10 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Nursing School
Experts Explain How to Find the Right Program
Deciding on a nursing school can be understandably daunting. A simple google search of available programs often leaves more questions than answers: What does the cost of tuition include? Will my credits transfer? What scholarships are offered? Will I be able to do this while working? It can be hard to know where to start.
“Nursing school is not a one-size-fits-all type of deal,” said Aricka Cano, the director of student recruitment and outreach at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Nursing. While it’s no secret that finding the right school is a complex decision, the following 10 queries can help prospective students choose the right nursing program to meet their particular needs.
1. Is it convenient?
Often, individuals who are interested in pursuing a nursing degree are already working as RNs in hospitals or clinics.
“Many students need the flexibility of a completely online program that fits the needs of their demanding schedule,” said Cano. For these students, nursing school should not have to be a juggling act--the courses need to fit with your personal routine. The RN to BSN program at TTUHSC is 100% online, which makes courses adaptable to any schedule.
“Our program is designed for the full-time working nurse, the busy parent, and the nursing student working towards their RN license and then preparing to get their BSN.” Cano explained.
2. How much does it (really) cost?
It seems like a simple question with a simple answer, but it can be challenging to find the cost of nursing schools. Even after locating the cost of tuition, prospective students should research available financial aid and scholarships, as well as seeking out any additional hidden fees within each program.
At TTUHSC, the RN to BSN program is competitively priced, coming to a total cost of $9,300.
“There are no hidden fees or additional costs that arise once students are admitted,” said Cano, who noted there is just one simple application that can be completed through the School of Nursing website, and that there are no additional prerequisite courses required other than the ones plainly listed online.
“The majority of hospitals offer tuition assistance to nurses who are pursuing a degree,” said Cano. “With tuition assistance and considering the cost of our program, that sometimes leaves little to no expense for our students.”
3. How long is the program?
While attending nursing school is an impactful, growing experience, no one wants to be in school forever.
“Many RN-to-BSN students are currently working as RNs and need a program that is quick and convenient,” said Cano. “Our program is completed in as little as 2 semesters--that averages to seven or eight months.” Cano clarified that because the program is designed for the working nurse, students are able to successfully obtain a degree in that amount of time without feeling overwhelmed.
4. What are the graduation and retention rates?
“Reputation is definitely something to consider when choosing a nursing school,” said Cano, who knows that the graduation and retention rates of schools are more than just numbers. For many programs, these rates show that the school values the quality of an education over the quantity of students paying tuition.
“We have excellent graduation and retention rates,” Cano said of TTUHSC’s School of Nursing. “Our priority is ensuring that our nursing students are successful and are graduating from our program with positive experiences.”
Within the School of Nursing, TTUHSC has a dedicated retention counselor for the RN to BSN program to assist students and help them feel supported. “We are able to accept quite a few students in our program, but we want them to always feel like a valued Red Raider nurse, and not just a number,” said Cano.
5. Is it an accredited nursing school?
When searching for the right nursing school, whether or not the program is accredited is a meaningful piece of the puzzle. Accreditation, or the evaluation of nursing programs, holds programs to specific state and national standards. Especially for prospective students who seek a program that has the convenience of being entirely online, checking that the school is accredited is an important step.
Accreditation is essential in order to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Additionally, accredited schools allow their students to access federal financial aid and are necessary for those who wish to attend graduate nursing programs in the future. A student who graduates from a non-accredited nursing program might have trouble fulfilling their career goals.
Cano pointed out that not only is the School of Nursing at TTUHSC accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), but the National League for Nursing has selected the School of Nursing as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.
6. Are there time limits on prerequisites?
There are often students who hope to obtain their degree without having to retake prerequisites or science courses that they have already taken in the past.
“Many schools have a five or seven year time limit on required prerequisite courses or science courses specifically, which means if it has been more than five to seven years since they completed a course, they will have to retake it,” explained Cano. Especially considering the nature of nursing programs, it is important for working nurses to be able to use previous credits when earning their degree. Such a time limit does not exist at TTUHSC.
“If someone is working as an RN or is currently in school working towards their ADN, they will not be required to retake a course that they have already successfully completed--even if it has been 5 years or more since they’ve taken it,” said Cano.
7. Does the school pay personal attention to its students?
Even with in-person classes there are lecture-hall settings that can make a student feel unseen, but a personal touch is especially rare for online programs.
“Students want to know that they won’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of online courses,” said Cano. At TTUHSC, the School of Nursing deliberately aims to support each student individually.
“Even with our online RN to BSN program, we have a low student-to-faculty ratio,” Cano said. “It averages 35:1. This allows the student and faculty to get to know one another and creates a sense of personalization in a virtual format.”
8. Does the school have partnerships?
For a nursing school, having and tending to ties or agreements with community colleges and hospitals is beneficial to the student, the school and the partnered institution. Partnerships help ensure that the most current, important competencies are part of the curriculum.
“We have partnerships with several community and junior colleges across the state, as well as hospitals,” said Cano. “By developing and building these relationships, we’re making the transition from RN to BSN that much easier. We work with our partner schools to make the process streamlined and beneficial to prospective students.”
9. What are the degrees and programs offered?
Those who are seeking a fulfilling career in nursing often are interested in continuing their education after receiving a BSN, to further broaden their opportunities. While obtaining a BSN degree, students are able to visualize a variety of paths to success, depending on their interests. If a school has a wide range of offered programs within a nursing school, transitioning to those programs after graduating is a simple and manageable task.
With 19 degree/track options, the School of Nursing at TTUHSC offers a wide variety of graduate tracks that are available once a student completes the RN to BSN program.
“Options range from a Master of Science in Nursing with a focus in Leadership to several Nurse Practitioner options with different specializations,” said Cano, who added that RN-to-BSN students may also be interested in the MSN Expressway--a plan where students can transition from their RN to BSN program to an MSN in Leadership track.
10. What is the community like?
Even in a program that is offered online, observing the other students, faculty and staff at a school is a crucial element when looking for the right fit. Not only does a school’s community speak to the curriculum and academic nature of a school, but it also speaks to the personal experience you will have as a student.
Lauren Sullivan, Ed.D., the managing director for the School of Nursing Admissions at TTUHSC, praised the employees at the School of Nursing, faculty and staff alike.
“From recruitment, admissions and enrollment management to developing and teaching curriculum, as well as providing outstanding clinical and field experiences, all of us are deeply engaged with, and focused on, the whole student,” said Sullivan. “This ensures that Red Raider nurses are not only receiving a stellar academic experience, but they’re also getting a holistic experience. As faculty and staff, we all have a responsibility in preparing future leaders in healthcare; therefore, we strive to operate with a student-centered philosophy.”
Just as Sullivan spoke highly of the school’s employees, Cano commended the student body and their continued accomplishments.
“There is such a great sense of pride when I’m at a recruitment event and I have alumni come by our booth or table to visit with prospective students about their experience and tell them why they should really consider our program,” said Cano. “Our alumni and current students are proud to be a Red Raider nurse.”
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