If you are compassionate, you thrive in a fast-paced environment, you know the value of hard work and you feel impassioned to use your career to help others, it's no wonder you're considering becoming a nurse. For the 14th straight year, nursing was ranked the most honest, ethical and trusted profession in 2015, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Now that you've begun to envision your future as a nurse, it's time to decide which path you want to take to get there. What may seem like an easy task on the surface gets suddenly more complicated when you discover just how many nursing schools there are out there.
That is why we compiled research and spoke to experts in the field of nursing to highlight the six things to look for when you're choosing a stand-out nursing school. Take a look at what we found.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way up front: The best nursing programs all maintain a reputation of high academic standing. This might be difficult to identify on the surface, but there are a few things you can look for to signify a program's academic quality.
When viewing the program's information page on the school's website, look for statistics on the pass rates for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), information regarding historical esteem and any citations of national or regional rankings. If a program doesn't make this information readily available, this may be cause for concern.
For example, a quick glance at the various School of Nursing pages at The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) will tell you that its students boast a 96.88 percent pass rate for the NCLEX, making the College one of the top performers among baccalaureate nursing programs in its home state of Minnesota. On these pages, you'll also see that CSS has been educating successful nurses since 1908 and The School of Nursing has been recognized by Nursing Schools Almanac as one of the top nursing schools in the Plains Region, as well as one of the top private nursing schools in the country.
Another important element to consider when choosing a nursing school is the variety of learning tracks offered. As you embark on your search, be sure to examine your career goals from the onset. Each specialty you might be considering can be paired with its own academic requirements.
For example, pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who typically have a bachelor's degree in the field. Psychiatric nurses, on the other hand, obtain a required master's degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
No matter what your end goal is as a nurse, a nursing school that offers a variety of different nursing tracks will be much more likely to accommodate your educational needs.
"Holistic nursing practice implies that you're looking at the whole person, not just their illness or disease," says Dr. Julie Anderson, dean of nursing at CSS. Treating the whole person, she explains, includes considering their emotional, cognitive, financial and spiritual needs, in addition to their physical ones. "We teach the students to look at patients within the framework of building trust and treating all people equally."
Dr. Anderson adds that looking at someone holistically also includes considering the needs of their loved ones, as they often serve as a patient's primary caregivers in times of healthcare hardships.
If you wish to work by the motto of most nurses to provide the level of care you'd hope to receive, holistic practice is essential. The Benedictine values of community, hospitality, respect, stewardship and love of learning at CSS support this in full.
Nurses are in high demand nationwide, but there are some big differences between working as a nurse in a diverse urban community and working as a nurse in a small rural community. If you want to truly be able to land a nursing job anywhere, it's important to look for a nursing school that can educate you in how to work in both settings.
Dr. Anderson describes this important distinction in highlighting the varying needs of both settings. Urban communities will see higher need for healthcare workers to be well-versed in treating patients from a variety of cultural backgrounds, while healthcare workers in rural communities must learn important lessons in resource management, as they're often required to do more with less.
The School of Nursing at CSS teaches students about working in both rural and urban settings in addition to offering a diverse array of clinical opportunities, including hospitals, schools, community health facilities and homeless shelters. This helps teach students a diversity of thought, according to Dr. Anderson.
"It makes our students stronger as individuals, helping them to think differently in terms of forming their own values and thoughts by learning the perspectives of different people," she adds. "This also helps them realize the potential of the disadvantaged and marginalized."
Further adding to a nursing student's exposure to working in diverse communities are the international opportunities unique to some nursing programs. For example, The School of Nursing at CSS offers faculty-led study-away experiences to its undergraduate nurses in Tanzania, Belize, London, the Philippines and Germany.
"Having some concept of global health and its impact on where you live is important," Dr. Anderson explains. "Part of our mission is to reach out across the world to help improve the world's health, as well as continentally."
Finally, you can be sure that you're learning the best when you're taught from the best. "You want professors who are still practicing and can give you more practical insight," explains practicing nurse Michelle Katz, MSN.
Take a peek at the 'Faculty and Staff' page for the programs you're considering. Do they list up-to-date and ongoing accomplishments of the School of Nursing's faculty? Is it clear that the faculty members are still immersed in the current world of nursing practice? If not, you may want to look elsewhere.
Your drive to become a nurse is likely fueled by your desire to help patients in need. In order to do so, you'll want to be sure you're being educated by the best possible program. Use this list as your guide as you embark upon your search for the best nursing programs for you.
If the list above represents factors that are important to you in your search for a nursing school, you may want to consider the School of Nursing at The College of St. Scholastica. Take a look at our article on the 7 things you should know about the nursing programs at CSS to learn more!