Choosing an LPN Program in Utah
Utah has eight approved practical nursing programs, most of them housed in applied technology colleges. There are many things to keep in mind as you sift through the options.
Approval and Accreditation
Nursing schools must be approved or otherwise authorized by the state in which they are located. This is a nationwide expectation.
Accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is not a universal expectation. However, some states value it and give it consideration in the approval process. Utah is one of these.
The most recent Utah LPN program list shows that all programs are ACEN-accredited or hold candidate status (http://www.dopl.utah.gov/forms/nurse_approved_programs.pdf). (New programs cannot be accredited by the ACEN, but can be candidates.)
Location of Schools
Location is often a concern. A person is not out of luck just because they live in a rural part of the state. Some nursing programs operate coursework at outreach sites, though occasional travel may be required.
Students will also spend time in healthcare facilities and are frequently expected to provide their own transportation to these. They may want to inquire about where clinicals are located.
NCLEX-PN Pass Rates in Utah
Before investing in a practical nursing education, students often inquire about the program’s track record on the licensing examination. Utah makes program pass rates public. Currently, test data is available for the years 2009 to 2012, as well as the first three quarters of 2013 (http://www.dopl.utah.gov/licensing/forms/nurse_NCLEX_pass_rates_LPN.pdf).
A high pass rate is one sign of a good program. However, prospective students should be aware that NCLEX scores reflect the program’s admission and graduation policies as well as the actual teaching. Some schools even give a ‘PN predictor examination’ at the onset!
The Admission Process
Utah practical nursing schools generally prefer to institute selective admission policies instead of relegating students to long wait lists. It is common for schools to use a point system. Programs may take into account academic background, healthcare experience, and completion of prerequisite courses. In some cases, if a person doesn’t get in the first time they apply, they will be awarded bonus points next time.
The selection criteria is not necessarily identical from program to program. Before shopping around, however, a student should be aware that public institutions may give preference to residents of a particular region of the state.
Students may also consider the gainful employment data for he programs. What percentage of students who begin the program actually complete it, and what percentage go on to secure employment within the field in those first months after graduation?
Attrition at the practical nursing level is common. Even with selective admission procedures in place, many students don’t finish. It is important to take a look at the whole picture, including the academic support services that are available at the institution.
Paying for Nursing School in UT
LPN education in Utah can be a relative bargain. It is possible to do a practical nursing program for under $4,000, though the exact cost will vary from school to school.
Grants can ease the burden. These don’t need repayment. They don’t go only to the top students either. A number of programs are based at least in part on need. Eligibility for federal programs may be determined by a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (https://fafsa.ed.gov).
The average salary for a Utah LPN is $18.93 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A student who has just earned a practical nursing certificate shouldn’t expect to start at this wage. Depending on locale, though, they may come close. Schools may be able to provide information about the typical starting salary in the vicinity.
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