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Choosing an RN Program in Alabama

Alabama's registered nurses must graduate from a nursing program that has been approved by the Alabama Board (or an equivalent one that has been approved by another jurisdiction). The Alabama Board lists approved programs -- and there are more than a few (http://www.abn.alabama.gov/Content.aspx?id=198)! What, besides location and scheduling, should influence your decision?

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Program Type

Alabama RN programs are offered at the diploma, associate's and bachelor's levels. Graduates will be eligible for the same license whether they complete a BSN or ADN program, but the BSN can provide more career options. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that in 2012, 92% of BSN graduates in the southern region of the United States had job offers within four to six months of graduation (www.aacn.nche.edu/members-only/news/2012/employment12).

A nurse who is considering an ADN program may want to consider how easy it will be to transfer credits to a baccalaureate program later.

Considering the Timeline

28% growth has been predicted for Alabama's professional nursing workforce in the 2010 to 2020 decade, with 1,990 positions to be filled annually (http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp). Despite the well-publicized need for highly educated nurses, it can be hard to get into a program.

Nursing programs generally have more applicants who meet their stated standards than they have slots. In fact, the AACN reports that in 2012, 9,548 students were enrolled in Alabama nursing programs at the baccalaureate level or higher and 2,898 students graduated, but fully 2,396 qualified applicants were turned away (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs/resources/Alabama1.pdf). The reasons cited: lack of training sites and lack of faculty. Institutions can handle demand in one of two ways: by instituting a wait list or by becoming very selective in their admission process. A number of Alabama programs use a point system to determine who gets in. ADN programs typically consider TEAS and ACT scores, number of prerequisites taken, and grades in prerequisite courses. Community colleges sometimes give extra points to current students.

A person who feels confident about making the cut may opt for a school with no wait list. Johnson and Johnson has a search function for such programs (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools). However, not all Alabama programs that are without waitlists appear on the list -- sometimes programs fail to notify the organization.

Quality Indicators

Nursing graduates around the nation have to pass the NCLEX before they can be issued a nursing license. At the professional nursing level, NCLEX scores can be seen as an indicator of program quality and also of the selectivity of the admission process.

Prospective nursing students can find a list of approved RN programs on the Board site, along with NCLEX scores from the prior three years (http://www.abn.alabama.gov/Content.aspx?id=198). Alabama requires an 80% pass rate; schools that repeatedly fall below this lose their approval.

There are also some provisionally approved programs that don't yet have NCLEX results available (http://www.abn.alabama.gov/Content.aspx?id=199).

Programmatic accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) can be important at the baccalaureate level –particularly if a nursing student is considering pursuing further education and becoming an advanced practitioner.

Financial Considerations

There are more nursing scholarships available at the higher levels than the lower ones. Many are offered directly through individual schools. Nursing students are eligible for the same federal and state grants that other degree seekers are. Prospective students may consult the Alabama Commission on Higher Education for a list of state funding sources (http://www.ache.alabama.gov/StudentAsst/Programs.htm). A few of the shorter RN programs are open to individuals approved for funding through the Workforce Initiative Act (https://www.etpl.alabama.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a salary of $55,270 for Alabama’s registered nurses (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). This figure includes nurses with advanced education and training and those that have been in the field for years. A new graduate will often make less.

But first there’s the issue of landing that first job. Schools keep track of the employment status of their graduates – this can be a statistic to take note of!

Resources

Nursing Licensure Requirements: RN License Requirements in Alabama

Alabama Board of Nursing: http://www.abn.alabama.gov/Default.aspx

Alabama Nurses Association: http://www.alabamanurses.org

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