How to Enroll In a Nursing Program in District of Columbia
Searching for the best nursing program in District of Columbia may seem like a difficult endeavor, particularly if you aren’t sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already understand, to practice as a registered nurse, you must acquire the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is essential that you study and measure the qualifications of each program you are considering before enrolling in your ultimate choice. Regrettably, too many future students base their determination exclusively on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the school. Selecting the least costly program or the one that is local to your home is undoubtedly not the best way to decide on a nursing program. There are a number of crucial additional considerations to check into before you make a decision where to attend classes. But before we examine that checklist, let’s first discuss what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical system, together with the nursing degree choices that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Activities
Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the District of Columbia healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in many different medical settings, including hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary function is to assist doctors in the treatment of their patients. Having said that, the exact duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise in addition to where they work. A few of the duties of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Observing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Managing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Educating patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more high level job duties and accountabilities. 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 District of Columbia, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.
There are multiple degrees to choose from to become a registered nurse in District of Columbia. And in order to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can receive a qualifying degree in just two years, or continue on to obtain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short summaries of the nursing degrees that are offered.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a two year program made available by District of Columbia community colleges. It readies graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many use the ADN as an entry into nursing and later achieve a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more extensive training than the ADN. It is typically a 4 year program offered at District of Columbia colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able to complete an accelerated program based on their previous 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 job market.
- Master’s. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is usually a 2 year program after attaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner in District of Columbia or focus on administration, management or teaching.
Once a graduating student has obtained one of the above degrees, she or he must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Additional requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so be sure to check with the District of Columbia board of nursing for any state requirements.
LPN Certificates and Degrees
There are generally two scholastic credentials available that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be concluded in the shortest period of time, commonly about twelve months, is the certificate or diploma program. The other alternative is to obtain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma option and normally require 2 years to finish. The benefit of Associate Degrees, aside from offering a higher credential and more extensive training, are that they furnish more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Regardless of the kind of credential you pursue, it needs to be District of Columbia approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or another national accrediting organization. The NLNAC attests that the syllabus adequately prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
Unlike other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have to earn a college degree. CNA education can be received at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The length of the training can take anywhere from 1 to three months, resulting in 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 need to be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Bear in mind that this is the minimal amount of training directed and that every state has its specific prerequisites. So it’s necessary to make certain that the program you enroll in not only complies with the federal requirements, but likewise 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 education is state approved. Along with the training, each state mandates a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there might be additional prerequisites as well.
Online Nursing Degrees
Attending nursing schools online is becoming a more favored way to obtain training and earn a nursing degree in District of Columbia. Many schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and nearly all programs call for a specific amount of clinical rotation hours carried out in a local healthcare center. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more accommodating answer to finding the time to attend college for many students. Regarding tuition, some online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus options. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be reduced, helping to make education more easily affordable. And many online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. Therefore if your job and household responsibilities have left you with little time to work toward your academic goals, it could be that an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
Things to Ask Nurse Colleges
Now that you have selected which nursing degree to enroll in, along with whether to attend your classes on campus or on the internet, you can utilize the following guidelines to begin narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges within District of Columbia and the United States. So it is essential to lower the number of schools to select from to ensure that you will have a manageable list. As we earlier pointed out, the location of the school and the cost of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two points that you will consider. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final selection, use the following questions to see how your selection measures up 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 acknowledged accrediting agency. Aside from helping make sure that you obtain a premium education, it may help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not provided for non-accredited schools in District of Columbia.
Licensing Preparation. Licensing requirements for registered nurses vary 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. Many states require a certain number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s imperative that the school you are attending not only delivers an exceptional education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing requirements for District of Columbia or the state where you will be working.
Reputation. Look at online rating services to see what the assessments are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Additionally, contact the District of Columbia school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some nearby healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their judgements are of the schools as well.
Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN colleges you are looking at 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 unhappy with the program and dropped out. It’s also essential that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only verify that the school has a favorable reputation within the District of Columbia healthcare community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students obtain employment.
Internship Programs. The most effective way to acquire experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Almost all District of Columbia 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 associations with nearby hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placing of students in internships.
Enroll in the Right RN School in District of Columbia
Enrolling in the ideal registered nursing school is probably the most critical first step to launching a new career in the health care field. There are many factors that you must consider when deciding on a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently depending on your current career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have highlighted in this article, it is important that you pick an RN school and a degree program that are each accredited and have outstanding reputations within the medical community. By using our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a shortlist of schools to choose from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your hard work and ambition to succeed, you can become a licensed registered nurse in District of Columbia.