How to Pick a Nursing School in Maryland
Locating the right nursing program in Maryland may seem like a complex project, especially if you don’t know what to look for in a good degree program. As you may already know, for you to practice as a registered nurse, you need to acquire the necessary education and training in order to become licensed. So it is critically important that you study and assess the qualifications of each college you are contemplating before enrolling in your final choice. Unfortunately, too many future students base their determination solely on the price of tuition and the nearness of the school. Going with the least costly school or the one that is local to your home is most likely not the best way to pick a nursing program. There are a number of key additional aspects to look into before you determine where to attend classes. But before we explore that checklist, let’s first cover what the job of a registered nurse is in our medical care system, as well as the nursing degree choices that are available.
Registered Nurse Job Functions
Registered nurses are the most extensive occupation in the Maryland medical care delivery system. RNs practice in numerous different medical settings, namely hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and even schools. Their primary duty is to assist doctors in the treatment of their patients. Having said that, the specific duties of a registered nurse will be dependent on their job or specialization as well as where they work. A few of the duties of an RN may include:
- Providing medications
- Monitoring patients
- Conducting physical examinations
- Coordinating care
- Supervising LPNs, LVNs and nurse aides
- Informing patients and their families
- Keeping health records and charts
Nurses with a higher degree may have more complex job duties and responsibilities. Nurse practitioners (NP), as an example, must hold a Master’s Degree and typically work more independently than their RN counterparts. They can administer primary or specialty care services in Maryland, prescribe medications, and diagnose and treat routine illnesses or injuries.
Nursing Degrees Available
There are multiple degrees offered to become a registered nurse in Maryland. And to become an RN, a student must attend an accredited school and program. A student can receive a qualifying degree in just 2 years, or advance to obtain a graduate degree for a total of six years. Following are some short explanations of the nursing degrees that are offered.
- Associates. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is commonly a 2 year program made available by Maryland community colleges. It prepares graduates for an entry level job in nursing in healthcare facilities including hospitals, clinics or nursing homes. Many utilize the ADN as an entry into nursing and afterwards achieve a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) supplies more in depth training than the ADN. It is normally a four year program offered at Maryland colleges and universities. Licensed RNs may be allowed to complete an accelerated program based on their past training or degree and professional experience (RN to BSN). Those applying to the program might want to advance to a clinical or administrative position, or be more competitive in the employment market.
- Master’s. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is usually a two year program after receiving the BSN. The MSN program provides specialization training, for example to become a nurse practitioner in Maryland or focus on administration, management or teaching.
When a graduating student has earned one of the above degrees, he or she must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to become licensed. Further requirements for licensing vary from state to state, so be sure to contact the Maryland board of nursing for any state mandates.
LVN and LPN Training
There are generally two academic credentials available that provide education to become either an LPN or an LVN. The one that may be completed in the shortest period of time, normally about twelve months, is the certificate or diploma course. The 2nd choice is to attain a Practical Nursing Associate Degree. These programs are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma option and normally require 2 years to complete. The benefit of Associate Degrees, aside from providing a higher credential and more extensive training, are that they provide more transferrable credit toward a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. No matter the kind of credential you pursue, it should be Maryland approved and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or another national accrediting organization. The NLNAC attests that the course of study properly prepares students to become Practical Nurses, and that most graduates pass the 50 state required NCLEX-PN licensing exam.
In contrast to other licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants do not have to obtain a college degree. CNA instruction can be received at a community college or at either a vocational or trade school. The duration of the training can take anywhere from just one to three months, leading to either a certificate or a diploma. Under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, students are required to obtain at least 75 hours of instruction, 16 of which must be clinical or “hands-on” training hours. Keep in mind that this is the minimal amount of instruction mandated and every state has its specific prerequisites. So it’s necessary to make sure that the training program you enroll in not only satisfies the federal requirements, but likewise those for the state where you will be practicing. One tip is to check with the health or nursing board for Maryland 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 requirements as well.
Nursing Online Schools
Enrolling in nursing schools online is emerging as a more popular way to get instruction and earn a nursing degree in Maryland. Some schools will require attending on campus for part of the training, and nearly all programs require a certain amount of clinical rotation hours completed in a local healthcare facility. But since the remainder of the training can be accessed online, this option may be a more convenient answer to finding the free time to attend college for some students. Concerning tuition, many online degree programs are cheaper than other on campus alternatives. Even supplementary expenses such as for commuting and study materials may be minimized, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online programs are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN and MSN degrees. And so if your work and household commitments have left you with very little time to pursue your academic goals, perhaps an online nursing program will make it easier to fit a degree into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask Nurse Degree Programs
Now that you have decided on which nursing degree to pursue, and whether to attend your classes on campus or on the web, you can utilize the following guidelines to begin narrowing down your choices. As you no doubt are aware, there are many nursing schools and colleges within Maryland and the United States. So it is important to reduce the number of schools to select from so that you will have a manageable list. As we already pointed out, the site of the school and the cost of tuition are undoubtedly going to be the initial two things that you will consider. But as we also emphasized, they should not be your only qualifiers. So prior to making your ultimate choice, use the following questions to see how your pick compares to the field.
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 agency. Aside from helping confirm that you receive a premium education, it may assist in obtaining financial aid or student loans, which are often not offered for non-accredited schools in Maryland.
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. Certain states require a certain number of clinical hours be performed, as well as the passing of additional tests. It’s important that the school you are attending not only delivers an excellent education, but also preps you to comply with the minimum licensing standards for Maryland or the state where you will be working.
Reputation. Visit online rating services to see what the assessments are for all of the schools you are considering. Ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Additionally, check with the Maryland school licensing authority to find out if there are any complaints or compliance issues. Finally, you can call some nearby healthcare organizations you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask what their opinions are of the schools as well.
Graduation and Job Placement Rates. Find out from the RN schools you are considering 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 displeased with the program and dropped out. It’s also important that the schools have high job placement rates. A high rate will not only verify that the school has a superb reputation within the Maryland medical community, but that it also has the network of contacts to assist students attain employment.
Internship Programs. The best way to obtain experience as a registered nurse is to work in a clinical setting. Essentially all Maryland nursing degree programs require a specific number of clinical hours be completed. Various states have minimum clinical hour mandates for licensing also. Check if the schools have a working relationship with nearby hospitals, clinics or labs and assist with the positioning of students in internships.
Choose the Right RN Program in Maryland
Enrolling in the ideal registered nursing degree program is arguably the most crucial phase to starting a new career in the healthcare industry. There are various factors that you must take into account when selecting a nursing school. These variables will be prioritized differently depending on your current career goals, obligations, and financial situation. As we have emphasized within this article, it is essential that you choose an RN college and a degree program that are each accredited and have exceptional reputations within the health care community. By using our list of qualifying questions, you will be able to create a short list of schools to choose from so that you can make your final selection. And with the proper degree and training, combined with your dedication and drive to succeed, you can become a practicing nurse in Maryland.