Choosing an RN Program in New Jersey
New Jersey RN students have a host of options. They can opt for associate (ADN), baccalaureate (BSN), or diploma programs.
Students who already have degrees in some field can opt for an accelerated second BSN. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) can also find programs specifically designed to help them achieve the higher RN license.
According to the Board’s 2012 annual report of educational capacity, there are a total of 45 pre-licensure programs in the state (http://www.njccn.org/sites/default/files/research/2012_njccn_educational_capacity_report.pdf).
Considering Degree Options
While degree programs at multiple levels qualify students to test for the same nursing license, they don’t all qualify them for the same career opportunities. Magnet hospitals require baccalaureate degrees for many positions; some want baccalaureate-educated nurses in all staff positions.
The higher degree also brings advance practice closer if that is the eventual goal. The downside is the higher cost and time commitment at the onset.
The degree level will also affect the nursing school experience. Diploma programs are typically affiliated with healthcare institutions.
The 2012 report notes some demographic differences between enrollees at different types of program. For example, the youngest average age was in the general BSN track.
Programmatic accreditation is especially important for students who are considering going on to graduate school. The ACEN (http://acenursing.org/) and CCNE (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Accreditation/AccreditedPrograms.htm) accredit nursing programs nationwide.
NCLEX Pass Rates
In order to be licensed as an RN, a graduate must pass the NCLEX-RN board examination. The Board has noted an interesting trend (http://www.njccn.org/sites/default/files/research/2012_njccn_educational_capacity_report.pdf). NCLEX pass rates averaged slightly higher in ADN and diploma programs than in BSN programs — this is in contrast to the national trend. 100% of New Jersey’s pre-licensure MSN graduates, though, passed.
The Admission Process
Candidates are often required to take a pre-admission examination like the TEAS. There are generally some prerequisites.
Despite projected demand, nursing schools are limited in the number of students they can accept. The 2012 annual report notes that just 61% of qualified applicants were accepted. The greatest percentage of rejections of qualified applicants occurred at the BSN level.
Because of limited seats, selection process may be more competitive than it would be otherwise.
For some, geography is a big issue. The New Jersey Nursing Initiative has provided county-by-county information (http://www.njni.org/page/nj-nursing-map). There is also information that may help individuals tailor their job searches (http://www.njni.org/page/county-data). Some data , though, may not be current.
The New Jersey Training Opportunities site lists costs for state training programs. Once tuition, fees, books, and supplies are added in, the price of a nursing degree at a public two-year institution may approach, or even exceed, $20,000.
Other types of institution, including public universities, may have higher tuition rates. The student often does not carry the full burden, however. The New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority is a resource for those seeking financial aid (http://www.hesaa.org/Pages/Resources.aspx). There are a number of state tuition assistance and grant programs; these may be based on academic scholarship, financial disadvantage, or location within the state. Students may also qualify for federal grants and/or loans.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists $36.5 per hour as the average salary for a New Jersey RN. However, it may take some time to reach this figure, even if one secures a job right after graduation.
Students may also consider the nursing school community. Student clubs may provide students with community service opportunities.
Another selling point can be technology: Some schools boast state-of-the-art simulation laboratories and computer laboratories.
For Additional Information
Nursing schools hold periodic information sessions. These give prospective students the opportunity to learn more about the admission process.
New Jersey Board of Nursing http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/nursing/
New Jersey State Nurses Association http://www.njsna.org/
New Jersey Nursing Inititative http://www.njni.org/nursing-programs
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