Choosing an RN Program in Wisconsin
A prospective Wisconsin RN may enroll in any program on the Board’s approval list. There are many options
Nursing students will need to decide whether to do pre-licensure coursework at the associate’s (ADN) or bachelor’s (BSN) level. Students who already have degrees may enroll in direct entry master’s programs, complete pre-licensure coursework, and then continue on to specialty coursework. Degree holders can opt for fast-track bachelor’s programs if they prefer. These are intense, but move students through the curriculum quickly.
Students will want to consider how well schools meet both their short- and long-term career goals. Some Wisconsin programs allow students to earn an LPN license en route to an RN license. Some make it easy for ADN students to continue on for higher degrees. More than half of Wisconsin’s RNs currently have education at the baccalaureate level or higher. Those that opt for the ADN will find many options to do degree completion later. The state encourages online programs and other innovative approaches.
NCLEX Pass Rates in WI
The NCLEX is a licensing requirement, whatever program a person graduates from. The Board posts pass rates by program (http://dsps.wi.gov/LicensesPermitsRegistrations/Credentialing-Division-Home-Page/Health-Professions/Registered-Nurse/). The rate is based on the prior two years.
Pass rates for programs that have been authorized to operate but have not yet earned approval are listed in a separate document. Students should be particularly cautious when studying data from these new programs.
Wisconsin does not require nursing programs to hold programmatic accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation/accredited-programs). However, there can be advantages to attending an accredited program. It is a nationally recognized validation of program quality. Many graduate level nursing programs limit admissions to graduates of accredited programs.
The Admission Process
The Wisconsin Center for Nursing is predicting a future shortage, one that could begin as early as 2015 (http://www.wisconsincenterfornursing.org/documents/2013WIStateWorkforce_ES.pdf). The 2013 report also notes that faculty shortages and budget shortfalls are impacting needed nursing program expansion. This means that today’s applicant should be prepared for a selective admission process – more selective than what is actually necessary to ensure a competent nursing workforce.
The selection process will vary from program to program; so will the level of selectivity. The Wisconsin Center for Nursing reports that 61% of those who apply to second degree programs are rejected.
Some lower level programs do wait list applicants who meet stated requirements. A Wisconsin student should not have difficulty finding programs without a wait list, but may check the Discover Nursing site if it becomes a problem (http://www.discovernursing.com/schools#no-filters).
Clinical Experiences and Laboratory Simulations
A Wisconsin nursing student can expect to do clinical experiences in medical facilities. This is standard. There are differences from program to program, however. Some programs begin clinical experiences very early in the program, others later. Most Wisconsin programs include high-tech simulations, but this is not universal.
Some schools offer their students service opportunities. Sometimes there is even an opportunity to study abroad and deliver health services in communities where there is great need.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual wage for a Wisconsin RN as $64,000 (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). That’s the mean, though, not the starting wage – and the predicted shortfall hasn’t hit yet. While student loans are viable for many, students may also want to research grants and scholarship. The standard practice is to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for need-based federal aid.
Students who are willing to commit to serve in under served areas sometimes receive loan scholarships through the government. Schools are also a potential source of scholarship money – most come with few strings attached.
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