If you plan to pursue professional nursing education in Massachusetts, you will find that there is no shortage of choices! As a Massachusetts RN, you must graduate from an approved program. A list of approved in-state programs is available on the Board site. You can view the list by clicking here.
It is important to avoid non-approved schools that may recruit within the state (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/hcq/dhpl/nursing/education/illegal-nursing-programs.html). Beyond this, there are few absolutes.
Professional nursing programs don't all confer the same degree. You can become a registered nurse with an associate degree or a bachelor's. Students enrolled in traditional bachelor’s programs may have many opportunities, from participation in professional organizations and nursing honor societies to international travel through organizations like Nursing Students without Borders. They may also have better job prospects. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that many hospital positions give preference to candidates with BSNs.
It would seem that the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the quickest route. This is sometimes the case, but not always. Whatever degree program you are looking at, it's important to take into account prerequisites as well as time between initial inquiry and enrollment. Demand often exceeds available spots. Some schools admit all students who meet requirements (for example, those who have acceptable scores on the TEAS and on prerequisite courses). The downside to this system is that waitlists can grow long!
Other schools rely on a more selective admission process. In some, the typical student has a GPA of 3.5 or above and strong ACT scores. An essay or interview may be required. A prospective student generally can find a program with no waitlist, but the academic standards (or tuition and fees) may be higher. Those who have difficulty finding programs can consult the Johnson & Johnson site.
An individual who already has a degree in another field may do an accelerated second bachelor's, finishing a program in a year to year-and-a-half time frame. Some second degree professionals enter master's programs, earning a registered nursing license en route to an advanced practice license.
There are jobs at all levels of nursing practice, but employees are often encouraged to seek more training. An important consideration is how easy it will be later to transfer credits into a higher program. Massachusetts does not have a statewide articulation plan, but there are individual agreements between schools (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/articulation-agreements).
Massachusetts sets standards high for clinical experience (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/quality/boards/clin-guidelines.pdf). If your nursing program participates in the Massachusetts Centralized Nursing Clinical Placement System, you can expect to go through a standardized process. This doesn't mean that the clinical experience is identical from school to school. You may ask about typical placements and about supervisor-supervisee ratios.
Another important consideration is first time pass rates on the NCLEX-RN; passing the examination is a requirement for licensure. Massachusetts Health and Human Services has published five years of testing data (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/researcher/physical-health/nursing/nclex/).
Registered nurses in Massachusetts average $83,370, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). This figure includes RNs with different levels of experience and expertise, so a new graduate should not expect to start at the mean.
Some ADN programs are WIA-eligible. If you have been displaced from a job (or from a role as business owner or homemaker), you may be eligible for services. Other forms of financial aid include Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Stafford Loans, and institutional (school-level) scholarships.
The government invests in nursing. Massachusetts received $4,160,510 in grant money through Title VII in the 2012 fiscal year.
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