If you are thinking about choosing a practical nursing program in Oregon, geography may be an important consideration. The Board lists approved programs by city to make selection easier. In a major metropolitan area like Portland or Salem, you will find more than one option. The following is a guide for sorting through your choices.
Students may select from programs that prepare them only for licensure at the LPN level or those where they can take the LPN exam after the first year if they choose or continue on for an associate degree and RN licensing. Such programs may be referred to as “career ladder programs”.
There is some selectivity at nursing schools, even at the entry-level. Selection may be based primarily on test scores, or the school may use a point system based on multiple criteria. Students who apply to career ladder programs may need to meet higher standards to be competitive.
Schools may provide information about the total number of applicants and the percentage who are actually admitted. If a school has a low acceptance rate, it often takes more than just meeting the minimum standards to get in.
Programs hold information sessions periodically. One goal is to help students understand the selection and admission process. The Oregon Center for Nursing notes that a student should make inquiries as early in the process as possible.
Whatever program they attend, individuals must eventually pass the NCLEX licensing examination. Prospective students can find five years of pass rate data on the Board site (ATP://www.oregon.gov/OSBN/Pages/educational_programs.aspx). In addition to considering percentages, students may want to consider the total number of students who took the test in a given year. That 100% pass rate is not quite as meaningful if it represents just a few candidates.
Some, but not all, LPN programs award college-level academic credit. The Oregon Center for Nursing reports that non-credit programs can be an obstacle for students who plan to continue on for a professional nursing (RN level) education (http://www.oregoncenterfornursing.org/index.php?mode=cms&pageId=programs). If you attend one of these schools, it doesn’t mean you can’t become an RN later. It does mean that it may not be as convenient, and the timeframe and cost would be greater.
Accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is a validation of program quality. Just two of Oregon's practical nursing programs currently hold ACEN accreditation (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm). Attending an accredited program is usually not as fundamental at the LPN level as it is at higher levels – even if you plan on pursuing higher education later. Institutional, or school-level, accreditation is another matter. This can be important for various reasons, including eligibility for financial aid.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average wage for an Oregon LPN as $47,360 a year (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). However, it often takes time to reach this figure, and admission to nursing school is not a guarantee of success. Financial aid opportunities are an important consideration for many.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to determine eligibility for many forms of need-based financial aid.
Displaced workers may be eligible for funding through the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA). Individuals may want to visit the site of the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (http://www.ccwd.oregon.gov/etp/policies.aspx).
It is possible to become an Oregon nurse after completing a program approved in another jurisdiction. Some of the programs listed on the site of the Oregon Center for Nursing are actually located in Southern Washington. If you are considering one of these, you will want to check with the Washington Board to make sure the program is still in good standing there. A nursing student cannot do clinical rotations in Oregon without Oregon approval.
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