How to Pick a Nursing School in Washington District of Columbia
Locating the right nursing college near Washington DC may feel like a formidable project, particularly if you have no idea what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, to practice as a registered nurse, you must acquire the necessary education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you research and measure the qualifications of each program you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate choice. Regrettably, too many potential students base their selection solely on the cost of tuition and the distance of the school. Choosing the least expensive program or the one that is nearest to your home is most likely not the best way to select a nursing program. There are a number of important additional considerations to check into before you make a decision where to enroll in classes. But before we examine that checklist, let’s first go over what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, along with the nursing degree choices that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Duties
Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the Washington DC healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical environments, including hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their general job is to aid doctors in the treatment of their patients. However, the exact duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization as well as where they work. A few of the responsibilities of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Overseeing 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 higher degree may have more high level job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master’s Degree and often work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can deliver primary or specialty care services in Washington DC, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
There is more than one degree option to choose from to become a registered nurse in Washington DC. And to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can obtain a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or advance to earn a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short summaries of the nursing degrees that are available.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a two year program made available by District of Columbia community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical facilities including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many use the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently obtain a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more extensive training than the ADN. It is usually a four year program offered at District of Columbia 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 might want to progress to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master’s. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is commonly a 2 year program after attaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner in Washington DC or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
Once a graduating student has earned one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Further requirements for licensing change from state to state, so be sure to check with the District of Columbia board of nursing for any state mandates.
LPN and LVN Programs
There are essentially two scholastic credentials offered that provide training to become either an LPN or an LVN in Washington DC. The one that can be concluded in the shortest amount of time, typically about twelve months, is the certificate or diploma course. The second option is to obtain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma alternative and typically require 2 years to finish. The benefit of Associate Degrees, in addition to offering a higher credential and more in-depth training, are that they furnish more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Regardless of the kind of credential you seek, it should be District of Columbia approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or some other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC warrants that the core curriculum effectively prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
Unlike some other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not need to attain a college degree. CNA instruction can be received at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school in the Washington DC area. The duration of the training can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months, leading to either a certificate or a diploma. Under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are mandated to obtain at least 75 hours of training, 16 of which must be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Bear in mind that this is the minimal amount of instruction mandated and each state has its specific requirements. So it’s essential to make sure that the program you enroll in not only complies with the federal requirements, but additionally those for the state where you will be practicing. One recommendation is to get in touch with the health or nursing board for District of Columbia to make sure that the training is state certified. In addition to the training, each state mandates a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there might be other requirements as well.
Online Nursing Schools
Enrolling in nursing schools online is emerging as a more in demand way to obtain instruction and acquire a nursing degree in District of Columbia. Certain schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and almost all programs require a specific amount of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training may be accessed online in your Washington DC home, this option may be a more convenient approach to finding the time to attend school for some students. Regarding tuition, a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other on campus options. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And many online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. So if your job and family commitments have left you with very little time to work toward your academic goals, maybe an online nursing program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Things to Ask Nurse Courses
Once you have determined which nursing program to pursue, and whether to attend your classes on campus or on the web, you can use the following checklist to begin narrowing down your options. As you no doubt realize, there are many nursing schools and colleges throughout District of Columbia and the United States. So it is necessary to decrease the number of schools to choose from in order that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the site of the school relative to Washington DC along with the price of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the initial two factors that you will look at. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your ultimate choice, use the following questions to evaluate 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. Aside from helping confirm that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not offered for non-accredited schools near Washington DC.
Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses are different from state to state. In all states, a passing score is required on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Some states require a specified number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s imperative that the Washington DC area school you are enrolled in not only delivers an excellent education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing standards for District of Columbia or the state where you will be working.
Reputation. Check online rating services to see what the reviews are for each of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Also, contact the District of Columbia school licensing authority to check out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some local Washington DC healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their assessments are of the schools as well.
Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN programs 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 verify that the school has a superb reputation within the Washington DC medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students gain employment.
Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Virtually all Washington DC area nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing too. Find out if the schools have associations with community hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the placing of students in internships.
Choose the Right RN Program near Washington DC
Picking the right registered nursing program is perhaps the most critical step to launching a new career in the healthcare field. There are numerous aspects that you must consider when choosing a nursing school. These aspects will be prioritized differently depending on your current career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have pointed out within this article, it is important that you pick an RN school and a degree program that are each accredited and have excellent reputations within the healthcare community. By using our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a shortlist of schools to choose from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the right degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a licensed RN in Washington DC.
Why Did You Desire to Be a Nurse?When getting ready to interview for a nursing position, it's helpful to review questions you could be asked. Among the questions that recruiters frequently ask nursing applicants is "What made you select nursing as a career?". What the interviewer is trying to uncover is not only the private reasons you might have for being a registered nurse, but also what characteristics and abilities you have that make you outstanding at what you do. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating primarily to nursing, in addition to a certain number of standard interview questions, so you must ready some ideas about how you would like to answer them. Considering there are so many variables that go into choosing a career, you can address this fundamental question in a number of ways. When preparing an answer, attempt to include the reasons the profession interests you in addition to the strengths you possess that make you an excellent nurse and the ideal candidate for the position. Don't attempt to memorize a response, but write down a few ideas and talking points that relate to your personal experiences and strengths. Going over sample responses can assist you to prepare your own concepts, and provide ideas of what to discuss to impress the interviewer.
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