Choosing the Program for You
Deciding where to enter the nursing field is a personal choice. Many factors may influence your decision including, but not limited to, financial considerations, family situations, and a choice of how much responsibility you want to have. Professional and educational goals will determine which program is right for you.
In choosing the program that meets your goals, you will need to know where you think you would like to work and the amount of supervision or autonomy you need or want to have. You will also have to explore such factors as the financial requirements and the amount of time you want to devote to a nursing program at this point in your career.
Most employers offer some kind of tuition reimbursement to help their nurses advance their education. In most cases, this assistance requires an employment commitment, but some employers are becoming creative in their recruitment efforts and will pay off this commitment to another facility in order to entice a nurse to hire on. Be careful what you might have to commit to in order to receive financial aid.
Should I decide ahead of time what kind of nurse I want to be or what area I'd like to work in?
If you have an idea whether you would like to work strictly as a bedside nurse, in the ICU, in pediatrics, or become the CEO of a hospital, this information will help guide you as you select the program you want to enter.
Many nurses begin and end their career as a technical nurse. They make some of the most excellent nurses because they love providing this level of care.
The LPN/LVN program prepares you to provide primarily bedside nursing and to perform specific tasks under the supervision of an R.N. or an M.D. These tasks may include such things as wound care, tube care (e.g., gastrostomies, tracheostomies, and jejunostomies), Foley catheter insertion and care, enemas, medication administration, and venipuncture. With additional certification, IV care is an expanded role and one that is being redefined to encompass ever greater responsibility.
Many states are phasing out LPNs and, in these areas, LPNs can usually only work in nursing homes. Hospitals use R.N.s and nurse's aides who have a little more advanced training that includes phlebotomy.
For others, becoming an LVN is a stepping stone. After a twelve- to fifteen-month program and successfully completing the NCLEX-LPN board examination, the LPN can practice as a nurse while pursuing further education to become an R.N. There are an expanding number of LPN-R.N. and even LPN-B.S.N. programs available that provide educational credits for professional experiences and afford nurses a somewhat accelerated program for advancing their education.Becoming an R.N.
Nursing students today are being encouraged to obtain a B.S.N. As health care becomes much more technical and specialized, employers are seeking out B.S.N.-prepared nurses. The nursing shortage is forcing nurses to think outside the box and provide a higher level and quality of care to their patients in a shorter time span. The B.S.N. program is more intellectually challenging and better prepares nurses to adapt to and seek out these expanding roles.
There are three options for becoming an R.N. They are the diploma, the associate's degree, and the bachelor's degree. Advance practice nurses hold a master's degree in nursing.
A Diploma Program
Diploma programs are rapidly disappearing, but there are still about fifty programs. These are typically three-year programs primarily run in a hospital setting. Students work in the hospital and accumulate an intense hands-on experience. The students earn a diploma, not a degree. However, an option to go from R.N.-B.S.N. is available to qualified diploma nurses.
The next option is a two-year degree program in which the student earns an associate's degree in nursing. The A.D.N. program combines general education liberal arts studies with the sciences, nursing procedures, and an introduction to nursing theory and sometimes leadership. There are also an expanding number of A.D.N.-B.S.N. programs available for continuing the education process.
Bachelor's Degree (B.S.N.)
The third option is a four-year program in which the student earns a bachelor's degree in nursing (B.S.N.). This combines a program of liberal arts and sciences with studies of nursing theory and leadership as well as clinical skills. Critical thinking skills and the ability to organize, plan, and think on your feet are more refined in the B.S.N. program.
Pay scales vary from one employer to another in regards to education status. Some employers pay more for more education, while others do not. As more employers demand a B.S.N., the pay scale should begin to change for all. The fact that some employers have gotten away without paying more for more education seems to stem from a situation unique to the employer and their ability to recruit and hire nurses. This has served as a deterrent to many nurses who have questioned the need for more education.
There has also been a history of much debate over whether the B.S.N. education actually provides far less clinical experience. The pros and cons of clinical versus theoretical preparation can be argued to death. What it really boils down to is the role each nurse is filling and whether she is prepared for that role and how she impacts the quality and outcomes of patient care.Online Education
There are online education options available for all levels of health care workers. However, these programs are not for everyone. In general, they require an intense level of self-motivation and self-discipline. Some programs offer an opportunity to earn your entire nursing education from an online venue. Be aware that some of these programs are not accredited. For those that are, it is a good idea for the student to carefully consider his personal ability to translate what he has learned in pictures, written instructions, and videos into an ability to perform the skill in a work environment. This may work well for some, but not for everyone.
Even in B.S.N. programs where clinical experiences may be forgone in favor of spending more time on the theoretical, students usually have the opportunity to see a procedure “live” even if they don't actually get an opportunity to perform it personally.
Non-clinical classes online may be the way to go for many students. But try one or two out first to see how you fare. Some people swear by them and others can't learn that way at all.
A program that consists of 100 percent online education may afford students more flexibility in completing courses in their own time frame, but are they sacrificing skill?
One of the factors influencing an online program's accreditation is whether or not they require some additional onsite clinical preparation.
The LVN-B.S.N., R.N.-B.S.N., and B.S.N.-M.S.N. online programs on the other hand are programs for nurses who have been practicing and have hands-on skills. Make an informed decision about any online nursing program.