Choosing an RN Program in Louisiana
Louisiana has approved 24 professional nursing programs. Eleven are at the associate level and thirteen are at the baccalaureate level. There is also one diploma program associated with a Baton Rouge healthcare facility. Most hold full approval, though a few programs hold only conditional approval. With so many options, how does one choose?
The Admission Process
Although the nursing workforce is expected to increase, nursing programs can’t admit all qualified students. The primary reason is lack of budgeted faculty. According to the 2012 annual report, nursing programs admitted 66% of qualified applicants and turned away 34% (http://www.lsbn.state.la.us/Portals/1/Documents/AnnualReport/AnnualReport2012.pdf).
BSN programs often have higher stated requirements. However, selectivity is a more complex issue. The annual report notes that demand for BSN programs is increasing. In 2012, BSN programs also had more faculty vacancies than ADN programs which is a contrast from the year before.
This does not mean ADN programs are easy to get into, however. The annual report suggests that at some community colleges, the odds might be stacked against the average applicant. At Bossier Parish Community College, the number of qualified applicants was 127; the number admitted was 50. At Baton Rouge Community College, the number of qualified applicants was 156; the number admitted was 67. On a positive note, some associate and baccalaureate programs were able to admit all or nearly all qualified applicants. What this means is that a prospective student may want need to research multiple program options.
It’s not just the level of selectivity that varies; it’s also the ranking system. Grades on prerequisite courses are often considered. So are scores on admission tests.
NCLEX Pass Rates in LA
Students may want to consider individual schools’ track records on preparing students for the NCLEX-RN licensing examination. Pass rates are found in the Board’s annual report; some schools post them on their website.
Costs are highly variable. Tuition for an associate degree at a state school may be about $7,000. Total program costs may be considerably higher. A program search through the Louisiana Workforce Commission site reveals that less expensive schools may report total program costs as high as twice base tuition. Private colleges and state universities may charge significantly more per term.
Fortunately, there are many sources of financial aid. Many students are eligible for federal Pell Grants. Some may also receive Louisiana Go Grants. Many options are described on the site of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (http://www.osfa.la.gov/). School nursing programs are a rich source of information about scholarships that are specific to nursing.
Louisiana RNs average $61,260, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Starting salaries are typically lower. Schools can often quote an average hourly wage; some programs that are listed as training providers on the Workforce Commission site list hourly wages.
It is an option to do a program approved by another state. It may even be possible to enroll in an out-of-state program and do clinical rotations in Louisiana. However, a person can’t do clinical rotations in Louisiana without Louisiana permission.
Programmatic accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is desirable. Accreditation can make it easier to transfer credits to higher level nursing programs later.
A student may also consider institutional accreditation. If a program is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, it is considered to hold regional accreditation. Credits from regionally accredited institutions may transfer more easily than those from nationally accredited ones.
Technology can be another selling point. Some schools boast high-tech labs with lifelike mannequins; while laboratory experience doesn’t replace clinical experience in the real world, it can be a great supplement.
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