Choosing an RN Program in District of Columbia
If you live in the DC area, you have lots of options for earning your professional nursing degree. Here are some things to keep in mind as you compare programs.
You may opt for an associate (ADN) or bachelor’s (BSN) program.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may opt for a second bachelor’s program; this can allow you to finish in a little over a year.
Either degree will qualify you to sit for the national board examination at the same level. However, the BSN is generally regarded as having more advancement potential.
NCLEX-RN Pass Rates
Eventually you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN. You may want to consider NCLEX pass rates when making your decision. The Department of Health makes pass rates public.
You may also consider the employment track record of graduates. You may find a link to the program’s gainful employment report on the school website. This will let you know the completion rate and placement rates.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Accreditation/AccreditedPrograms.htm) and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programsearch.asp) are national nursing accrediting agencies. While it is not mandatory that you attend an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited program, there can be advantages. If at some point you decide to pursue a graduate degree in nursing, the admission department will likely look for a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program.
You can expect your program to include clinical rotations in hospitals or other healthcare facilities. There may be some difference in the total clinical hours as well as the number of hours spent in different areas of nursing like maternal/child care and psychiatric/ mental health care. Your choice of schools may also determine at what stage in the program you begin your clinical rotations.
Schools may boast a variety of special programs. Some programs may, for example, have a capstone experience that allows you to explore an area of interest.
If you opt for a Maryland or Virginia program, you will find basic information like approval status on the site of the licensing agency where the program is located.
The Admission Process
Students typically complete prerequisites before application. The TEAS or other admission test is a common requirement.
Traditional BSN programs generally have a competitive admission process; meeting the minimum standards does not guarantee admission. Many ADN programs now have a competitive process as well. However, it may be somewhat different. The minimum GPA may be lower. Public two-year colleges sometimes give preference to candidates from their own service area. You will still find waitlists at some pre-licensure programs and career mobility programs; by instituting waitlists, they can be more inclusive.
You may also consider articulation agreements between schools. DC has a statewide articulation agreement that facilitates transfer of credits from associate to baccalaureate nursing programs (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/articulation-agreements).
The average salary for a D.C. RN is $71,090, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). It often takes some time to work up to this amount. Financial aid can be an important consideration. General financial aid like the Pell Grant is available to nursing students at most institutions.
Scholarship opportunities may be based on merit or need; they will vary somewhat from one school to the next. Students who are willing to commit to employment in a medically underserved area may compete for loan scholarships through the HSRA.
Some nursing students may qualify for DC programs. The District of Columbia College Access Program (DC CAP)website provides resources for understanding financial aid (http://www.dccap.org/college-students/financial-aid-scholarships)
District of Columbia DOH Nursing Licensing http://doh.dc.gov/service/nursing-licensing
DC Nurses Association http://www.dcna.org/
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