Finding the Right School
Once you have narrowed down the type of nursing program you want, it's time to find the school that provides it for you. And, of course, you have more choices to make. Do you want to go away to school or stay near home? Do you want to go to a big school or a smaller one? Does the school offer small sized classes with individual attention if you need it? Sometimes the choices will be made for you because either you can't find a program near your home, or you can't go away to school for any number of other reasons.
You can find lists of nursing schools online or in the library or career center. Here are a few of the most popular and useful sites for researching nursing schools:
Some of the other factors that may be very important to you include the NCLEX pass-rate over at least the last five years, the average class size, and whether the faculty is expected to continue practicing nursing. If you have all Ph.D. professors who haven't touched a patient in ten years, you might not be getting the most clinically current education.
Small classes can be intimidating to some because it's not easy to be invisible. Your instructor is going to know everyone's name and who's missing from a class. Yet, in a big school, beginning nurses especially can get lost in the shuffle, never to appear again. Larger schools will have more fiscal resources, but a smaller environment might be better for you. These are all things you will have to weigh.
Check out the class schedule and see how many facilities are used for clinical rotations. How many clinical rotations does the school offer? Read the bios of the faculty. How diverse is their makeup? Is a labor/delivery nurse teaching the clinical rotation through ICU?
Whatever educational program you choose to enter, one of the most important factors is making sure that the program is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). You must attend an accredited school in order to take the licensing nursing board exams. Beware there are nursing schools which are not accredited. Visit NLNAC's Web site for further information at
Other things to consider are the ethnic makeup and social diversity and how you fit into the picture. You want to feel comfortable. If you're an older student, are all your classmates going to be brand new high school graduates? If you are devoutly religious and politically conservative will you feel out of place in an extremely liberal environment? If you're going to reside on campus, you want to have the best of options of getting a great roommate.
Visit the campus if possible, or ask to have a nursing student contact you so that you can get a feel for the culture and atmosphere of the school. Visit the school library, technology labs, and bookstore. Thumb through the text-books. Get a feel for the atmosphere and the learning environment. If you're going to live on campus, how convenient are the amenities that are important to you such as churches, shopping, laundry, and recreational venues such as movie theaters and sporting events? How accessible is transportation? Will you have a car? What about parking? How much is transportation back home? How many times will you want to go back and forth such as for holidays, spring break, and summer?
What about other costs? How much is tuition? What can you expect to spend for books? Don't forget lab fees, parking fees, and student fees. The cost of uniforms and nurse's shoes will add up too. Do you need to order them from the school or purchase on your own? You'll also need bandage scissors, a stethoscope (a five-way is best), and a watch with a second hand that you can read easily.