Choosing an RN Program in Colorado
A Colorado RN must graduate from an approved program. That leaves a lot of choices. Colorado has approved 22 associate and 12 baccalaureate programs. Click Here for a list of the Colorado Board of Nursing approved ADN and BSN programs. Any program that has full approval meets an extensive set of requirements. However, this doesn’t mean that all meet the same needs. The following is a guide to selecting one.
RN Program Level Options (ADN or BSN)
RN programs are offered at multiple levels, including associate and baccalaureate. Colorado has a number of multi-exit programs where you have the option of taking the practical nursing licensing examination after a year or completing another year of coursework; the second year results in an associate degree and an opportunity to take the RN examination.
Associate (ADN) and baccalaureate (BSN) graduates are eligible for the same license, but BSNs often have a hiring advantage. Economic conditions are still resulting in sluggish hiring, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that 77% of BSN graduates in the West had job offers within four to six months of graduation (https://www.aacn.nche.edu/news/articles/2013/new-data).
The AACN presents a more startling statistic: that in 2012, the number of qualified applicants turned away from Connecticut nursing programs at the BSN level and higher was almost as great as the number who graduated — 1,766 vs. 1,485 (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs/resources/Colorado1.pdf). The number turned down is down slightly from a high of in 2011. Students should recognize that programs are competitive – some moreso than others. (Waitlists are generally not an issue at this level, but one’s application needs to be strong.)
Some schools offer innovative programs. A student may even have the opportunity of double enrollment: completing an associate degree at one institution while beginning to take BSN coursework (possibly even online) through another institution.
Some nursing students opt for an ADN first, then complete a bridge program later.
RN Program Accreditation
Students may also want to consider accreditation. Graduates of schools that hold regional accreditation often have an easier time getting into graduate schools. The same holds true for nursing programs with program-level accreditation.
The good news is most Colorado programs are accredited. The Colorado Board requires programs to seek programmatic accreditation and to achieve it within four years of having been granted full approval. Most ADN programs are ACEN-accredited. Most BSN programs are accredited by the CCNE; One is ACEN-accredited.
All candidates for licensure must pass the NCLEX-RN examination. There is a fair amount of variation in pass rates from program to program. Prospective students may want to consider this data. Pass rate data is available from 2000 to 2013 (for programs that go back that far). One exception: Colorado has chosen not to make pass rates public in cases where there were ten or fewer candidates.
Nurses who succeed are typically well compensated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a mean wage of $32.66 an hour or $67,920 a year for Colorado’s registered nurses (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). A new graduate is unlikely to start at this figure. The first challenge is getting a position. The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence notes that prospective students may ask multiple questions about gainful employment – inquiring not just about the percentage of students who had jobs three to six months after graduation, but about what distinguishes those who do from those who don’t (http://www.coloradonursingcenter.org/documents/Nursing%20program%20questions.pdf).
There are multiple sources of financial aid. The federal government offers grants and subsidized loans to needy students. Individual schools also distribute scholarship moneys.
Students may also ask about academic support and about program facilities. Some schools, for example, have simulation labs.
The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence note that prospective students can ask about experiences of past students and even ask for contact information.
The Colorado Nurses Association, meanwhile, has resources for new graduates (http://www.coloradonurses.org/?page_id=73).
For More Information
Colorado Board of Nursing http://cdn.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DORA-Reg/CBON/DORA/1251632229493
Colorado Nurses Association http://www.coloradonurses.org/
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