Does it matter which nursing school you go to? Should nursing students try to attend the most prestigious university possible? Many aspiring nursing students ask this question.
The short answer is that the nursing school you choose to attend could affect your nursing career in some ways, but it certainly isn’t the only thing that counts. Great nurses have come from not-so-great nursing programs, and vice versa.
Nevertheless, there are some things you’ll want to consider when comparing nursing schools.
Nursing School Accreditation
Accreditation can be important for a few reasons. First, it shows that the nursing program has been reviewed and that it meets certain educational standards, which indicates that it will offer a quality educational experience.
Second, if you plan to attend graduate school, many graduate schools will require that you graduated from an accredited program for your undergraduate degree. Even if you don’t see yourself going back to school for a master’s or doctorate degree, you never know where the future will lead, so it’s good to keep your options open.
Finally, federal funding options for colleges and universities are often contingent upon accreditation. So if you are eligible for federally funded financial aid or grants, you’ll want to keep that in mind.
Nevertheless, if you are attending a nursing program that lacks accreditation, it doesn’t mean you’ll be an inferior nurse or that the school isn’t going to prepare you for the nursing profession. In fact, there are many fantastic nurses working today who graduated from a nursing program that was not accredited.
However, accreditation is something you’ll want to keep in mind when comparing nursing schools, for the reasons cited above.
Nursing School Accreditation Examples
Most nursing programs are offered by local colleges, technical schools, and universities. There are two main accreditation types for universities in general: regional and national.
In addition, there are nursing-specific accreditation bodies, such as Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). As you compare nursing schools, you can see if the program is accredited, and if so, which type of accreditation the nursing school holds.
NCLEX Pass Rates
As you compare nursing schools, you can also look at the NCLEX pass rates for each program. This can give you an idea of how well the school is preparing students for the NCLEX exam. So, if you see that one nursing school has an NCLEX pass rate of 75%, and another school has a pass rate of 95%, you can make a more informed decision about which program would best prepare you for NCLEX.
Another factor to consider is the likelihood of securing a job after graduation. Some universities have high job placement rates, robust clinical rotation sites that will allow you to experience different specialties, and a good rapport in the community, whereas other nursing programs may have fewer clinical opportunities available. Most universities will publish job placement rates along with their NCLEX pass rates.
As I’ve mentioned in my other videos, I was able to secure my first job by networking during my clinical rotations. I got hired onto the unit for which I worked during my senior practicum.
I’ve spoken with some nurses who felt that the program they attended didn’t offer good clinical options during nursing school, so that’s something you might want to consider.
Nursing School Costs/Scholarships
Tuition costs can vary dramatically from school to school, and some schools may offer additional scholarship opportunities. Therefore, the school you choose could affect your finances in a big way.
And as I mentioned before, accreditation could affect federal funding options (financial aid) available at your school as well, so keep that in mind.
The School You Attend Won’t Affect Everything
Although you’ll definitely want to research and consider the things I’ve mentioned above, the nursing school you attend won’t impact everything in your nursing career.
For example, as long as you pass NCLEX, you’ll be considered a competent, licensed nurse. For many employers, this is good enough to hire you. Once you get the job, you can continue to grow in your career by obtaining additional certifications, gaining real-world work experience, taking continuing education courses, and more.
And although some schools do help with job placement, there is still a nursing shortage in many areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 15% growth rate for RNs between years 2016-2026, which is much faster than the average rate for all occupations. So, you stand a very good chance of securing a nursing job so long as you pass NCLEX, and the future job market for nursing still looks great.
Finally, your nursing education is just the foundation of your nursing career, not the final destination. It’s not so much where you got your degree, but rather, what you plan to do with it. Take Florence Nightingale as an example.
Florence Nightingale did not receive a degree from a prestigious nursing university. She received training from a hospital in Germany, which, according to most sources, lasted less than four months.
Yet Florence felt like she had a calling from God to become a nurse, and she worked tirelessly to improve conditions for patients and to systemize a training method for nurses. She revolutionized the nursing profession, and most nursing schools today still recite the Nightingale pledge.
Conclusion: Does the Nursing School You Attend Matter?
The nursing school you attend can matter in some ways. It could impact your finances, future degree options, likelihood to pass NCLEX, and so forth.
However, you could also attend a small, relatively unknown school and still do amazing things in your nursing career by working hard and thinking outside of the box.