Choosing an LPN Program in South Dakota

South Dakota may be a rural state, but organizations are working hard on making nursing education accessible. If you are interested in enrolling in an LPN program, you may have more options than you realize. Here is a guide to evaluating them.

Program Approval

Be aware of the approval status of programs you are considering. As of February 2014, there are six approved South Dakota programs. However, three of the programs are on probation; this means they have failed to meet one or more standards.
One program has interim status; all new programs start at this level. Two LPN programs have moved beyond this level and enjoy full approval.

Pass Rates

In some cases, programs may be on probationary status because of low pass rates on the examination required for licensure, the NCLEX-PN. NCLEX pass rates can be found in the Board’s annual report of nursing programs.

Program Accreditation

All of South Dakota’s LPN programs are housed in accredited schools. This is sufficient for many purposes, including eligibility for financial aid.
Only one South Dakota LPN program currently holds program-level accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This accreditation isn’t fundamental, but is an extra validation of program quality. Some states place more emphasis on program-level accreditation than others.

Financial Aid for LPN Programs in SD

There are a number of need-based financial aid programs. You can determine if you are eligible for federal financial aid by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, (https://fafsa.ed.gov).
Depending on your school of choice, you may be eligible for federal work study with employment on campus.

Beyond the Degree

South Dakota Licensed Practical Nurses averaged $16.48 an hour or $34,270 a year in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm).
The big concern is often not how much you will make but when you will land that first job. You may want to study a program’s gainful employment data. In addition to finding out the percentage of recent completers who are employed in the field, you may learn what percentage actually completed. A low completion a rate can signal a lack of academic support and resources.

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Convenience

Geography is not necessarily an obstacle for a future LPN. It is possible to do your practical nursing program online in South Dakota. You can expect to do clinical practice in healthcare facilities. However, you won’t need to relocate or drive tremendous distances to take classes.

There may be some required classes that aren’t online – for example, math and English. But thanks to the partnerships that exist between schools, you may have the option of taking these at a nearby school and not at the one that’s actually issuing your diploma.
Some schools have student housing available for those who do choose to relocate. There may be options other than traditional dormitories.

Some practical nursing programs can be completed in less than a calendar year. However, at four South Dakota schools, there is an option to enroll part-time.

The Admission Process

Be prepared for some selectivity in the admission process. The requirements will vary from school to school, but you may need to take a test and even complete a few prerequisite courses.

If you meet the stated requirements, you will have a good chance of getting in. The 2012 annual report revealed that most of the state’s LPN programs were able to admit all qualified applicants (http://doh.sd.gov/boards/nursing/documents/2012AnnualNursingEducationReport.pdf). However, one successful program did have to turn down some students due to space limitations.

Resources

LPN License Requirements in South Dakota

Career Overview: Becoming an LPN in South Dakota

South Dakota Center for Nursing Workforce

South Dakota Board of Nursing

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