Choosing an RN Program in Idaho
Idaho RN programs are offered by a variety of institutions, including state and public colleges. Here are some guidelines for evaluating your options.
You can do your pre-licensure nursing education in Idaho at either the associate (ADN) or baccalaureate (BSN) level. Either degree will qualify you take the same licensing examination and earn the same license. However, BSN nurses have more advancement opportunities. Those who enter the workforce during difficult economic times often fare better.
A BSN doesn’t always take longer than an ADN. Students who have previously earned degrees in other fields sometimes opt for an accelerated second bachelor’s.
If you do enter the field with an ADN, you can pursue further education later.
You may see several different types of accreditation noted. Accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (formerly the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education signifies that the nursing program has met the standards of a nationally recognized accreditation agency. Many Idaho programs hold this accreditation. Programmatic accreditation is especially important for baccalaureate programs; without it, you may have a much harder time getting accepted into a graduate level nursing program.
Accreditation by agencies like the Northwest Association for Colleges or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges is institutional (school-level). Regional accreditation can be better than national accreditation, especially if you may seek higher degrees later.
The Admission Process
There are more potentially qualified applicants seeking seats in nursing programs than there are spaces. According to an Idaho Department of Labor report, the biggest limiting factor is availability of clinical placements (http://labor.idaho.gov/publications/idaho_nursing_overview.pdf). In 2009 to 2010, four Idaho colleges and universities were responsible for 85% of denials of potential and qualified candidates. Among these were Boise State and Bringham Young-Idaho.
Idaho schools have different policies for determining which candidates will get a seat. The admission process can become very competitive. Schools may choose to be more inclusive, but institute a waitlist of two semesters or more; this is a less common solution. One school notes that higher scoring applications are placed at the top of the waitlist and lower ones are more randomly placed (http://hshs.csi.edu/registered_nursing/application_entrance_requirements.asp).
When schools institute a point system, it isn’t necessarily just a matter of academics. Public two-year colleges, for example, may choose to give points to applicants from a particular region of the state.
NCLEX Pass Rates
You may also consider the program’s pass rate on the NCLEX licensing examination. Test results indicate program quality but may also reflect selective admission policies.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average wage for Idaho RNs as $59,100 a year or $28.42 an hour (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). Many factors influence actual earnings.
There are many potential sources of funding for a registered nursing student. These include need-based federal grants and loans, traditional scholarships, and loan scholarships (which require a service commitment).
Some schools have evening or weekend clinical rotations.
There is sometimes an option of attending a program in one state and doing clinical placements in another municipality. The Department of Labor notes that a number of Idaho students are choosing to do their rotations in Washington.
There are many other factors that distinguish one facility from the next. You can expect any Idaho program to include clinical experience. You can’t expect the experiences to be the same. Some schools are affiliated with large state-funded medical centers; a substantial portion of clinical work may take place there.
Schools may also use high-tech simulations to provide a portion of the necessary clinical experience. For many students, technology is a draw.
Idaho Board of Nursing http://ibn.idaho.gov/IBNPortal/
Idaho Nurses Association http://www.idahonurses.org/
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