Choosing a RN Program in Florida
A Florida nursing student may choose an accredited or approved registered nursing program. These are the essentials. Since the website of the state board includes well over 100 programs, there are a lot of choices (http://floridasnursing.gov/education-and-training-programs/).
Accreditation vs. Approval
The Florida Board does not place programs that hold accreditation through ACEN or CCNE under state regulation; they are automatically deemed license-qualifying. Programs that are not accredited are held to state standards. (Students who attend programs in other states may also be eligible for licensure in Florida if the program was approved by the jurisdiction where it is located.)
From the standpoint of a person who is interested only in obtaining Florida permission to take the licensing examination, accreditation and approval are equal. From the standpoint of a person who is considering eventually earning an advanced degree in nursing, they are not necessarily equal. Florida has a mandated articulation agreement governing transfer of credits between ADN and BSN programs. However, this won’t apply to all schools, so it’s worth checking into.
Institutional accreditation is also an important consideration for students who are considering earning higher degrees. Graduate schools often want to see that a person has earned a degree from a regionally accredited school.
A person qualifies for licensure in Florida with an associate, diploma, or baccalaureate degree in professional nursing. Again, the degrees are not necessarily equal. The Florida Center for Nursing, a workforce site, notes a problem in state nursing education. A majority of Florida graduates have associate (ADN) degrees. However, the bulk of the jobs are for those with higher degrees.
Just having the BSN won’t make landing the first job easy, particularly during economic downturns. However, entry-level BSNs often have an easier time. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that in 2012, 93% of individuals who graduated with BSNs in the southern region of the United States had positions within four to six months of graduation (https://www.aacn.nche.edu/news/articles/2013/new-data).
The flip side is that it is a little easier to get into an ADN program – and that there are plenty of opportunities to continue one’s education.
Programs don’t have space for all interested individuals. The biggest limiting factor, according to the Florida Center for Nursing, is clinical training sites. The Center reports that in the 2011 to 2012 year, the percentage of qualified ADN applications that were rejected was nearly 50%; the percentage of qualified BSN applications rejected was above 50% (http://www.flcenterfornursing.org/StatewideData/NurseEducationReports.aspx).
Many schools have a competitive point system. Some do have a waitlist. Should waitlists become a problem, one can search on the Discover Nursing site (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools#no-filters).
In order to be licensed as a registered nurse, one needs to pass the NCLEX-RN. The Florida Board considers first time pass rates when maintaining a program’s approval. If it falls more than 10% below the national average for two years in a row, it is dropped to approved/ probationary status.
Students can, if they choose, be more discriminating. The Board website has a feature that allows prospective nurses to see a list of Florida nursing programs; by selecting and clicking on “compare” they can see NCLEX pass rates for selected schools.
Financing Nursing School
Costs vary a good deal. According to the Center for Nursing, state schools face more difficulties expanding than private ones do.
Sometimes supply vs. demand means students end up paying more to go to private nursing schools. Fortunately, there are various forms of financial aid, from Pell grants to loan-scholarships (for those willing to make a commitment to work in a medically underserved area).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Florida’s registered nurses enjoyed a mean annual wage of $61,780 in May of 2012 (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). That figure does include experienced nurses in high level positions, so a new graduate will typically make less.
Florida Board of Nursing http://www.floridasnursing.gov
Florida Nurses Association www.floridanurse.org
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