Choosing an RN Program in Virginia

A prospective Virginia RN has many options. There are plenty of professional nursing programs offered at the associate, baccalaureate, and diploma levels. Here is a guide to evaluating programs.

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Degree Options

The undergraduate degree awarded does not affect the license level. However, it does impact employment and advancement opportunities –more strikingly so during difficult economic times.

The higher degree, the baccalaureate or ‘BSN’, also brings a nurse closer to advanced practice if this is an eventual goal. The level that a person does their pre-licensure coursework isn’t necessarily the level where they’ll stay. Nurses who are considering advancing their education to the highest level will do well to choose undergraduate programs accredited by the ACEN or CCNE. Prospective students may also consider articulation agreements between institutions.

NCLEX Pass Rates in Virginia

The NCLEX-RN is a licensing requirement. Pass rates provide some indication of how well the program is meeting objectives, but they also reflect a school’s policies for admitting, retaining and graduating students.

The Virginia Board releases pass rates for the current year-to-date and the prior five years as Excel spreadsheets (http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/nursing/nursing_edprogs.htm).

The Admission Process

Nursing school admission is competitive. However, Virginia programs have varying admission criteria. There is typically at least one test required. Some schools require two or more.

Programs may consider both the number of prerequisites that a candidate has completed and the grades they have earned. Some programs are designed for specific populations, for example, those who have completed training as LPNs. While some schools have waitlists, they do not necessarily stretch from year to year. Top tier candidates can generally find a seat in the next admission cycle.

Flexibility

Some schools are year-round while others operate on a traditional school calendar. Some offer flexible learning. They may follow a hybrid model with some coursework offered online.

The Cost of Nursing School in Virginia

Public institutions are generally cheaper than private ones. Students will typically pay substantially more at a public university than a two-year college, even when figured on a per-year basis. The University Of Virginia School Of Nursing, for example, lists a tuition rate of $12,672 per year. John Tyler Community College, meanwhile, estimates tuition rates at $8,775 for the whole program (notwithstanding that students should expect to pay at least $1,500 in additional fees).

The initial cost must be weighed against future earnings. There are many potential sources of funding for a Virginia nursing student. Students who are ready to make a commitment may want to look into nursing loan scholarship opportunities.

Prospective students may visit the site of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to see state programs (http://www.schev.edu/students/payforcollege.asp). State financial aid opportunities are grouped according to whether they are based on need, merit, both, or (surprisingly) on neither (http://www.schev.edu/index/students-and-parents/pay). The Tuition Assistance Grant Program is one the organization has placed in the ‘neither’ category. It offsets some of the additional costs incurred by students who are completing healthcare programs at participating nonprofit private institutions in Virginia.

The average salary for a Virginia RN is $63,050, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm), Still, a nurse can’t expect to be making that figure when those first loan payments are due.

Out-of-State Distance Programs

Students considering enrolling in online programs approved by other state licensing agencies will need to check to see if additional requirements will be imposed (http://www.excelsior.edu/state-board-requirements).

For More Information

Nursing programs typically hold information sessions for prospective students. Some schools have innovative ways of keeping people informed and getting their questions answered. They may, for example, hold online chats.

Resources

RN License Requirements in Virginia

All About the RN Career in Virginia

Virginia Board of Nursing

Virginia Nurses Association

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