Choosing an LVN Program in Texas
A Texas nursing student must make sure that he or she attends an approved program. This is not difficult! In 2017, there were 92 practical nursing programs, the majority of them at public colleges and universities. Even nonmetropolitan areas frequently have a nursing school within a reasonable distance. (The Board reports that a majority of vocational nursing programs are on the border of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.)
The Application Process
Students must consider the realities of the admission process. The Texas Board of Nursing does not set admission standards but does publish information about admission and enrollment on an annual basis (www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/cnws/EducReports.shtm#Vocational).
In 2013, there were some Texas vocational nursing programs that were able to offer admission to all qualified applicants — that is, to all applicants who met the stated requirements. However, there were many that could not, due to limited budgeting or lack of clinical placement sites. At some schools, the number of applicants significantly exceeded the maximum number that could be admitted.
Programs have multiple ways of handling an excess of applicants. Students who are very competitive and have good test scores and grades may be admitted in the very next class. Some students however, may be waitlisted.
All programs include a clinical component. The Board of Nursing sets a minimum which includes both laboratory and patient care hours. Some programs exceed the minimum by as much as several hundred hours. Programs may vary in how much clinical experience takes place in acute care settings or in how many hours are provided with mothers and infants.
Many programs include high-fidelity simulation labs, but this is far from universal. In 2012, the percentage was around 60%.
NCLEX Pass Rates in Texas
Passing the NCLEX-VN, a national board examination, is a requirement for licensure. Students sometimes consider a program’s NCLEX scores before submitting an application. These are available on the Board site (http://www.bon.texas.gov/nursingeducation/edudocs/VN-5YR-passrate.pdf). In addition to giving pass rate as a percentage, the Board provides the total number of students who took the exam in a given year.
Nursing students should also consider how intensive an experience they want. In 2012, total program length ranged from nine to seventeen months. The majority of programs were 12 months.
Accreditation by the ACEN, a well-known national organization, is an additional testament to program quality. Very few Texas programs are currently accredited by the ACEN. In rare cases, this may make it more difficult to get into a higher level nursing program. For example, one that allows LVNs to bridge to Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) status. In most cases, though, there are no practical effects.
School-level accreditation is more important and can have a bearing on things like financial aid opportunities.
Avoiding Unapproved Programs
One thing a prospective student will want to make sure is that they’re not being recruited by an unapproved program. The Texas Board has issued a warning that there are a few unauthorized programs operating within the state.
Paying for Nursing School in Texas
There are many factors that influence program cost. State supported schools are often less expensive than private schools. Public schools may charge different rates depending on whether a student is a resident of that particular county.
Costs can be partially offset through financial aid. In addition to nursing scholarships, there are a number of general need-based financial aid programs like the Pell Grant (https://fafsa.ed.gov).
Students who are just completing high school may have additional opportunities. These vary by location. Dallas County residents, for example, may qualify for the Rising Star program (http://www.dcccd.edu/PC/ScholOther/Scholarships/RisingStar/Pages/default.aspx).
What does a successful Texas LVN eventually earn? The average is $43,120, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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