Choosing an RN Program in Missouri
Missouri has approved many nursing programs for initial licensure at the RN level. Some regions of the state boast an impressive array of options. A list of programs can be found by clicking here. So how does one choose?
Should I Pursue a BSN or an ADN?
There are approved programs at both the associate’s (ADN) and bachelor’s (BSN) levels. Both prepare candidates for the same level of licensing. The advantage to an associate degree is that admission requirements are often set lower. Students also graduate sooner and get their nursing degree sooner. However, the difference in program length may not be as great as one would imagine. It is important to figure in prerequisites and the time between making the nursing school decision and actually enrolling.
An advantage to the BSN: hiring. Some positions are only open to BSNs. Some are only open to nurses with experience in specialty areas, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has published data that indicates that even entry-level nurses with BSNs fare better (https://www.aacn.nche.edu/news/articles/2013/new-data).
Bachelor’s programs may provide an enriched experience in a way that goes beyond academics. There may be professional organizations, honor societies, and/ or nursing clubs. These experiences are what a person makes of them — for some they provide networking and leadership opportunities.
There is something to be said, though, for the strength of the individual program – and for the commitment and skill a nursing student displays during clinicals.
Approval and Accreditation of RN Programs in MO
State approval is the one necessary criteria — this assures that one can sit for the board examination and be licensed (http://pr.mo.gov/boards/nursing/schoolsofnursing.pdf). Programmatic accreditation is also highly desirable. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits programs at the baccalaureate level and higher; it is the more common accreditation for BSN programs. Associate programs may be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Programmatic accreditation can be especially important if one transfers credits from one program to another or pursues a higher degree down the road. Articulation agreements also facilitate transfer of credits. Missouri has a statewide articulation agreement.
The Admission Process
A student should also consider the admission process. This varies from school to school. There are typically science prerequisites to complete before admission; grade point average and test scores are considered.
It may be necessary to research not just the minimum standards but the profile of the average admitted student. One may also want to consider how many students are applying. One Missouri BSN program boasts 150 to 300 applicants for 50 spots. Fortunately, programs are not all this competitive.
Some Missouri schools maintain waitlists. These may or may not be carried from year to year. In some cases, this represents a second tier of applicants who may be admitted if some accepted students do not enroll.
Preparing for the Licensing Examination
Applicants may also consider how well programs do in preparing students for the NCLEX-RN. This is a national board examination that must be passed as a qualification for licensure. The Board has published a full five years of pass rates (http://pr.mo.gov/boards/nursing/passrates.pdf).
The standard set by the Missouri Board is high; at least 80% of candidates are to pass on a first attempt. Programs that fall below 80% even one year are highlighted on the list for prospective students. Programs that fall below a couple years in a row drop to conditional approval status. Not surprisingly, many Missouri programs have excellent pass rates.
Missouri RN Program Quality: Other Factors
There are many considerations for assessing program quality. Programs that have low faculty turnover are often able to provide a more consistent curricular experience.
Programs with high-tech simulation laboratories are often considered desirable. Candidates may also consider computer laboratories and other academic resources.
Financing Nursing School
Nursing students are eligible for Pell Grants. Especially capable students may receive HRSA loan scholarships or institutional scholarships.
Missouri RNs average $56,990, but it usually takes some time to reach this figure (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm).
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