If you’re interested in becoming a registered nurse (RN), selecting the right path might seem overwhelming. You may wonder, “Does it matter where I get my nursing degree?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Let’s look at some important attributes to consider when choosing a nursing school.
1. Credit for Your Prior Degree
Do you already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree? If so, we have good news. You won’t have to finish four more years of study to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree (considered the preferred nursing degree by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing).
While traditional BSN tracks take four years to complete, the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas, allows you to leverage your previous degree to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.
To be eligible for admission into the UIW ABSN track, you must have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all undergraduate coursework.
Additional admission requirements include earning a proficient score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) and completing a number of prerequisite courses.
If completion time is a factor in choosing the right nursing track for you, it’s worth noting that the ABSN track at UIW offers three starts per year — in January, May and August — so you may be able to begin your nursing education at UIW sooner than with other programs.
2. Does the Program Provide Adequate Clinical Experience?
Another consideration when selecting which BSN program to attend is whether they offer quality clinical experiences. Coursework and labs are important; but to become a confident, competent nurse, you must gain hands-on clinical experience in real healthcare settings.
As an ABSN student at UIW, you’ll complete more than 900 hours of clinical experience in a variety of clinical settings throughout the San Antonio area. Our esteemed clinical partners include two of the most respected health care networks in Texas — CHRISTUS Health System and Methodist Healthcare System.
Due to the accelerated nature of our nursing track, you’ll participate in clinicals beginning in your first semester. As you progress through the program you will provide patient care with increasing complexity under the supervision.
Your clinical placements will expose you to a variety of specialty areas, which could include:
- Primary care
- Adult acute care (hospital)
- Behavioral health
- Primary Care
3. Nursing School Accreditation Matters
If a nursing program is accredited, its quality and integrity have been validated by one of two nationally recognized organizations — the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).* Accreditation is a guarantee that the nursing program follows nationally established guidelines to ensure public safety. On top of having national accreditation, the nursing program you choose should be approved by its respective state. Does it matter where you get your nursing degree? Employers would say yes. They prefer to hire nurses who’ve graduated from accredited and approved programs and tracks because they know the curriculum has been properly vetted.
*The difference between the two accrediting agencies is that CCNE does not accredit Licensed Practical Nurse, diploma or Associate Degree in Nursing programs, whereas ACEN does.
If you don’t graduate from an accredited nursing program, you may not be allowed to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®), which you must pass to become a licensed RN in the U.S. (More about the NCLEX later).
As you’ll see below, UIW and its ABSN track are fully accredited.
The University of the Incarnate Word is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, doctorate and professional degrees. Questions about the accreditation of University of the Incarnate Word may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).
The baccalaureate degree in nursing program, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice programs and post-graduate certificate programs at University of the Incarnate Word are all accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791.
The ABSN track of the BSN program at the University of the Incarnate Word is approved by the Texas Board of Nursing (BON), located at 333 Guadalupe, Suite 3-460, Austin, TX 78701-3944, 512-305-7400.
4. NCLEX Pass Rates Should Be Above National Average
No matter which nursing track you complete , after graduating you must pass the NCLEX to become a licensed RN in the U.S. Unlike other tests you may have taken, the NCLEX poses questions that can be answered in any number of ways. It’s up to you to pick the “most correct” answers.
Due to the importance of this exam, you should make sure that your prospective school includes NCLEX preparation in its curriculum. At UIW, our nursing students repeatedly take NCLEX-style exams and quizzes to become comfortable with the unique testing method.
Our approach to NCLEX preparation has proven effective. For example, in 2020, 98.73% of UIW BSN graduates passed the exam on their first try — which is especially impressive considering the national average pass rate for BSN graduates in 2020 was 90.29%.
5. Consider Staff and Faculty Support
Hopefully, you’re beginning to recognize that it matters where you earn your nursing degree. If you need further evidence, you might consider this factor: What kind of admission/enrollment and academic support does the nursing program provide?
Before embarking on your nursing education, you need to make sure it’s the right program for you. Once you inquire about the ABSN track at UIW, an admissions counselor will contact you directly.
On your first phone call, your dedicated admissions counselor will ask questions to become familiar with your background — including your reasons for wanting to become a nurse, any previous academic experiences, career goals, financial considerations and more. And you’ll be able to ask questions about the accelerated nursing track. By the end of your first conversation, if your counselor believes you would be a good fit for our ABSN track, they’ll have you send over copies of your unofficial transcript.
Once they’ve reviewed your transcript, your counselor will work with you to determine a target start date, as well as a detailed roadmap for meeting each of the ABSN track’s requirements, including any prerequisites you need to complete.
Your admissions counselor will support you throughout the admissions and enrollment process.
It’s also important to inquire about the level of academic support offered in a prospective nursing track. At UIW, our academic advisors and faculty are accessible. And you’ll find that they’re invested in your success. They’ll go out of their way to help you.
Our students can opt to stay in touch with academic coaches and instructors via email and online discussion boards. (Some students feel that they can communicate more freely online than in person.)
It’s also common for UIW ABSN students to meet with faculty through our Learning Management System’s (LMS) video-chat feature. And if you prefer, instructors are always open to scheduling face-to-face meetings to address any questions or concerns you might have.
You’ll also get a great deal of regular face-time with instructors during nursing skills and simulation labs at our Accelerated BSN Learning Center.
And throughout your clinical experiences, you’ll receive both personalized attention from our instructors and expert guidance from RNs and other clinical staff at each facility.
Contact Our Admissions Team
Now that we’ve examined the importance of where you get a nursing degree and the benefits of the ABSN track at UIW, you may be ready to take the next step in your nursing journey. Reach out today for more information. We’re ready when you are.