Choosing an LPN Program in Montana
All of Montana’s practical nursing programs are at public colleges and universities. This means there are many similarities from program to program, but they are hardly identical! Geography is apt to be a big concern. These are some other things to keep in mind.
The Admission Process
Practical nursing students should be prepared for a competitive admission process. It may consist of more than one step and/or be based on a point system. The University of Montana-Missoula, for example, interviews their top 30 candidates and admits 20 (http://mc.umt.edu/academics/health/nursing/default.php).
Students may need to begin the process early by taking an exam and enrolling in prerequisite courses; some nursing programs expect candidates to first earn certificates as nursing assistants. It is important to remember that admission requirements are not identical from program to program. Schools sometimes publish their point systems on their websites. It is also a good idea to attend information sessions.
Montana NCLEX-PN Pass Rates
The NCLEX-PN examination is a licensing requirement in all 50 states. In 2013, Montana’s pass rates averaged more than 11 percentage points above the national average; in 2012, they bested the national average by nearly 15 percentage points. This is a sign that the programs are high caliber. It may also reflect high admission standards. When programs set LPN standards high, requiring the same prerequisites that will be required for the RN program (and even the same GPA), they draw plenty of candidates who have RN level academic skills.
The Board has made the most recent five years of testing data available (http://bsd.dli.mt.gov/license/bsd_boards/nur_board/board_page.asp). There is some difference in track record from program to program, but no program shows a first time pass rate below 90% during even one year.
Programs may cite different types of accreditation. Accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is not the same as state approval. While the ACEN does not authorize nursing programs to operate, it does provide a nationally recognized standard of program quality.
Schools may also mention institutional accreditation. All of Montana’s practical nursing programs are in accredited institutions of higher learning. This is not the case in all states. This type of accreditation can mean more financial aid opportunities.
A student who completes a program at an accredited institution may come away with some academic credits that can be transferred to degree programs. There will not necessarily be a lot, at least if a student opts for a program other than nursing. Some RN programs will consider LPNs for advanced standing even without academic credit.
Students may want to consider articulation agreements between schools. These can make it very easy to continue on for an associate degree and RN license afterward. Schools with RN programs sometimes go so far as to reserve a certain number of seats for graduates of a particular practical nursing program.
Although all Montana LPN programs are at public colleges, costs will vary somewhat. Some schools may quote a figure around $7,000, others $10,000.
Practical nursing students who complete their studies at accredited institutions are eligible for the same types of standard need-based financial aid that other beginning college students are. Students typically file a FAFSA to determine eligibility for federal grants, subsidized loans, and/or work study.
Montana professional nurses make $18.07 an hour on average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). Schools may provide information about starting salaries of graduates.
The Campus Experience
Some Montana LPN students will need to relocate to get their LPN training. The quality of student housing may be an issue. Some Montana programs are affiliated with state universities so this can mean a lot of campus housing opportunities.
Career Overview: How to Become an LPN in Montana
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