Choosing an RN Program in Utah
Utah has a lengthy set of standards in place governing approval of nursing programs. There is a lot a Utah program has to do before it can recruit you! Still, programs are far from identical. If you do your program across state lines, there is a good chance there will be differences.
Approval and Accreditation of Utah RN Programs
Start out by making sure that your program is approved, if not by the Utah Department, by the licensing agency of its jurisdiction.
Be aware that Utah programs may have different types of approval status. Students accepted into programs with provisional status sign disclaimers indicating they are aware that the status could impact them.
A list of approved Utah programs shows that all are currently accredited by the national nursing accrediting agencies, ACEN or CCNE (http://www.dopl.utah.gov/forms/nurse_approved_programs.pdf).
It can be an advantage to attend an ACEN- or CCNE- accredited program, especially if you are considering continuing your nursing education as far as the graduate level.
The Admission Process
In Utah as elsewhere, there has been some trend away from wait lists, even at the associate’s level. The Salt Lake Tribune describes how Salt Lake Community College upped its selectivity to put an end to an untenable situation — a five year wait list (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52826111-78/students-health-college-programs.html).
Selectivity will vary from program to program. You may want to inquire what the total capacity is and how many applicants there are for the program.
Programs will also vary somewhat in what they emphasize (e.g. academics, prior experience). You typically take a test before admission, but not all schools use the same one.
NCLEX Pass Rates in Utah
Your license will depend on passing the NCLEX board examination. Utah DOPL makes program pass rates public, presenting recent NCLEX results by quarter, older results by year (http://www.dopl.utah.gov/licensing/forms/nurse_NCLEX_pass_rates_RN.pdf). You will find a fair amount of variance from program to program.
Format and Scheduling
You will also want to think about how your classes and clinical rotations are scheduled. Some programs allow for evening scheduling of clinical rotations. Some offer courses online. One of Utah’s online programs, declared an “innovative approach program” by the approval agency, routinely draws students from outside the state.
Programs can stand out for many reasons. You may want to consider laboratory/ simulation equipment, professional organizations, and electives or special programs. (You may, for example, be able to take specialized courses in gerontology.)
Articulation and Transfer of Credits Between Programs
You may do your pre-licensure program at the associate or baccalaureate level. You will take the NCLEX at the same level either way. There is more opportunity at the higher levels of nursing, however.
You may want to consider individual articulation agreements between schools. Utah does not have a mandated articulation agreement in place (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/articulation-agreements). Just attending an accredited program, though, can put you at an advantage. There are many degree completion programs out there.
Financing Nursing School
Your costs will vary depending on whether you select a two- or four-year institution and whether it is state funded.
You may want to look into both state and federal need-based financial aid programs. State programs include the Higher Educational Success Stipend Program (HESSP) and the Utah Educationally Disadvantaged Grant (UEG). Federal programs include the Pell Grant and the lesser known Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant.
In addition to general financial aid, you may be eligible for nursing scholarships. Still, it is often necessary to take out loans. Fortunately, students are sometimes eligible for subsidized governmental loans. Schools can be a great source of financial aid information. They know that your attendance may depend on getting some financial assistance.
Successful nurses do eventually make good money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Utah RNs average $28.76 an hour ($59,810 a year).
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