Choosing an RN Program in Vermont
Vermont nursing students have a lot of options. They may select an in-state program that has been approved by the Vermont Board or an equivalent program approved by the licensing agency of another state.
Vermont has four pre-licensure baccalaureate programs and two associate programs. Any of these will qualify a graduate to take the NCLEX licensing examination at the same level. However, a nurse with an associate degree may not have as many advancement opportunities, and when times are tight, it may be more difficult to secure that first position.
According to the 2011 re-licensure survey, just 34% of Vermont RNs had an associate degree or diploma as their highest degree (http://www.choosenursingvermont.org/research/2011.php). The others had baccalaureate or graduate degrees, though in some cases, the highest degree was not in nursing.
Prospective nurses who already have college degrees can opt for a master’s entry program. They can complete their pre-licensure coursework at an accelerated pace, then continue on to advanced practice coursework.
Students may want to consider articulation agreements between schools. These can make it easier to continue on for a higher degree later if desired.
Program-level accreditation by CCNE
ACEN is particularly important for those who may continue their education to the graduate level. (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Accreditation/AccreditedPrograms.htm)
NCLEX Pass Rates in Vermont
NCLEX pass rates are an important consideration for many. Pass rates are one sign of a quality program, though they may also reflect a program’s policies for admission and retention.
The Admission Process
Nursing schools have selective admission. Students often need to score at an acceptable level on an examination. Performance in prerequisite courses may be considered. Meeting minimum standards does not necessarily guarantee a spot in a program. The good news is that a competitive student can generally get a seat in a Vermont nursing program without a wait.
While baccalaureate programs often set minimum standards higher, requirements are the same at some schools; these are institutions that offer both programs and make it very easy for students to progress from one level to the next.
All Vermont nursing programs include clinical hours in adult, maternal, pediatric, and psychiatric nursing. The Board sets minimum requirements. However, some may go above the minimum.
A portion of clinical hours may be spent in simulation laboratories. Some students select schools with high-tech simulations. Nursing students whose programs are located outside Vermont but plan to apply for licensure by examination within Vermont should make sure that their programs meet Board standards (https://www.sec.state.vt.us/professional-regulation/list-of-professions/nursing/education-information.aspx). Nursing students who want more clinical experience than the program provides can look into the LNA Externship program (http://www.choosenursingvermont.org/extern/index.php).
Prospective students may want to consider other opportunities outside the standard nursing curriculum. Many programs have chapters of professional or pre-professional organizations. Some offer other special opportunities, for example, the opportunity to travel over break and provide healthcare services in another nation.
Financing Nursing School in VT
Nursing students are eligible for various need-based financial aid programs, for example, the Vermont Incentive Grant. State financial aid opportunities are described on the site of the Vermont Student Assistance Corp (http://services.vsac.org/wps/wcm/connect/vsac/VSAC).
Nursing schools often boast many scholarships, some of them endowments from the families of alumni. Scholarships may emphasize different things: academic performance, service, or leadership. Financial need is often considered.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average RN salary in Vermont as $63,350 (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). The Vermont nursing workforce site reports that the highest starting salaries are about $58,281 (http://www.choosenursingvermont.org/becoming/faq.php). Individual schools may be able to provide information about the average starting salary in their metropolitan area.
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