There are many considerations when choosing a nursing program, from test results and other quality indicators to the admission process. The following is a guide.
A nursing student may choose an associate or baccalaureate (BSN) program. Both qualify a graduate to take the licensing examination at the RN level. There are 16 associate level RN programs, most of them at public community colleges. There are eleven baccalaureate level programs, housed in public and private institutions. There is also one direct-entry master's program for students who already hold bachelor's degrees in other fields.
Graduates of all pre-licensure programs are eligible for the same license but will not have the same career opportunities. Once a person has their RN license in hand, they can complete a BSN completion program online; relocation will not be required. In some cases, co-admission is possible.
Accreditation is a separate process from state approval. Oregon does not require that nursing programs located within its borders be nationally accredited. Four of Oregon's associate programs do hold accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm). Some higher level programs hold accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation/accredited-programs).
Students who attend accredited programs often find it easier to articulate to higher nursing programs later. Graduate schools, particularly, like to see programmatic accreditation.
Candidates may also consider individual articulation agreements between schools. Programs are also distinguished by their facilities. For example, are there high fidelity simulation labs? Students may consider the depth and breadth of clinical experiences about the total number of hours and the hours in specific areas like pediatric nursing.
Whatever program they select, graduates will eventually need to pass the same board examination, the NCLEX. The Oregon Board has posted five years of data about first time pass rates.
It's not all about finding the ideal school. There's also the question of whether you will get in and when. In 2009, the Oregon Center for Nursing published a report "Who Gets in?" The writers noted that most Oregon programs fell into the highly selective category, admitting fewer than half of applicants. Surprisingly perhaps, ADN programs were more selective than BSN (admitting just 36% of applicants vs 46% at the higher levels). This does not mean that you need higher qualifications to get into an ADN program than a BSN one. At the associate's level, minimum standards tend to be set lower, and lower tuition rates can be an enticement. But community college applicants need to take a long hard look at the admission process and be prepared to do more than meet minimum standards.
Students are considering doing education through an out-of-state school have additional procedures to follow, at least if they will be doing clinical rotations in Oregon (http://www.oregon.gov/OSBN/Pages/students_preceptors.aspx). The program itself will be approved by the other state, but approval to place students in a clinical placement is granted by Oregon.
State-supported two year schools are generally the cheapest option. At proprietary schools, the cost is substantially more. The expense may be partially offset by Opportunity Scholarships and other form of financial aid.
Displaced workers may be eligible for resources through the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA). Several of the state's registered nursing programs are approved as providers. Nationwide, there are many scholarships for members of underrepresented groups. The Oregon Center for Nursing is concerned about the population of nurses not mirroring the population of those served. Nationwide, there are plenty of scholarship opportunities based on membership in underrepresented groups.
A successful Oregon nurse is eventually well compensated. The average RN salary in Oregon is $78,530, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm).
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