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Choosing an RN Program in Washington

Washington nursing programs must be approved by the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC). This can be good news for nursing students. They know that their program has met a long list of standards.

This doesn't mean that all programs are on a par or that they will do a similar job of meeting career objectives. The following is a guide for selection.

Programmatic Accreditation

Washington does not require undergraduate nursing programs to hold programmatic accreditation through ACEN or CCNE, but does accept such accreditation as evidence of compliance with standards (http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/6000/ProcedureE05.01.pdf). Many programs hold accreditation. Graduating from an accredited program can be particularly valuable for nurses who choose to continue their education at the graduate level.

Degree Options

The December 2012 report of the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board predicts that in the years 2015 to 2020 there will be a gap between the number of registered nurses needed and the number of new nursing graduates. Such situations do not always lead to easy hiring as some positions are reserved for nurses with high levels of education and experience. Before deciding whether to pursue associate or baccalaureate degrees, students will want to consider many factors, for example, what the job placement rates are for the particular program and how easy it will be to articulate to a higher program if they later decide that's what they want to do.

Many people have heard of the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, but not necessarily the Associate of Applied Science - Transfer (AAS-T) degree. This is becoming the standard associate level nursing degree at Washington's community colleges and technical colleges (http://www.wacenterfornursing.org/uploads/file/nursing-education/CNEWS_ADN_Update_6-16-11.pdf). As the name implies, credits do transfer!

Preparation for the Licensing Examination in WA

Washington requires programs to maintain an 80% first-time pass rate. Some programs consistently post rates far above this minimum. A student can look on the Board site for five years of test results (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NursingPrograms.aspx).

The Admission Process

A candidate should expect some degree of selectivity whatever the level of the nursing program. Being admitted to a particular college does not guarantee a spot in the school of nursing.

The process, and the expectations, may vary by program level. The University of Washington has shared a lot about the admission process in its nursing admissions update blog (http://nursing.uw.edu/admissions/blog). Waitlists are generally not an issue at higher levels.

Clinical Placements

A nursing student can expect to have clinical practice opportunities as well as classroom instruction. However, the depth and breadth of such experiences may vary. Washington has not set a minimum number of clinical hours. Moreover, finding clinical placement sites is an issue for many schools.

Geographic Considerations

Geography will play a part in the decision for many. The Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission notes that educational resources are greatest in the Western part of the state, especially near Puget Sound and the I-5 corridor. However, Rural Outreach Nursing Education (RONE) is working to increase access in rural areas of the state.

Out-of-State Programs

It is possible to enroll in an out-of-state program yet do one's pre-licensure clinical practice in Washington. Any student considering enrolling in an out-of-state program will need to make sure, however, that the program has been authorized to use Washington clinical sites.

Financial Aid for Wasington RN Programs

Professional nursing students may be eligible for general need-based aid. Washington Career Bridge is one source of financial aid information (http://www.careerbridge.wa.gov/Page.aspx?nid=PayForSchool). The Washington Center for Nursing has put together a list of nursing scholarships (http://www.wacenterfornursing.org/uploads/file/Scholarships_Loans_Grants_Jan%202014.pdf).

The average Washington RN salary is $75,350, but this includes nurses with varying degrees of experience (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm).

For More Information

The Washington Center for Nursing has also compiled a list of questions for nursing students to ask before enrolling in a nursing program.

Resources

RN License Requirements in Washington

Washington Nurse Licensing

Washington Center for Nursing

Washington State RN Career Paths

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