Choosing an RN Program in Rhode Island
Rhode Island maintains high standards for approval of nursing education programs. Chances are that any program you select will be quality, though there may be significant differences between them. The following is a guide for selection.
Nursing Degree Options
One of the most significant and obvious differences between programs is the degree granted. Rhode Island has three baccalaureate level professional nursing programs, a couple associate level programs, and one diploma program. The diploma is offered by a healthcare institution and can be earned in three years.
Any of these programs will qualify you to take the same licensing examination. However, a baccalaureate degree typically brings more positions within reach. Baccalaureate students also get a more complete campus experience and may have special opportunities like study abroad.
The Admission Process
Nursing schools have a selective admission process. Depending on the program selected, the selection may occur at different stages of your academic career.
In some instances, grades are the primary determining factor; in others, many factors are considered.
There may be different procedures in place for first year students and transfer students. Waitlists are not currently the norm in Rhode Island. A student who does have trouble locating a program without a waitlist may try the search tool on the Discover Nursing site (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools#no-filters).
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) are nationally recognized nursing accreditation agencies; they evaluate nursing programs against an extensive set of criteria.
Currently, all Rhode Island professional nursing programs are accredited by CCNE or ACEN, though some may have conditions imposed. The state nursing board requires all nursing programs located within its borders to seek and maintain accreditation.
Programs located outside Rhode Island’s borders and approved by other state boards will not necessarily hold program-level accreditation (though many will). Program-level accreditation is especially important for students who may eventually continue their nursing studies at the graduate level.
NCLEX Pass Rates in Rhode Island
The RN license is dependent on not only completing a professional nursing program, but passing the NCLEX-RN board examination. Thus prospective nurses may want to know the pass rates of programs they are considering; pass rates for in-state programs are found on the site of the Department of Health (http://www.health.ri.gov/data/2011-2012NursingExamPassRates.pdf). Rhode Island’s pass rates are, as a whole, above the national average.
Students may also consider articulation agreements between schools; these allow students to move seamlessly from lower level nursing programs to higher ones. All Rhode Island associate and diploma programs have articulation agreements with baccalaureate programs — this is a state requirement.
This is not necessarily the case with programs in neighboring states, but as long as the program is accredited by a national nursing accreditation agency, there should be no serious obstacle to getting credit for previous education.
Students may also consider facilities and equipment, for example, whether high-fidelity simulation labs are available. (Some schools boast not only quality instruction but talking mannequins.)
Financing Nursing School in RI
There are many sources of financial aid, provided you apply on the correct timeline. Nursing schools generally have their own alumni and memorial scholarships. Nursing students are often eligible for traditional financial aid like the Pell Grant as well. Students may qualify for loan scholarships or tuition reimbursement from the Health Resources and Services Administration in exchange for a work commitment. Some of the region’s healthcare facilities have their own reimbursement programs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Rhode Island’s RNs averaged $73,070 in 2012 (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). Many nurses do not see these figures, though, until they have some experience.
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