With more than 700 baccalaureate programs in the United States, the prospective student must do research to determine which programs match his or her needs and career objectives.
If you have no health-care experience, it might be best to gain some insight into the field by volunteering or working part-time in a care facility such as a hospital or an outpatient clinic. Talking to nurse professionals about their work will also help you determine how your attributes may apply to the nursing field.
When considering nursing schools, consider your personal needs. Is it best for you to work in a heavily structured environment or one that offers more flexibility in terms of, say, integrating a part-time work schedule into studies? Do you need to stay close to home? Do you prefer to work in a large health-care system such as a health maintenance organization or a medical center, or do you prefer smaller, community-based operations?
As for a nursing school or nursing program, ask the following questions:
- How involved is the faculty of the nursing program in developing students for today's healthcare industry?
- How strong is the school of nursing's affiliation with clinics and hospitals?
- Is there assurance that a student of the nursing college will gain an up-to-date educational experience for the current job market?
- Are a variety of care settings available?
- How much time in clinics is required for graduation from the nursing college?
- What are the nursing program's resources in terms of computer and science laboratories?
- Does the nursing school work with hospitals and community-based centers to provide healthcare?
- How available is the faculty of the school of nursing to oversee a student's curriculum?
- What kind of student support is available in terms of study groups and audiovisual aids?
- What kind of counseling from faculty members and administrators is available to help students develop well-rounded, effective progress through the program?
Visiting a school and talking to the program’s guidance counselors will give you a better understanding of how a particular nursing program or nursing school will fit your needs. You can get a closer look at the faculty, its members’ credentials, and the focus of the program. It’s also not too early to consider what each program can offer in terms of job placement.
by Linda K. Amos, Ed.D., RN, FAAN, Former Associate Vice President for Health Sciences, Professor of Nursing, University of Utah