Choosing an RN Program in Kentucky
The Kentucky Board has provided a list of approved nursing programs organized by region and county (http://kbn.ky.gov/education/Pages/default.aspx). For some, location is important. For others, there is much more to consider. The following is a guide to evaluation criteria.
Articulation and Transfer Options
Students who are anxious to enter the workforce may choose a program with multiple exit points. In some programs, there is an option to complete practical nursing training first and either become an LPN or continue on.
Both associate (ADN) and baccalaureate (BSN) programs are considered professional nursing. The ADN is the shorter program, but it is generally not a “two-year degree”. The Board notes that associate level programs often take five to six semesters (http://kbn.ky.gov/pon_resources/Pages/default.aspx).
Students who begin professional nursing programs may consider how easy it will be later to transfer credits to a higher program. While associate and baccalaureate programs qualify graduates for the same RN license, they do not have the same employment and advancement opportunities.
The highest license and the most opportunity is for those who have graduate degrees. A nursing student doesn’t have to do education all at once, but may want to give thought to accreditation. Accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is desirable; many graduate nursing programs limit admissions to graduates of accredited programs.
Test Scores and Other Quality Indicators
The Board has made fully five years of NCLEX pass rates available (http://kbn.ky.gov/education/Pages/nclex.aspx). The NCLEX is a licensing requirement, and high pass rates are often considered a strong indicator of program quality. However, the Board cautions that this is just one indicator and should not be given undue emphasis.
Prospective students may also consider program completion rates and gainful employment data. Students sometimes also consider faculty qualifications and program facilities when making decisions.
Students who are considering a baccalaureate program may be interested in the total campus experience, including opportunities to join professional organizations and honor societies.
The Admission Process
The admission process is another important consideration. Prospective nursing students should be prepared for a competitive process.
Many RN programs admit students just once per year while others admit a new cohort quarterly. The Board has provided a summation of this information, but students should check with individual schools to make sure dates haven’t changed (http://kbn.ky.gov/education/Pages/default.aspx).
Some Kentucky programs do have waitlists, but the waitlist does not necessarily stretch out indefinitely. In some cases, top tier candidates are admitted immediately. Candidates who do not quite make the cut may be placed on a waitlist in anticipation of some students not enrolling. However, the process may begin over again the following year.
Should waitlists become a problem, the Discover Nursing site has a search tool for programs without them (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools#no-filters).
Classes may be held in the daytime or evening. Some Kentucky nursing programs have online options. Out-of-state programs approved by other states qualify a graduate for initial licensure in Kentucky. This includes programs where classes are conducted online (http://kbn.ky.gov/pon/Pages/ponfaq.aspx).
Financing Nursing School in Kentucky
The Kentucky Board has its own scholarship program: The Nursing Incentive Scholarship Fund. There is a service commitment (one year for each year of scholarship). Financial need is one of the considerations. Students demonstrate need by filling out a FAFSA — the same form that is used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid.
Many schools have their own scholarships. There is a surprising amount of funding available to those pursuing nursing education at the higher levels.
Kentucky RNs average $27.65 or $57,510, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). However, novice nurses generally make less.
The Kentucky Board has provided information on choosing a nursing program http://kbn.ky.gov/pon/Pages/ponfaq.aspx.
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