How to Find the Right Nursing College in Alaska
Searching for the best nursing program in Alaska may seem like a challenging endeavor, especially if you aren’t sure what to look for in a good degree program. As you may presently know, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you must obtain the proper education and training to become licensed. So it is essential that you study and assess the qualifications of each program you are contemplating before enrolling in your final selection. Unfortunately, too many potential students base their selection solely on the cost of tuition and the nearness of the school. Going with the least costly school or the one that is local to your residence is undoubtedly not the most reliable way to choose a nursing program. There are several essential additional factors to investigate before you decide where to enroll in classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first cover what the function of a registered nurse is in our medical system, together with the nursing degree choices that are offered.
Registered Nurse Job Responsibilities
Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the Alaska medical care delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical environments, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their basic role is to support doctors in the treatment of their patients. Having said that, the specific duties of a registered nurse will depend on their job or area of expertise along with where they work. A few of the responsibilities of an RN may include:
- Administering medications
- Overseeing patients
- Performing physical examinations
- Managing care
- Managing LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Instructing patients and their families
- Managing health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more high level job duties and accountabilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master’s Degree and generally work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can deliver primary or specialty care services in Alaska, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat basic illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degree Options
There are several degree options to choose from to become a registered nurse in Alaska. And to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can receive a qualifying degree in as little as two years, or continue on to obtain a graduate degree for a total of 6 years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are offered.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is normally a 2 year program made available by Alaska community colleges. It readies graduates for an entry level position in nursing in healthcare facilities including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and later earn a more advanced degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more extensive training than the ADN. It is usually a 4 year program offered at Alaska colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be able to complete an accelerated program based on their past training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program may wish to progress to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master’s. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is typically a 2 year program after obtaining the BSN. The MSN program offers specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner in Alaska or concentrate on administration, management or teaching.
After a graduating student has obtained one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) so as to become licensed. Other requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, so make sure to check with the Alaska board of nursing for any state mandates.
LVN and LPN Courses
There are generally two academic accreditations available that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that can be completed in the shortest time frame, usually about 1 year, is the certificate or diploma course. The 2nd option is to earn a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are broader in nature than the diploma option and commonly require 2 years to finish. The advantage of Associate Degrees, aside from providing a higher credential and more extensive instruction, are that they provide more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Regardless of the type of credential you seek, it should be Alaska approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or some other national accrediting organization. The NLNAC attests that the course of study properly prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that the majority of graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to some other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not need to obtain a college degree. CNA instruction can be acquired at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The length of the training program can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months, resulting in either a certificate or a diploma. Under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are mandated to obtain at least 75 hours of instruction, 16 of which need to be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Keep in mind that this is the minimal amount of instruction required and every state has its specific requirements. So it’s essential to make sure that the training program you enroll in not only complies with the federal requirements, but likewise those for the state where you will be practicing. One recommendation is to check with the health or nursing board for Alaska to make sure that the education is state approved. Along with the training, each state requires a passing score on a competency test for certification. Depending on the state, there might be other prerequisites as well.
Nursing Online Degrees
Attending nursing programs online is growing into a more preferred way to obtain training and acquire a nursing degree in Alaska. Certain schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and nearly all programs call for a certain amount of clinical rotation hours conducted in a local healthcare facility. But since the remainder of the training may be accessed online, this method may be a more accommodating answer to finding the free time to attend school for some students. Concerning tuition, some online degree programs are less costly than other on campus options. Even supplemental expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more affordable. And a large number of online programs are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. Therefore if your job and family commitments have left you with little time to pursue your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your hectic schedule.
Questions to Ask Nurse Programs
Now that you have decided on which nursing program to enroll in, as well as whether to attend your classes on campus or on the web, you can utilize the following guidelines to start narrowing down your options. As you no doubt realize, there are many nursing schools and colleges throughout Alaska and the United States. So it is essential to decrease the number of schools to choose from to ensure that you will have a workable list. As we earlier pointed out, the site of the school as well as the price of tuition are most likely going to be the primary two points that you will consider. But as we also stressed, they should not be your only qualifiers. So before making your final selection, use the following questions to evaluate how your pick compares to the other programs.
Accreditation. It’s a good idea to make sure that the degree or certificate program as well as the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides helping make sure that you get an excellent education, it may help in securing financial aid or student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited schools in Alaska.
Licensing Preparation. Licensing prerequisites for registered nurses vary from state to state. In all states, a passing score is needed on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in addition to graduation from an accredited school. Many states require a specific number of clinical hours be completed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s essential that the school you are enrolled in not only delivers a top-notch education, but also readies you to meet the minimum licensing standards for Alaska or the state where you will be working.
Reputation. Look at online rating services to see what the reviews are for all of the schools you are looking into. Ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. In addition, check with the Alaska school licensing authority to determine if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can speak with some local healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their assessments are of the schools as well.
Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN programs you are looking at what their graduation rates are as well as how long on average it takes students to complete their programs. A low graduation rate may be an indication that students were unhappy with the program and dropped out. It’s also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only substantiate that the school has a good reputation within the Alaska healthcare community, but that it also has the network of relationships to assist students obtain employment.
Internship Programs. The most effective way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Essentially all Alaska nursing degree programs require a certain number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour requirements for licensing too. Ask if the schools have associations with local hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the positioning of students in internships.
Pick the Right RN Course in Alaska
Enrolling in the ideal registered nursing college is probably the most important step to beginning a new career in the medical care industry. There are various variables that you need to consider when picking a nursing school. These aspects will be prioritized differently contingent on your existing career objectives, lifestyle, and economic status. As we have emphasized in this post, it is essential that you pick an RN college and a degree program that are each accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care community. By using our checklist of qualifying questions, you will be able to produce a shortlist of schools to pick from so that you can make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate degree and training, combined with your dedication and desire to succeed, you can become a licensed RN in Alaska.