With all of the available nursing programs to choose from, picking just one can be a difficult decision. Do you want to specialize in Labor and Delivery? Volunteer at your local hospital while you study? Take online courses to satisfy your credit requirements? Chances are your decision process will be full of more questions than answers, but with these 7 tips, you can be sure to pick the best nursing program – or at least narrow your choices.
1. Decide on a Specialty Early
You can eliminate many program options by first deciding on the area of nursing you’d like to pursue a career in. Do you want to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and work with children? How about an Oncology Nurse caring for patients with cancer? Or even a Health Policy Nurse who specializes in research and advocacy? The options are endless, but if there’s an area that really interests you, choose among programs offering that specialty.
2. Consider the Size
… of the school and the classes. Some people are more successful in small schools with low student-teacher ratios while others thrive in larger institutions with huge student bodies. You can make choosing a nursing program easier by considering size and eliminating those programs that are too large or too small for your liking.
3. Don’t Forget: Location, Location, Location
Choose a nursing program in a location that’s convenient for you. You should be able to get to class without the hassle of long drives or stressful commutes. That being said, think about your class schedule in conjunction with the location. Would your classes be early in the morning or late at night? Would you be able to conveniently get to school at these times considering the location?
4. Decide if You Want to Be Online
These days, choosing an academic program doesn’t have to take into account physical location. If you’re interested in a nursing program at a university that’s far away or your schedule doesn’t allow you to take traditional courses, try searching for an online nursing program. Many colleges offer them in a variety of specialties – like Ohio University, which offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a Family Nurse Practitioner concentration.
5. Check the Accreditation Status
It’s always a good idea to choose an accredited nursing program at an accredited university. Accreditation ensures the quality and integrity of a school’s courses and is often characteristic of higher ranked schools. The largest accrediting bodies in the field of nursing are the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). These organizations review school curriculums, policies, and staff, and award accreditation to schools that meet certain criteria.
When reviewing accreditation, you should also take a look at exam pass rates. Past NCLEX Examinations are good indicators of how much students at different schools are learning, and how well prepared they are for careers in the industry.
6. Determine the Cost
Tuition is a very important consideration when picking a nursing program. Not only should you know how much the program costs, but also if there’s any financial aid, scholarship opportunities, or even tuition reimbursements if you’re unable to complete your studies.
7. Do Sweat the Small Stuff
Considering program specifics like number of clinical rotations and experience credits can help narrow your choices even more. If you’re interested in more (or less) clinical rotation time, look for programs with those characteristics built into the curricula. If you have prior experience in the healthcare industry, try searching for programs that award educational credit for professional experience. No matter what you want in a program, sweat the small stuff. It’ll be key to ensuring the nursing program you pick is just right.
Choosing a nursing program is far from easy. With all the different specialties, school options, and various factors influencing your decision, try to focus on what’s important. Start with these seven tips and before you know it you’ll be enrolled in the perfect nursing program and on your way to a great career.