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Choosing an RN Program in Maine

Maine has approved seven associate registered nursing programs and seven at the baccalaureate level. (http://www.maine.gov/boardofnursing/education/rn-nursing-programs.html). There are both public and private institutions. Geography will play some part in the decision, especially if you decide to study at the associate level. What else should be a factor in your decision?

Accreditation

One consideration is accreditation. While state approval is enough to qualify you to sit for the licensing examination, program-level accreditation demonstrates that a program has met rigorous standards by a nationally recognized organization.

There is a practical reason to value accreditation as well, especially if there is a chance you will return to school later for a higher nursing degree. Accreditation is often a requirement for articulation, or getting credit for prior nursing education. Most Maine programs are accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Which Degree Should I Pursue: ADN or BSN?

If ADN and BSN programs both prepare you for the same registered nursing license, are they both equal?

No, while licensing requirements have remained the same, the healthcare market has changed. Maine has followed national healthcare organizations in calling for 80% of the workforce to be educated at the baccalaureate level by 2020.

The good news is education doesn't have to be done at once. It is often easier to do an associate degree first. There are online options to complete a bachelor's. There is also an option of enrolling in a program that allows you to earn a practical nursing (LPN) license en route to an RN license.

Current projections are for a nursing shortage to begin in 2017 to 2018 (http://www.mainenursepartners.com/files/Final_State_Strategic_Plan_May%2018.pdf). Workforce projections are subject to change based on the economy, but students may want to take this data into account when deciding when to enter the workforce.

Comparing NCLEX Scores at Schools in Maine

NCLEX scores do matter. Passing the NCLEX is a licensing requirement, both in Maine and elsewhere. Also, the NCLEX is intended to test competent, safe nursing practice. First time NCLEX pass rates are sometimes seen as an indication of overall program quality.

The Maine Board has made available a full four years of testing data (http://www.maine.gov/boardofnursing/education/nclex-pass-rates.html). The state average among the RN programs was nearly 90% for the most recent data cycle (fall 2011 through fall 2012).

Another statistic worth considering is program completion rate. Some schools do a better job than others supporting their students academically.

The Admission Process for RN students in Maine

Whatever your ideal nursing program, the reality is that nursing school is competitive. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that in 2012, 533 Maine applicants were turned away from baccalaureate and graduate level programs -- more than the 497 who graduated (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs/resources/Maine1.pdf).

Leaders are calling on the state to develop and fund additional higher level nursing programs. Right now, nursing programs don't have the faculty or facilities to educate all qualified applicants. Some Maine programs have waitlists. However, there is movement away from waitlisting and toward greater selectivity (http://learn.maine.edu/programs/?p=nursing). The Discover Nursing site has a function to search for schools without waitlists (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools#no-filters).

Financing Nursing School

The average RN salary in Maine is $60,700, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). But nurses typically don’t start out at this rate, and there is no guarantee of being hired immediately.

Pell grants may offset some of the cost of nursing school. Some nursing schools have work study options. There is at least one associate program approved for funding through the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA).

Resources

RN License Requirements in Maine

Maine State Board of Nursing

American Nurses Association - Maine

Maine State Nurses Association

Maine RN Career Paths

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