Choosing an LPN Program in the District of Columbia

Planning to study practical nursing in the District of Columbia? The most essential thing is that your program be approved to operate in the municipality in which it is located. The District of Columbia Department of Health (DOH) currently lists three approved nursing programs (http://doh.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/doh/service_content/attachments/Approved_Nursing_Schools_website.pdf). (The website also notes programs that once held approval but no longer do.)

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Quality Indicators

The District of Columbia monitors nursing programs and periodically closes those that fail to meet standards. Students may want to be proactive and look up data for programs they are considering. One consideration is NCLEX pass rates. Since the NCLEX is used as a licensing examination — and since it is considered the standard for competent entry-level practice — pass rates are an important indicator of program success. However, they also reflect differences in admission and graduation policies. Minor differences in pass rate don’t necessarily mean a lot.

Students may also take into account the percentage of students who begin the program who actually complete it. This may be included in the program’s gainful employment report. This data may give some indication of the level of academic support the institution provides.

Facilities

Facilities and equipment can be a selling point. Some schools have state-of-the-art laboratories with multiple high-fidelity mannequins exhibiting lifelike physiological responses.

Considering the Timeline

Another consideration is the timeline: what prerequisites will be required, how many admission cycles there are per year, and when you can expect to enroll and begin classes.

Some schools give students the option of full- or part-time scheduling.

The Admission Process

While there is always some level of selectivity in the admission process, schools vary in their requirements. Many require some type of admission test. There may be academic prerequisites.

Schools may deal with high demand by making the process more competitive or by waitlisting some students. However, some schools are not at capacity. It can be a good idea to contact admissions at several schools.

Those having difficulty finding programs with no wait may try the Discover Nursing search tool (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools#no-filters).

Out-of-District Programs

A student can opt for a comparable program in Maryland or Virginia. These programs do not show up on the DC website; it is necessary to check with the licensing agency of the state where the program is located.

National Accreditation

National accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is an extra validation of program quality. It is not as crucial as state approval. It is not as important for articulation/ transfer options at the LPN level as it is at higher levels. A practical nurse is usually able to enroll in an LPN to RN program without showing a certificate from an ACEN-accredited program.

Financial Considerations

Students should be aware that there are fees and program costs associated with nursing education beyond base tuition. Private colleges may cost significantly more than public ones.

Practical nursing students who attend accredited institutions of higher learning are often eligible for need-based federal financial aid. (Financial aid may depend on school-level accreditation, but will not depend on program-level accreditation.)

Students can find information about additional DC federal aid options on the site of the District of Columbia College Access Program (http://www.dccap.org/college-students/financial-aid-scholarships).

A student who is successful can look forward to good wages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports $49,900 as the average salary for DC LPNs. However, it may take time to reach that amount. For some, it is a challenge to land that first job! Students may want to inquire about career services and placement rates.

Resources

District of Columbia Board of Nursing http://doh.dc.gov/service/nursing-licensing

Practical Nursing License Requirements in DC

A Career Overview: Becoming an LPN in DC

Medical Assistant Schools in DC

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