Choosing an LPN Program in Tennessee
Tennessee boasts 19 approved practical nursing programs. A majority are housed in the state’s schools of applied technology. You will, however, find a few other options. The following are things to keep in mind when choosing a program.
The Admission Process
One frequent concern of prospective nursing students is availability: Will there be an open spot in a local program?
There is some selectivity in the admission process. You can expect to take the COMPASS test. You may need to provide work references or write a statement explaining why you want to be a nurse.
Some schools accept all applicants who meet their standards and place some on a waitlist until space becomes available. But many use a point system to determine who gets admitted – this can mean a shorter timeframe.
NCLEX Pass Rates
It’s not enough to pass the course. You also have to pass the national board examination. You may want to take into account the pass rates of individual programs. These are posted on the Board site (https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/health-professional-boards/nursing-board/nursing-board/educational-programs.html).
Gainful Employment Data
Not all schools are equally successful in preparing students for the workforce. You may want to take a look at a school’s gainful employment data. The gainful employment report will likely include the percentage of students who completed the program on time as well as the percentage of grads who were successfully placed
The Tennessee Center for Nursing unfortunately fell victim to budget problems and no longer issues an annual report of the state’s nursing programs. The last report, issued in 2009, showed that while the vast majority of new LPNs did secure jobs within six months, there were a wide range of placement rates: 58% to 100%.
Placement rates can reflect the local economy as well as the quality of the program, and may change from year to year.
Opportunities for Advancement
You may also consider articulation agreements that the school may have with associate or baccalaureate nursing programs. These could make it easier to continue on for a college degree and a registered nursing license.
Transportation and Scheduling Issues
There are also practical concerns like whether you will attend class in the daytime or evening. You will have clinical rotations in healthcare facilities, so you may need to consider the location and scheduling.
The Cost of Nursing School
Tennessee colleges of applied technology charge tuition based on an approved fee schedule (http://www.ttcmurfreesboro.edu/admissions). Fees are determined by the number of contact hours. You will pay a similar amount at any one that you choose, though there may be some variance.
Tennessee colleges of applied technology charge modest fees. Even these are not necessarily borne by the student. Practical nursing students may be eligible for need-based state and federal programs. Eligibility is typically determined through a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Some students may be sponsored through an organization like Workforce Network or Vocational Rehabilitation.
Beyond Nursing School
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average wage for a Tennessee LPN as S17.40 an hour or S36,200 a year (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). Actual salaries are dependent on experience, and vary from one community to the next within Tennessee.
Nursing schools are often able to tell you what the typical LPN is starting at in their area. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Paris, for example, lists $11 to $15 an hour as the typical starting salary (http://www.ttcparis.edu/part-time-programs/practical-nursing).
For More Information
Information sessions are held periodically. Some schools mandate that you attend one– otherwise you can’t be admitted.
In other cases, attendance may grant you points toward admission.
Tennessee Board of Nursing https://health.state.tn.us/boards/Nursing/
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