The Indiana Center for Nursing has put together lots of resources for individuals considering nursing programs (http://www.ic4n.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Accreditation-REV-5.13.pdf). The one essential thing: that the program be state accredited. (Indiana refers to the state approval process as accreditation.) A list of approved programs is available on the Board site (http://www.in.gov/pla/2490.htm). Conditional approval is a caution: It means a program is under state monitoring.
Other program-level accreditation is optional. Several Indiana LPN programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This means that they have met rigorous standards by a national third party organization.
All graduates of practical nursing programs (in Indiana and elsewhere) must pass the NCLEX-PN examination. Pass rates are among the criteria for maintaining state accreditation. However, the minimum standard is set lower than in some states. A corrective plan is required only after a program has first time pass rates more than a standard deviation below the national average for three consecutive years.
NCLEX scores may be seen as one indicator of program quality. Prospective students may wish to consider pass rates when making enrollment decisions. The Board has published pass rates for the prior six years (http://www.in.gov/pla/2490.htm). There is a good deal of variability from program to program.
Nursing students may also want to consider the attrition rate (the number who withdraw before completing the program). There are other potential quality indicators. Applicants may want to consider program reputation and qualifications of instructors. NCLEX scores may correlate with reputation. Instructors may have bachelor’s degrees or graduate degrees.
By browsing nursing forums, one may get a sense of how employers view a particular program.
Practical nursing programs typically set requirements quite a bit lower than registered nursing programs. The minimum requirement is generally a high school diploma or GED. An admission test may be required. There may also be an interview.
Meeting the stated requirements isn’t necessarily enough to guarantee admission. Some Indiana programs admit 20% of applicants; some admit all or nearly all. Cost can be among the trade-offs of accessibility. Community colleges have traditionally been open to all (or nearly all), but this isn’t the case with a high-demand field like nursing. Often, it’s the proprietary schools that are able to admit most qualified applicants.
Programs sometimes opt to handle high demand with a wait list.
Some programs offer evening or weekend options. While practical nursing programs can be completed in as little as one year, some stretch instruction over a longer period of time.
The cost of Indiana LPN programs is highly variable. Of the 33-instate WIA-approved practical nursing programs, the cheapest are in the $4,000 to $5,000 range; the more expensive programs are about $30,000. Those offered by community colleges are typically among the least expensive.
A nursing student who is low on resources will generally not be required to pay the full cost of the program. LPNs are typically eligible for federal aid in the form of Pell grants. Educational institutions often have their own grants and scholarships. Work study is an option at some institutions.
Some individuals who need training to enter or reenter the workforce at a competitive rate may receive funding through the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA). Indiana has approved, in addition to many in-state programs, one Illinois program and several Kentucky programs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average salary of $37,920 for Indiana’s practical nurses. Experience is a factor, so nurses typically start lower.
Of course landing that first job can be a challenge! Prospective students may want to ask about job placement services.
Indiana Board of Nursing http://www.in.gov/pla/nursing.htm
Indiana Practical Nurses Association http://www.ipnalpn.com/
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