duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or area of expertise as well as where they work. A portion of the functions of an RN may include:

  • Administering medications
  • Observing patients
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Coordinating care
  • Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
  • Educating patients and their families
  • Taking care of health records and charts

Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for instance, must hold a Master's Degree and typically 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 Nurse 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 obtain a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to earn a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short explanations 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 readies graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many use the ADN as an entry into nursing and later attain a higher degree.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more in depth training than the ADN. It is usually a 4 year program offered at Arkansas colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be allowed to complete an accelerated program based on their prior training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might desire 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 typically a 2 year program after receiving the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for instance 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) in order to become licensed. Various other requirements for licensing change 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 classes onlineEnrolling in nursing colleges online is becoming a more popular way to obtain training and earn a nursing degree. Certain schools will require attendance 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 accommodating solution to finding the free time to attend classes for many Fort Smith AR students. Regarding tuition, some online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus choices. Even additional expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more easily affordable. And numerous online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your work and family obligations have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, it could be that an online nursing program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your busy schedule.

Questions to Ask Nursing Programs

Now that you have decided on which nursing degree to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus near Fort Smith AR or on the internet, you can utilize the following checklist to begin narrowing down your choices. As you probably are aware, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges throughout Arkansas and the United States. So it is necessary to lower the number of schools to choose from so that you will have a manageable list. As we previously pointed out, the location of the school along with the expense of tuition are probably going to be the first two things that you will consider. But as we also stressed, they should not be your sole qualifiers. So before making your final selection, use the following questions to see 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 recognized accrediting agency. In addition to helping make sure that you get an excellent education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided 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) as well as graduation from an accredited school. Certain states require a specified number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It's essential that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an excellent education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing requirements for Arkansas or the state where you will be working.
  • Reputation. Visit online rating services to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Additionally, check with 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 judgments are of the schools as well.
  • Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN schools 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 displeased with the program and dropped out. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only confirm that the school has a superb reputation within the Fort Smith AR medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to help students obtain employment.
  • Internship Programs. The best way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Virtually all nursing degree programs require a specified number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing as well. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with Fort Smith AR area hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placement of students in internships.

Enroll in the Best Fort Smith AR RN School

Fort Smith Arkansas nurse holding medical chartChoosing the right nursing degree program is probably the most important first step to launching a new career in the health care field. There are numerous factors that you should consider when selecting a nursing program. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your current career objectives, lifestyle, and financial status. As we have emphasized in this post, it is critical that you pick a nursing college and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the health care community.  By using our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a shortlist of schools to choose from so that you can make your final selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your hard work and drive to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Fort Smith AR.