6 Tips and Tricks for Selecting the Right Nursing School

May 10, 2019 by

Becoming a nurse takes a special kind of person. You need to be selfless, compassionate, patient, and work well in stressful situations. If public-service and healthcare are your passion, but medical school seems daunting, enrolling in a nursing program is a viable option. You’ll work closely with both doctors and patients to provide the best care possible. If you’re lucky, you’ll create bonds and make a lasting impression on your patients. But before you pick out your scrubs and Crocs, you need to select the perfect nursing school. While location and price are always two of the top considerations, there are other factors to keep in mind. Keep reading for tips and tricks on choosing the right nursing school and program.

1. Consider What Programs The School Offers

Not all nursing schools are created equal. Many people hear the term “nurse” and automatically assume that there’s one generic title for every type of nurse. But this is far from the truth. From ER nurses to school nurses and even radiologists, the options are endless. Research different nursing schools and see if they offer the type of program you’re interested in. Different positions require different courses and training. Many nursing schools offer a wide range of courses with specific programs for specialties. Here are a few positions to consider:

  • Pediatric nurse
  • Oncology nurse
  • ER nurse
  • Registered nurse
  • ICU nurse
  • Traveling nurse
  • OR (operating room) nurse

Before you choose a school, you need to choose the type of nurse you want to be. Evaluate the schedule, demands, and job criteria for each position before choosing. Once you do, research which nursing schools offer the best programs in your area of expertise.

2. Don’t Choose Based on Rankings Alone

A common mistake eager graduates make is choosing a school based solely on its national rankings. While rankings are important, they’re not everything. Most nursing schools are rated based on their overall performance and quality of education. But these standards are often determined on a very broad basis, meaning the school at the top of the list might not have a strong program in your specialized field. Unless you plan to pursue a career as a registered nurse or nurse to a general practitioner, start your search using specific program rankings, not the ranking of the school itself.   

3. Visit, Visit, and Visit More!

When you’re an excited medical student, it’s easy to fall in love with the first nursing school you visit. But avoid doing this. Be sure to visit multiple schools in different locations before selecting. Some people make their decisions based solely on a school’s website or brochure. Without physically visiting the school, you can’t get a true feel for how the classes are run or if its a good fit for you and your individual needs. Schedule a tour while class is in session. Then, you’ll see how the instructors interact with students, class size, and you’ll get an overall sense of the school’s environment. This is also a great opportunity to ask plenty of questions. Ask students what they like and dislike about the school. If you have a specific question for a staff member, approach one after class and see what they can tell you. When it comes to choosing the right nursing school, go with your gut.

4. Be Honest About Your Financial Goals

Just like not all nursing positions carry the same requirements, they also don’t carry the same salaries. What are your financial goals? Is there a certain amount of money you want or need to make in order to be successful? Also, which positions offer room for advancement? These are all things to consider when choosing the right nursing path for you. Some of the highest paid nursing positions include general practitioner nurses, anesthetists, pain management nurses, and family nurse practitioners. But with higher pay comes a higher demand. Be sure you’re prepared for the commitment.

5. Class Size and Clinical Rotation

Some students learn best in an intimate classroom setting. But when it comes to medical and nursing schools, class size can be overwhelming. Ask the school advisor or admissions office what the average class size is. The smaller the class, the more hands-on learning and help you’ll get. Another major part of any nursing program is the clinicals. This is where students experience hands-on training in either a doctor’s office, hospital, or surgical office, depending on their specialty. Clinicals are a nursing student’s first taste at what their career will look like. They’ll quickly learn if they can handle the fast-paced and stressful schedule of a full-time nurse. This is especially true for ER and OR nurses who are constantly under pressure and dealing with medical emergencies. Some students ace the academic, lab portion of a nursing program but struggle when it comes time for clinicals. Clinicals are a great experience for prospective nurses, so be sure that the school you choose offers them.

6. Cost and Location

No list of tips for choosing a nursing school would be complete without discussing tuition. Sadly, money makes the world go around. And if you’re not guaranteed to land a job that will help pay off your student loans, you need to seriously consider the cost of nursing school. Prices vary dramatically between public and private programs, similar to most colleges. Other things to consider include if you’re an in-state or out-of-state resident and if the school offers financial aid options. At the end of the day, don’t put yourself into immense debt simply because one nursing school is slightly more appealing than another. Weigh all your options carefully before making your final decision.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to embark on a rewarding career that requires not only specialized training but a special person. If your dream is to become a nurse, it’s time to narrow down your search. Decide on what type of nurse you’d like to be and then research nursing schools accordingly. Regardless of what path you choose, you’ll be touching and changing lives — including your own!

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