Choosing an RN Program in Texas
Planning on doing a professional nursing program in Texas? You’ll find quite an array of options. As of 2012, the state had 66 associate programs and 38 bachelor’s programs. There was also one diploma program and one alternate entry master’s program for students who already held degrees.
While associate (ADN) and baccalaureate (BSN) nurses are eligible for the same license, the state does make some distinctions in their practice. The degree one graduates with can have a bearing on employment prospects. In 2012, the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies asked program directors what it was like for new graduates looking for jobs (http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/cnws/EducReports.shtm#Professional). A majority of BSN programs reported that it was either easy or neutral (neither particularly difficult or easy) for their graduates to find jobs. Although the greatest proportion of ADN program directors described the situation as neutral, a significant number did report difficulty. This corroborates what the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has found on a national level — that when economic conditions get difficult, BSNs have an easier time.
The situation may be different for tomorrow’s graduates. Predictions made in 2012 show demand for nursing graduates increasing above supply, markedly so as we approach 2020.
The Admission Process
Programs can’t admit all qualified applicants even when projected demand is high. The two biggest reasons are lack of clinical sites and lack of budgeted faculty. Thus students will want to take a hard look at the admission policies of the schools they are considering.
The Texas Board has not standardized the process, so decisions are made at the school level. Texas nursing schools use a surprising variety of tests to determine who’s most ready for the rigors of nursing school. At some schools, the process includes an essay and/ or interview.
It’s also important to consider the timeframe. There are two stages to education: a pre-nursing or prerequisite stage and a nursing stage. Texas ADN programs include 16 to 28 months of actual nursing coursework. A student will want to consider how long of a wait, if any, there is. Many Texas programs have none. A student may be granted a spot for the next year if he or she is one of the top candidates.
Texas NCLEX Pass Rates
All graduates will eventually need to pass the NCLEX-RN. Prospective students may want to consider how well the programs they are considering are doing at preparing their graduates. Five years of pass rate data is available on the site of the Texas BON (http://www.bon.texas.gov/nursingeducation/approved-programs.html).
Students may be interested in knowing whether particular programs hold accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
Texas has a mandated articulation model that helps ADN nurses get into BSN programs and continue their education. Nationwide, though, graduates of accredited programs often find it easier to continue their education – especially at the graduate level.
Students may also consider the partnerships that exist between nursing schools and healthcare facilities in the region.
Delivery models can represent another innovation. Some Texas pre-licensure RN programs are offered online or through hybrid models. A student will still have clinical experiences; they will spend some time in actual healthcare facilities. In rare instances, though, they may not have to go in a classroom at all!
Financing Nursing School in TX
And then there are those financial concerns. While higher level programs often have higher costs, even when figured on a per-semester basis, they may actually boast more scholarship opportunities.
Many nursing students are also eligible for general financial aid packages which may include federal grants and subsidized loans. State financial aid programs are listed on the site of “Every Chance Every Texan” (http://www.everychanceeverytexan.org/funding/aid/aidtx.php).
Ultimately, Texas RNs average $66,350, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm).
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