Can you take the NCLEX if you graduated from a nursing school that wasn’t accredited? Can you work as a nurse without having graduated from an accredited school?
Those are all great questions that can be raised when considering attending a nursing school program that does not yet have an accreditation, or if you will soon be graduating.
We recently received a question on this very subject:
Hello, I am currently in my last semester (4th) of nursing school, ADN. My classmates and I are the 1st class before the college could be accredited. The accreditation team was here last week and the college did not pass and will not be accredited.
My question is are we still able to take the Wisconsin NCLEX exam in January and will we be employable? Please, any input or guidance you can offer would be so very appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you and I sincerely am hoping that these past 2 years of full time nursing school has not been for nothing as a single parent of 5 children. Thank you!
I am so very sorry to hear of your situation, and I can tell from your tone in the question that you must be so frustrated and worried right now (and rightfully so). After plugging away for so long, caring for 5 children (no small feat!), and spending so much time (and money) at a nursing school, you are now uncertain if you will even be able to become licensed.
This is a complex issue, and by no means am I an attorney or licensing expert. Nevertheless, you seem so worried that I wanted to give your question my best shot, hoping that it may lead you in the right direction or give you some comfort. So bear with me as I try to address your concerns.
Can You Take The NCLEX If Your Nursing School Wasn’t Accredited?
According to the State Board of Nursing in Wisconsin, this is what it says on their website regarding the educational requirements for licensing:
Completion of high school or its equivalent and graduation from or completion of an accredited school of nursing approved by board (emphasis mine).
If you are applying for RN licensure by examination through completion of the Pre-MSN basic nursing requirements, there is no guarantee that you will be eligible for an RN license in other states.
Graduates of non-U.S.schools: Successful completion of a qualifying examination.
According to Wisconsin’s board, you will need to have graduated from an accredited school approved by the board. Your school did not pass accreditation, so you will need to take steps to find out what to do from here.
I will offer a few suggestions on how you may want to handle this going forward:
Suggestion #1–Perhaps the Board of Nursing will go ahead and accept your educational requirements even if the school isn’t accredited yet, and allow you to take the NCLEX. In this case, as long as you pass the NCLEX, you would be considered a licensed nurse and would be employable. Also, it is a high probability that the school will eventually be accredited if they continue applying.
The big “if,” is whether or not the state board will accept your education thus far, since you were enrolled in a university that was actively seeking this accreditation. Ultimately, it’s up to the Board.
Since it will ultimately be up to them, my advice is that you contact them directly as soon as possible to inquire about this. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure how long it may take your school to re-apply for accreditation, but it is possible they will achieve this status before you graduate if they can re-apply within that time frame. Hopefully they will get accredited status before you graduate, which would remove any problems. If not, this is a unique situation and perhaps the Wisconsin Nursing Board will have compassion on your class and allow you to take the NCLEX.
Suggestion #2–If that doesn’t work, and you will not be able to get licensed unless you graduate from an accredited university, then perhaps you could see if an accredited university in your area will accept the bulk of your work at the university, and finish perhaps a few courses there and graduate. The only problem here is that since it isn’t accredited, they may not allow a full transfer of credits (or perhaps none at all).
Again, this would depend entirely upon the university’s policies, and whether or not they recognize the school in question to be a legitimate school. Nevertheless, this would probably be the next logical attempt to get licensed if your school isn’t close to an accreditation, and they state board won’t accept it.
Suggestion #3–Your next option is that you could wait in hopes that the university does pass accreditation within a few more months. Again, I am not sure how long the process is, and how much of a time-lag there is between waiting to re-apply for accreditation. However, it is conceivable that they may eventually pass soon. So perhaps within a few weeks or months after graduation, they would get accreditation status and you could then schedule to take the NCLEX since you will have met the requirements.
Suggestion #4–If Wisconsin’s state board won’t accept your education, and if you cannot finish in a neighboring school by transferring credits, and if your school continues to get denied for this accreditation (leaving you with an essentially un-licensable degree), then your last option could be a lawsuit.
I hate to suggest lawsuits because in all honesty, I feel that Americans these days are too “lawsuit happy” and often file suit over frivolous causes. However, if the university in question led you to believe they were going to be accredited (or already were), or if you enrolled under the pretense that you could become a licensed RN (and you can’t), then it seems you would have a good legal case.
Again, I would caution this to be the very last option, because lawsuits are expensive and often time consuming. Perhaps the university would refund your tuition in full, or make restitution to you without having to actually sue them (which would be preferred). So I’d definitely work with the university first to see what they could do to help you or make restitution if things fall through and you are left without the option of getting a license.
However, if you have no other option, and you’ve tried all of the other methods to get a license and you can’t, then it might be a good idea to seek the advice of a local attorney.
So to briefly summarize, my best advice is to contact the board of nursing and ask them directly, to aks your university how long it will take to re-apply for accreditation (and when they will know if they passed or not the next time), and to contact surrounding accredited schools to ask about transfer credits.
Once you get those answers, perhaps your next steps will become more clear.
Some Encouragement and Hope
Lastly, I just want to say that without a doubt you will get this resolved eventually. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and determination to raise 5 children and attend school, and I think that you will make an excellent nurse. Hang in there.
Also, whenever things like this happen in my life, I try to turn to my faith and realize that everything happens for a reason. It may not be immediately clear, and there may be a period of struggling and frustration. But I try to force myself to trust that it will all work out in the end.
I hope this helps, and I said a prayer for you before I published this post.