How to Find a Nursing School: 5 Things to Look For

By the year 2020, it is predicted that the United States will have a serious nursing shortage. As the large number of baby boomer RN’s start retiring around the year 2018, more than 260,000 qualified RNs will be desperately needed by 2025.

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This situation is not helped by the fact that many nursing programs have limited resources to train and educate the next generation of nurses to fill those spots.

As a result, nursing programs have expanded into new areas and new nursing schools have become available to those called to the nursing profession. For example, Indianapolis-based school Marian University recently opened a new campus in Nashville, TN.

With so many choices, it can be difficult to sort through it all and select the right nursing school for you. You start comparing apples to oranges to tomatoes to pencils and before you know it, you’ve confused one school with another.

Keep Good Notes on Each Nursing Program and School

When you’re researching a nursing school and/or program, create an excel spreadsheet, or something similar, so you can write out the details and criteria that are important to you. Keep track of the school name, program type/name, how long the program will take to complete, location, accreditation, tuition and anything else that you find important. Include links to the program site so you can easily find your way back if you forgot anything.

For Example:

SchoolProgramAccreditationLocationProgram DetailsNotes
Northeastern UniversityAccelerated BSNCCNE, NEASCBoston, MA16 months, hybrid learning format,Prior bachelor’s degree needed

5 Things to Look for in a Quality Nursing Program

  1. Accreditation. It is important for your nursing career that your nursing school and program be properly accredited. There are two main accrediting bodies you should pay attention to when researching nursing programs.

    There are others out there. For example, The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) accredits nurse anesthesia programs and The American College of Nurse Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM) accredits midwife programs. The ACEN and CCNE are two key accrediting bodies that will give you an idea as to the curriculum.

  2. Prerequisites/Program Requirements. Not every nursing program is alike in what they ask of their applicants. Some programs, like the second degree BSN or some accelerated nursing degrees, require you to already have a bachelor’s degree. Other programs ask you to interview, take different admissions tests (such as the TEAS), submit program applications and fees, letters of recommendation, etc. Before you even apply, you should know what is expected of you, if you qualify (or can qualify by your desired start date) and any associated expenses.
  3. Tuition Costs. With so many different nursing degree options, you have options when choosing your nursing program. There are diploma, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, masters and more. The shorter degrees can be more enticing because they will get you in the workforce faster, and these programs only take months or a couple of years and may cost less since you’ll be in school for a shorter period of time. Maybe the traditional four-year nursing program is the better option for you. You may pay more for school right now, but a BSN-educated nurse will receive higher pay than an associate’s degree. It all has to do with your nursing career goals. Educate yourself and think big picture, not just semester to semester. Knowing what you can afford and what you can’t will help you immensely in the long run. Higher education is something to be budgeted for. There are often scholarships you can take advantage of to help cut the costs.
  4. Location. In today’s technological age, you have the option to take courses online. However, just because a nursing program is online doesn’t always mean that you can be anywhere you want in the country. Programs that have online coursework often have in-person clinicals and practicals that require you to be in a specific city. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself based on the program’s location. Many nursing students will relocate for the length of the program. That’s the beauty of a nursing career: nurses are in demand just about everywhere.
  5. How helpful is your advisor. Typically, when you first inquire at a nursing school you will be assigned an advisor or an admissions representative to field your questions. This initial interaction can tell you a lot about the program and the type of people who will be helping you along the way. Are they friendly? Are they helpful? Do they genuinely seem interested in you? Or are you just another number in the system? At this stage in your nursing school research, you are not committed to anyone yet, so be shrewd in your observations. This first conversation is a great opportunity to get to know the program on an emotional level. Whatever program you choose will be a big part of your life for (at least) the next couple of years, so make sure your head and gut agree on the decision.

Wherever you decided to attend nursing school, you’ve made an excellent career choice. Find a nursing school today that will help you achieve your dreams.