How to Find the Right Nursing Program in Texas
Selecting the right nursing college in Texas may feel like a formidable undertaking, especially if you have no idea what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, to practice as a registered nurse, you must acquire the proper education and training in order to become licensed. So it is vitally important that you study and measure the qualifications of each college you are contemplating before enrolling in your final selection. Regrettably, too many future students base their decision exclusively on the price of tuition and the distance of the school. Deciding on the least expensive college or the one that is local to your house is most likely not the most ideal way to choose a nursing program. There are many crucial additional things to explore before you determine where to enroll in classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first cover what the role of a registered nurse is in our health system, together with the nursing degree alternatives that are offered.
Registered Nurse Job Duties
Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the Texas healthcare delivery system. RNs practice in a large number of different medical settings, namely hospitals, family practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic job is to assist doctors in the treatment of their patients. However, the exact duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise as well as where they work. A portion of the duties of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Overseeing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Managing care
- Overseeing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Instructing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more complex job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master’s Degree and normally work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can deliver primary or specialty care services in Texas, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
There are multiple degrees to choose from to become a registered nurse in Texas. And in order to become an RN, a student must enroll in an accredited school and program. A student can earn a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or continue on to attain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some brief summaries of the nursing degrees that are available.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a 2 year program offered by Texas community colleges. It preps graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare centers such as hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and ultimately obtain a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides more in depth training than the ADN. It is commonly a 4 year program offered at Texas colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able to complete an accelerated program based on their past 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 commonly a 2 year program after obtaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner in Texas or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
Once 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. Additional requirements for licensing change from state to state, so be sure to contact the Texas board of nursing for any state mandates.
LPN and LVN Training
There are principally two academic accreditations available that provide training to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that can be finished in the shortest time period, usually about one year, is the certificate or diploma course. The 2nd choice is to obtain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma option and usually require 2 years to finish. The benefit of Associate Degrees, in addition to supplying a higher credential and more comprehensive training, are that they furnish more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Regardless of the type of credential you seek, it should be Texas approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or any other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC warrants that the course of study adequately 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 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 program can take anywhere from just one to 3 months, resulting in either a certificate or a diploma. Within the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are required 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 minimum period of training directed and that each state has its own prerequisites. So it’s essential to make sure that the 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 contact the health or nursing board for Texas to make certain that the training is state approved. Along with the training, each state mandates a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there can be other prerequisites as well.
Online Nursing Schools
Attending nursing colleges online is emerging as a more in demand way to obtain instruction and attain a nursing degree in Texas. Certain schools will require attending on campus for a component of the training, and virtually all programs require a certain number of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare center. But since the rest of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more practical answer to finding the free time to attend school for many students. Concerning tuition, many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus choices. Even other expenses such as for commuting and study materials can be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of 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 family responsibilities have left you with little time to pursue your academic goals, maybe an online nursing training program will make it more convenient to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
What to Ask Nurse Programs
Once you have chosen which nursing program to enroll in, as well as whether to attend your classes on campus or online, you can utilize the following guidelines to begin narrowing down your choices. As you undoubtedly realize, there are many nursing schools and colleges within Texas and the United States. So it is essential to decrease the number of schools to choose from to ensure that you will have a workable list. As we earlier mentioned, the location of the school along with the expense of tuition are most likely going to be the initial two things that you will take into consideration. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your final decision, use the following questions to see how your selection 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 acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides helping confirm that you get an excellent education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools in Texas.
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) together with graduation from an accredited school. Certain states require a specific number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s important that the school you are attending not only delivers an exceptional education, but also readies you to satisfy the minimum licensing requirements for Texas or the state where you will be working.
Reputation. Check online rating companies to see what the assessments are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Also, contact the Texas 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 looking at 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 dissatisfied with the program and dropped out. It’s also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only substantiate that the school has a superb reputation within the Texas healthcare community, but that it also has the network of relationships to help students attain a position.
Internship Programs. The most ideal way to acquire experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Almost all Texas nursing degree programs require a specified number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing also. Find out if the schools have a working relationship with local hospitals, clinics or labs and help with the placing of students in internships.
Select the Right RN Program in Texas
Picking the right registered nursing program is arguably the most important step to starting a new career in the medical care field. There are many aspects that you must consider when deciding on a nursing school. These aspects will be prioritized differently depending on your current career objectives, lifestyle, and economic situation. As we have emphasized within this article, it is critical 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 list of qualifying questions, you will be able to develop a shortlist of schools to pick from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your dedication and desire to succeed, you can become a practicing RN in Texas.