How to Find the Right Nursing School in Tennessee
Locating the right nursing school in Tennessee may seem like a challenging undertaking, particularly if you have no idea what to search for in a good degree program. As you may already know, in order to practice as a registered nurse, you need to receive the appropriate education and training in order to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and evaluate the qualifications of each school you are contemplating before enrolling in your final choice. The fact is, too many potential students base their selection exclusively on the cost of tuition and the proximity of the school. Picking the least costly college or the one that is nearest to your residence is most likely not the best way to choose a nursing program. There are many important additional considerations to explore before you make a decision where to enroll in classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first review what the function of a registered nurse is in our health system, along with the nursing degree choices that are offered.
Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities
Registered nurses are the primary occupation in the Tennessee medical delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of different medical settings, such as hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic role is to aid doctors in the treatment of their patients. Having said that, the particular duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise along with where they work. A few of the functions of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Observing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Managing 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 typically work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can provide primary or specialty care services in Tennessee, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat common illnesses or injuries.
There is more than one degree option to choose from to become a registered nurse in Tennessee. And to become an RN, a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A student can receive a qualifying degree in as little as two years, or advance to earn a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some short descriptions of the nursing degrees that are offered.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a two year program offered by Tennessee community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in medical centers including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and subsequently obtain a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more expansive training than the ADN. It is generally a four year program offered at Tennessee colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be eligible to complete an accelerated program based on their prior training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might want 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 two year program after obtaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner in Tennessee or focus on administration, management or teaching.
When a graduating student has received 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 can vary from state to state, so don’t forget to check with the Tennessee board of nursing for any state requirements.
LPN Certificates and Degrees
There are principally two academic credentials offered that provide training to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be concluded in the shortest time frame, commonly about 12 months, is the certificate or diploma course. The next alternative is to earn a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma alternative and normally require 2 years to finish. The advantage of Associate Degrees, besides offering a higher credential and more extensive instruction, are that they provide more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Regardless of the type of credential you seek, it should be Tennessee approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or any other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC guarantees that the course of study effectively prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that the majority of graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to some other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not need to earn a college degree. CNA education can be obtained at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The length of the training can take anywhere from one to 3 months, resulting in either a certificate or a diploma. Within 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. Keep in mind that this is the minimal period of training mandated and that each state has its own prerequisites. So it’s important to make certain that the training program you enroll in not only meets the federal requirements, but also those for the state where you will be practicing. One recommendation is to get in touch with the health or nursing board for Tennessee to make sure that the education is state certified. As well as the training, each state requires a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there might be additional prerequisites as well.
Nursing Online Schools
Attending nursing programs online is emerging as a more in demand way to get training and attain a nursing degree in Tennessee. Many schools will require attendance on campus for a component of the training, and nearly all programs call for a specific amount of clinical rotation hours performed in a local healthcare center. But since the balance of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more convenient approach to finding the free time to attend college for many students. Regarding tuition, some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus alternatives. Even additional expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your work and family responsibilities have left you with little time to pursue your academic goals, maybe an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Things to Ask Nurse Degree Programs
Now that you have chosen which nursing degree to enroll in, as well as whether to attend your classes on campus or online, you can utilize the following guidelines to start narrowing down your options. As you no doubt realize, there are numerous nursing schools and colleges within Tennessee and the United States. So it is necessary to decrease the number of schools to choose from in order that you will have a workable list. As we already discussed, the location of the school and the expense of tuition are most likely going to be the first two points that you will consider. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your final choice, use the following questions to see how your selection compares to the field.
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 acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to helping make sure that you get a quality education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not provided for non-accredited schools in Tennessee.
Licensing Preparation. Licensing prerequisites 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) as well as graduation from an accredited school. Certain states require a specified number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s imperative that the school you are enrolled in not only delivers a top-notch education, but also prepares you to meet the minimum licensing requirements for Tennessee 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 organizations for their reviews as well. Also, get in touch with the Tennessee school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can contact some nearby 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 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 important that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only confirm that the school has a superb reputation within the Tennessee healthcare community, but that it also has the network of relationships to help students attain employment.
Internship Programs. The best way to get experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical environment. Essentially all Tennessee nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing also. Ask if the schools have a working relationship with nearby hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the positioning of students in internships.
Select the Right RN Course in Tennessee
Deciding on the ideal registered nursing college is arguably the most crucial phase to starting a new career in the health care industry. There are various factors that you must think about when selecting a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently contingent on your current career objectives, obligations, and economic situation. As we have stressed in this article, it is essential that you select an RN school and a degree program that are each accredited and have exceptional reputations within the medical community. By utilizing our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a short list of schools to select 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 registered nurse in Tennessee.