Choosing an RN Program in Oklahoma
There are plenty of pathways to a professional nursing education in Oklahoma and plenty of schools to choose from. Here is a guide to the options.
Licensing Examination Pass Rates
The NCLEX, a national board examination, is a requirement for licensure. Students may consider pass rates when making application decisions, but should not use them as a sole criteria. In 2003, an Oklahoma task force attempted to make correlations between poor pass rates and program policy (http://www.ok.gov/nursing/nclextf.pdf). Some programs, it was noted, did not set high academic admission requirements. Some gave too much credit for attendance and completion of assignments. At many, but not all schools, students were required to pass a NCLEX predictor test.
In short, pass rates reflected admission and retention policies as well as instruction. In some instances, faculty turnover or other program-level issues contributed to poor pass rates. The Oklahoma Board has published a full ten years of pass rate data (http://www.ok.gov/nursing/nclexpass1.pdf).
Oklahoma has approved approximately an equal number of professional nursing programs at the associate (ADN) and baccalaureate (BSN) levels. While ADN and BSN programs both qualify graduates for the same professional nursing license, the Oklahoma Board makes some distinction in their practice (http://www.ok.gov/nursing/ed-goals.pdf).
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has noted better employment prospects for baccalaureate nurses, with hiring rates for new BSNs especially good in the southern and midwestern regions of the United States (https://www.aacn.nche.edu/news/articles/2013/new-data).
Approval and Accreditation
State approval is necessary. Accreditation by a nationally recognized agency can also be desirable. Nursing programs at all levels may be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Some BSN programs require applicants to show evidence of having graduated from an ACEN-accredited associate program.
Baccalaureate level programs may be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Programmatic accreditation can be especially important for graduates who continue their nursing studies at the graduate level.
Students may also consider institutional accreditation. Regional accreditation is important for graduate school admission in many fields.
The Admission Process
Prospective students should be prepared for a competitive process. Programs typically look at test scores as well as grades in prior coursework. However, the required examination(s) and the minimum GPA will vary from program to program — one reason to attend advisement sessions before submitting an application. On the bright side, there are quite a few options without waitlists.
A prospective student must consider how nursing school fits in with other obligations — and be aware that the school may consider it.
The Oklahoma board has noted a correlation between responsibilities outside of school (family, work) and NCLEX failure. Some nursing programs may discourage employment. However, there are options for working students.
Out-of-State/ Distance Programs
The Oklahoma Board accepts distance learning programs that include a preceptorship or clinical component (http://www.excelsior.edu/state-board-requirements). The Board has set guidelines for programs where theoretical content is taught through distance learning (http://www.ok.gov/nursing/schlsnotradi.pdf).
Paying for Nursing School in OK
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports $55,980 as the average for Oklahoma nurses (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). This figure includes nurses with expertise in specialty areas, so novice nurses should not expect to make this rate. The first challenge is securing a position. Before enrolling in a program, a student may want to inquire about career services and placement rates.
Prospective students will also want to consider options for financing nursing school. Many nursing students qualify for general financial aid like the Pell Grant. A number of Oklahoma RN programs have been approved as Workforce Initiative Act (WIA) training providers. RN students can also compete for merit-based institutional and private scholarships. Opportunities will be somewhat different from school to school.
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