How to Find the Right Nursing College in California
Finding the best nursing school in California may seem like a difficult undertaking, particularly if you have no idea what to look for in a good degree program. As you may presently understand, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you need to acquire the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and assess the qualifications of each school you are contemplating before enrolling in your final selection. Regrettably, too many potential students base their decision entirely on the price of tuition and the nearness of the school. Choosing the least expensive school or the one that is nearest to your house is most likely not the most reliable way to select a nursing program. There are various key additional things to check into before you make a decision where to enroll in classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first go over what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, as well as the nursing degree choices that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Activities
Registered nurses are the most significant occupation in the California medical delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical environments, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic duty is to help doctors in the care of their patients. Having said that, the exact duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or specialization along with where they work. A portion of the duties of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Monitoring patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a more advanced degree may have more complex job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), for example, must hold a Master’s Degree and typically work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can administer primary or specialty care services in California, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat common illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degrees Available
There are multiple degrees offered to become a registered nurse in California. And in order to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can earn a qualifying degree in as little as 2 years, or continue on to earn a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some brief descriptions of the nursing degrees that are available.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a 2 year program made available by California community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level position in nursing in healthcare centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many use the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently achieve a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more expansive training than the ADN. It is commonly a 4 year program offered at California colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able 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 employment market.
- Master’s. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is usually a 2 year program after achieving the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for instance to become a nurse practitioner in California or focus on administration, management or teaching.
When a graduating student has received one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Further requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so don’t forget to contact the California board of nursing for any state mandates.
LVN and LPN Training
There are basically two scholastic accreditations available that provide instruction to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be concluded in the shortest time period, typically about twelve months, is the certificate or diploma program. The next choice is to attain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma option and commonly require 2 years to complete. The benefit of Associate Degrees, in addition to providing a higher credential and more extensive instruction, are that they provide more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. No matter the kind of credential you pursue, it needs to be California approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or another national accrediting organization. The NLNAC attests that the core curriculum adequately prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have to obtain a college degree. CNA training can be acquired at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The length of the training can take anywhere from just one 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 instruction, 16 of which have to be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Bear in mind that this is the minimal period of training directed and every state has its specific requirements. So it’s important to make certain that the course you enroll in not only satisfies the federal requirements, but likewise those for the state where you will be practicing. One recommendation is to contact the health or nursing board for California to make sure that the education is state approved. In addition to the training, each state mandates a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there can be additional requirements as well.
Online Nursing Programs
Attending nursing colleges online is becoming a more popular way to get training and earn a nursing degree in California. Many schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and nearly all programs require a certain amount of clinical rotation hours performed in a local healthcare facility. But since the balance of the training may be accessed online, this alternative may be a more convenient solution to finding the time to attend school for many students. Regarding tuition, a number of online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be lessened, helping to make education more economical. And numerous online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your job and household obligations have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, it could be that an online nursing training program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
What to Ask Nurse Courses
Now that you have determined which nursing program to pursue, along with if to attend your classes on campus or on the internet, you can utilize the following pointers to start narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt realize, there are a large number of nursing schools and colleges within California and the United States. So it is essential to lower the number of schools to select from so that you will have a workable list. As we already mentioned, the site of the school and the cost of tuition are probably going to be the primary two factors that you will consider. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your ultimate selection, 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 in addition to the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides helping make sure that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are oftentimes not offered for non-accredited schools in California.
Licensing Preparation. Licensing criteria for registered nurses differ from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed 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 essential that the school you are enrolled in not only provides an outstanding education, but also prepares you to comply with the minimum licensing standards for California or the state where you will be practicing.
Reputation. Check online rating services to see what the evaluations are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Additionally, contact the California school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some regional healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their opinions 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 complete their programs. A low graduation rate may be an indication that students were displeased with the program and dropped out. It’s also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only confirm that the school has a favorable reputation within the California medical community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students gain a position.
Internship Programs. The most effective way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Almost all California nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Many states have minimum clinical hour prerequisites for licensing also. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with regional hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placing of students in internships.
Enroll in the Right RN Degree in California
Enrolling in the ideal registered nursing degree program is probably the most important step to launching a new career in the healthcare field. There are numerous factors that you need to consider when deciding on a nursing school. These factors will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, obligations, and economic status. As we have stressed within this post, it is essential that you select an RN school and a degree program that are both accredited and have excellent reputations within the healthcare community. By utilizing our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a shortlist of schools to select from so that you can make your final selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a licensed registered nurse in California.