Choosing a School

In her latest entry, our blogger offers some tips on where to start your nursing journey

When deciding to start a nursing career, one of the first steps is deciding which school you want to attend. There are many different options for potential nurses. I personally went to a diploma school to attain my diploma in nursing, and then completed an online program for my Bachelor’s degree. There are pros and cons to each program.

A diploma program is usually associated with a hospital. I attended the Reading (PA) Hospital School of Health Sciences. Many major hospitals have a program associated with them and in most cases, you will receive a diploma from these schools. The biggest ‘pro’ of a diploma program is you begin clinicals right away. Clinicals are the direct patient care part of your degree program—applying what you learn. By starting clinicals right away, you’ll learn early on whether nursing is truly what you want to do or not.

The other plus is that you gain experience right away and grow on that experience throughout your schooling. Many bachelor programs will not start clinicals until junior or senior year. If you find you don’t enjoy the actual application of what you’ve learned, you have already spent years working towards your degree and it may be hard to switch degrees in some cases.

The other ‘pro’ is that since you are typically trained by the hospital, and learn all of the hospital’s policies throughout the program, the hospital will most likely offer you a job at one of their facilities.

The downside of a diploma program is that most hospitals now want employees to have a bachelor’s degree. You will be able to work with your diploma, but they will want you to continue schooling. However, most the time the hospital will offer to pay for part of your bachelor’s degree. The other ‘con’ of this type of schooling is that it is very hard to switch to a different degree because you are in a nursing program. It is not a university setting where you can switch majors. You would have to withdraw from the school and apply to something new to switch majors.

I would recommend the diploma approach if you know nursing is definitely what you want to do, and if you know the hospital where you’d like to pursue employment.

Universities offer a four-year degree program. You graduate with your Bachelor’s degree, and you start clinicals in your junior and senior year. You get experience, and you get to complete clinicals at different locations. This is also a good option for those of you who are going right from high school because many millennials like to have the “college” experience. As a millennial attending a diploma program, I was very happy I only had to attend school for two years and could start making money right away, but sometimes I regretted not having the full college experience like many of my friends did.

The university experience comes at an increased cost, but it is also easy to change majors at universities. Also, if you decide you want to continue on to your master’s or doctorate right away, the transition is quite simple. I would not recommend this for adults going back to school with families and jobs. It can be quite challenging to balance a full course load at a university with a full-time life of responsibilities as well.

Community Colleges also offer programs that will have you graduating with an associate’s degree. This is a nice option for working adults who have families because you pick your pace. They offer clinicals after all of your general education classes are done. This option is typically the cheapest. Since they are often not associated with an university or hospital sometimes it is a little more difficult to find a job, but right now the nursing field has tons of job opportunities, so this is not a major concern.

There are always different schools offering for you to get your online degree. I would not recommend this approach for your initial degree, because it is very hard to learn what you actually need in this setting. Often times, you will have to find your own clinicals. Finding your own clinicals is very challenging unless you know a lot of people in the medical field. For your bachelor’s or master’s, an online degree is a good choice because you will most likely be working at that point, and won’t need to do clinicals.

Overall, each option has its own set of pros and cons. You need to decide what you want out of your schooling and how quickly you want to finish.

What can you afford financially? There a ton of scholarship opportunities out there on the web as well. so always be on the lookout! If you have any questions, or want to know more, please just comment and let us know!

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