Getting Your Nursing Degree
Obtaining a Nursing Degree requires a four-year commitment, and this nursing course is not an easy program to complete successfully. Those who cannot (or don’t wish to) commit to the full four years, may opt to become Licensed Practical Nurses, since that Nursing program can be completed in one year, putting the student into the work force that much sooner. The pay for an LPN is substantially lower than that for an RN, so investing the extra time and money to get your Nursing Degree may well be worth it in the end. Others may choose to become RNs by completing an Associate Degree in Nursing, which takes about 21 months at most Nursing Colleges and qualifies you to work as an RN immediately after graduation.
There is one step in between graduation from an accredited Nursing Program and working as an RN, however, and that is the NCLEX exam. This is the National Council Licensure Examination, and it is the standard exam that all registered nurses must pass in both the United States and Canada to obtain a full RN license. There are two types of NCLEX, one for Licensed Practical Nurses (called the NCLEX-PN) and the one for Registered Nurses (called the NCLEX-RN). Those who have completed their course of study but have not yet taken the appropriate NCLEX exam are not licensed to practice nursing and cannot work as a nurse anywhere in North America. Successfully completing the NCLEX exam will allow you to practice nursing in whatever state, province, or territory where you took the exam.
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is designed for individuals who have no prior nursing education or experience. The four-year course can be four years of live, in person, full-time education, or courses can be offered online, combined with part-time live classes and flexible scheduling. Nursing programs have many options for completing the necessary courses, making it easier to find a course that is a good fit for you. Since there are approximately 700 Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs in North America, you are sure to find something that will work for you.
Accredited Nursing Program
It is imperative that you choose a Nursing program that is accredited, because if the school you attend is not accredited, you will not be eligible to write the NCLEX exam and cannot obtain an RN or an LPN license. There are two accreditation agencies in the United States, and one in Canada. They hold Nursing Colleges and programs to the highest standards, and their oversight ensures that all nurses at any given level of accreditation have the same level of good-quality education. Nursing Colleges and programs must meet the criteria of the accreditation agencies in order to maintain their accreditation, and if they fail to meet the agency’s standards, accreditation is denied them, and their enrollment will disappear because none of their graduates can actually get a nursing license.
Once you have chosen a school, the next step is attaining entrance to that school. You will need to meet certain entrance requirements, such as a minimum education level (a high school diploma or GED is the bare minimum requirement) as well as having achieved a minimum grade point average or SAT score. If these are not satisfactory, you may need to go back to school (physically or through correspondence classes) and retake certain courses in order to bring up your GPA to a satisfactory level. Your grades are not the only thing required to pass muster, though. You will also be asked by many schools to submit an original essay, which will allow the school to assess your English language skills. A personal interview will almost always be held, which allows the school to get a basic picture of your temperament and social skills. You will need to provide references, both professional and personal, so that the school can contact those references and gain yet more insight into whether you would make a good candidate for their Nursing Program or not.
After you have completed all of the entrance requirements successfully and been accepted into your chosen Nursing Program, it will be time to begin your education. Traditionally, the BSN program is split into two distinct areas of study: there is the liberal arts education section, which must be completed in the first two years of the nursing program, and will give you an education in things like basic sciences, social sciences, psychology, sociology, ethics, nutrition, social sciences, and humanities. Those courses will take the first two years of the program to complete, and you must maintain a minimum GPA level throughout these courses or you will not be eligible to proceed to the next level, which is the nursing core coursework.
The actual nursing classes section of your BSN degree will be completed during the last two years of your course. This is where you will learn your basic nursing theory, and your clinical nursing skills. You will complete clinical experience sections, as well as learning about a vast array of subjects pertaining to nursing in general. There will be courses in pharmacology, mental health nursing, occupational health, medical and surgical care, adult and pediatric care, management, health promotion, family planning, home healthcare, and more. The theory courses will be interspersed with practical experience sessions at various health care institutions. There will be practicums in geriatric wards, surgical wards, oncology wards, operating rooms, maternity wards, neonatal intensive care units, adult intensive care units, emergency rooms, and other specialized areas of hospitals. Most programs also require nursing students to do practicums in clinics, schools, social service agencies, community nursing programs, and other places where health care is delivered by nurses. Most Nursing programs will schedule three hours of practical experience for every hour of theory or classroom time.
Alternative Degree Methods
There are other ways to obtain your BSN that do not take a full four years, such as the accelerated BSN programs offered in many institutions. These courses offer a short cut to a BSN to those who already hold a baccalaureate (BA) degree, or a master’s degree in another field of study, since the first two years of the course do not need to be taught. The holder of a BA or a master’s degree has already completed the liberal arts section of the course and can go straight into the core nursing coursework. This typically takes from 12 to 18 months to complete, and the student is ready to write the NCLEX exam and earn their nursing license.
Online Nursing Degrees
It is possible to earn your Nursing degree online, using an accredited school. Many people believe that an online course will not give you the same high quality of education that you would receive if you took a full-time course, but this is not true. All accredited schools must meet the same criteria with their online course offerings as they do with their live classes, and students are marked just as strictly. Online nursing degrees simply offer a greater degree of flexibility in scheduling class time than on-site classes, although the flexibility is limited. Students are still required to meet assignment deadlines, participate in class discussions, and maintain a minimum GPA throughout their program. Practical experience sessions are coordinated through the student’s coordinator, and are just as varied and educational as those offered to on-site students. An online nursing degree can be a great option for someone who is also working full time while trying to complete their nursing classes. Keep in mind if you are considering this option that you will need to take time off from your regular job to complete all of your practical experience time.
Online nursing courses are often used by qualified RNs who wish to complete a specialty, such as surgical nursing, neonatal intensive care, nurse management, nurse practitioner, critical care nursing, or any of the other specialties available to nurses. These courses allow qualified nurses to upgrade their education while still working full time, although some time will need to be devoted to the practical training that is included with the online theory courses.
A degree in nursing is a sure path to a great career, since nurses are in demand all over the world almost all the time. A fully qualified nurse will very seldom have trouble finding a good job, especially in North America.