A career in nursing provides you with the personal reward of service to others. This benefit is multiplied by a continuously growing need for nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2010 and 2020, the number of registered nursing jobs will increase by 26 percent. Your first, and most important step, is finding the nursing program that best suits you. Be prepared to apply to multiple schools to find the right program.
Identify your career path
Give some thought as to what interests you now. Think about what kind of nurse you want to be, and where you would like to work. For example, do you enjoy working with children or elderly populations? Would you rather work in a hospital or a physician's office? Maybe you plan to further your career with an advanced nursing specialty. Answering these questions will help you narrow your search and find the programs most likely to provide the training you need.
Once you've narrowed your interests, decide whether you want to pursue a practical or registered nursing diploma. In most cases, a practical nursing diploma requires less schooling. If you opt to become a registered nurse, try to devote enough time and effort to obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). In the end, the extra time will improve your marketability.
The last thing you want to do is choose an unaccredited nursing program. Accreditation is offered by organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (CCNE accreditation). It's also important that the state nursing boards recognize these programs. Accreditation is offered at both the regional and national level. While credit hours earned at the regional level transfer to schools with national accreditation, the reverse isn't always true.
Take a close look at the program's reputation outside of officialdom. What are students and graduates saying about the program? Which programs have the best postgraduate hiring record? Look beyond sheer numbers, and find out where graduates are finding jobs. Get to know more about the school itself by reading its website materials and, if possible, visiting the campus.
Learn what you can about the faculty. What is their experience? How engaged are they in career assistance? Arrange a meeting with one of the faculty members, physically or virtually, and have your questions on hand. Ask if they provide their students with references and other support.
The right fit
Your personal life has to go on while you are in school, so learn the demands of the program's curriculum. In most cases, nursing school is very demanding and requires full-time attention. Be honest with yourself, and identify your skills as a student. If you foresee some difficulties, look for programs with strong supportive services and smaller class sizes.
Before you start, make sure you can devote the necessary time to getting through a nursing program. The cost of the program and the possibility of financial aid, if you need it, are important. Online programs can help save you money. Check their accreditation and whether they assist with career placement.
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