You’ve made up your mind … you want to switch career paths and become a registered nurse. Given the growing demand in Texas and nationwide, now is a good time to enter this life-changing profession. But before starting, what are some questions to ask about becoming a nurse? Furthermore, how can you ensure you choose the right nursing program?
If you already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can build on your previous education to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree sooner through the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track, which is offered by University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.
However, before you choose your nursing school, here are 12 questions to ask nursing schools before starting. Answering these will help you make the right choice for your nursing education.
1. Which degree should I pursue?
There are several degree options for those pursuing a career as a nurse: associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree. What degree should you choose to become an RN?
While an associate degree will allow you to become licensed as a registered nurse, we recommend you pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). That’s because compared to an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree provides several additional benefits:
- Better job security and higher demand
- Higher salary
- More leadership and management opportunities
- More specialty and employer options
- The ability to return to school for an advanced nursing degree
Because of these and many other benefits of a bachelor’s degree for your nursing career, earning a BSN in the ABSN track at UIW is a great decision.
2. How long will the program take to complete?
If you already have one degree, you may not want to spend another four years in school. Luckily, if you live near San Antonio (or are willing to relocate), you can use your previous education to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months with the University of the Incarnate Word Accelerated BSN track.
Unlike traditional nursing schools, this hybrid track blends online coursework with hands-on labs and clinicals, making it possible to accept more students while still maintaining small lab and clinical student-to-faculty ratios. Not only that, but this innovative approach also allows us to offer three starts a year. All of this means you may be able to finish nursing school sooner than you might think.
3. How soon can I begin the program?
If you’re looking to transition into a new career in nursing, you likely don’t want to waste any time. Starting nursing school can help you get into your career sooner. So what can you do to ensure you can start as soon as possible?
The first factor to look at is the number of start dates the program offers. Traditionally, nursing schools offer one start date each year, which means students often have to wait up to a year just to begin the program.
However, some schools offer multiple start dates each year, which means you can begin nursing school sooner. For example, at UIW, the ABSN track offers three start dates each year — in January, May and August — so you can begin soon after completing your prerequisites.
The other factor to consider is whether the school uses a waitlist, since waiting around instead of starting school is less than ideal. Thankfully, with UIW’s ABSN track, you likely won’t need to worry about being placed on a waitlist.
4. Is the program properly accredited and state-approved?
Another key point when considering a nursing program is whether it meets regulatory standards, including accreditation and state approval. Accreditation means that a school meets specific criteria determined by an accrediting body. State approval is performed by each state’s board of nursing to ensure nursing programs meet their standards for quality and safety.
Not every nursing school or track is accredited or state-approved, which, if you’re not careful, can mean a lot of time and money wasted. Going to an accredited and approved school will help you avoid issues with receiving federal loans, getting approved to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), earning your nursing license and finding a job as a nurse.
For these reasons, it’s important to research nursing school accreditation and approval before committing to a nursing track. University of the Incarnate Word is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and our ABSN track is accredited by the Commission on College Nursing Education (CCNE) with approval from the Texas Board of Nursing.
5. What are the admissions requirements?
When selecting a nursing school, it’s important to consider the admissions requirements. For one thing, you want to know the nursing track you’re looking at sets high standards. That alone says a lot about the quality of education you’ll receive.
Not only that, you want to know that what you’re looking at is a good fit. If your GPA falls considerably short of the requirements set by a particular nursing school, you likely need to look elsewhere.
However, in the case of a school that requires a slightly higher GPA than you currently hold, there are things you can do to improve your GPA. An admissions counselor will evaluate your unofficial transcripts to determine how you might improve your GPA to meet the requirements during your initial conversations with them.
The requirements for the ABSN track at UIW include a minimum GPA of 2.8 and a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to receive a proficient score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) and complete the required prerequisite courses.
6. Will I need to take any prerequisite courses to be eligible?
Before choosing a nursing school, you need to consider the prerequisite course requirements, as they vary considerably from school to school.
Every prerequisite course we require you to take for the UIW ABSN track is relevant to your nursing education. These courses, which include important topics such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biological chemistry, statistics, nutrition and psychology, can be completed 100% online through University of the Incarnate Word using the same learning management system (LMS) we use for the online portion of our ABSN track.
That said, just because we require these courses doesn’t mean you will need to take them. Depending on your previous college education, you may already meet the prerequisite course requirements. When you call UIW to discuss our 16-month ABSN track, your admissions counselor will review your previous education history with you to determine what, if any, prerequisites you need to complete.
7. Where will I complete my clinical rotations?
Clinicals are one of the most important components of your nursing education, providing you experiential learning opportunities in a variety of healthcare settings. However, not every nursing school offers the same caliber of clinical experience. This makes it important to look into where you’ll be attending yours.
Thanks to our strong connection to the San Antonio community, University of the Incarnate Word ABSN students benefit from partnerships with two of South Texas’ most respected health networks — CHRISTUS Health System and Methodist Healthcare System. Known throughout Texas and the region, these clinical partnerships provide not only terrific learning experiences, but also opportunities to network.
8. What are the NCLEX pass rates for past graduates?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well you did in nursing school — if you don’t pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), you won’t receive licensure as a registered nurse. That’s because the NCLEX is not the kind of test most of us remember from school.
On most tests you might have taken in your previous academic experience, there was probably a right answer, and the rest were incorrect. On the NCLEX, any number of answers could be correct; your job is to pick the most correct answer. Also, unlike most tests, the NCLEX-RN uses a computerized algorithm to adjust the questions you receive based on your previous performance. For this reason, it’s possible to pass or fail the test with just 75 questions or as many as 265.
Because of this, you want to choose a nursing school that builds NCLEX preparation into the curriculum. At University of the Incarnate Word, nursing students take NCLEX-style quizzes and exams throughout their education to help them get into the right testing mindset. The results speak for themselves with consistently high NCLEX pass rates.
9. What is the admissions process like, and what support is available?
When you research the nursing school admissions process, you’ll likely realize how overwhelming the process at some schools can be. At University of the Incarnate Word, we realize that applying for nursing school should be simple. So we set out to make our Accelerated BSN track admissions process as seamless as possible. That’s why the first step is to speak with an admissions counselor.
Your admissions counselor will discuss your qualifications, the accelerated nursing track and the application process in simple, easy terms. They will also answer any questions you have. More importantly, if you are deemed a good candidate for our track, you’ll be assigned a single admissions counselor to guide you through the entire process, and this means you’ll never feel alone in this venture.
In fact, your counselor will check in with you regularly throughout the process, keeping you informed of any next steps and advising you on what you can do to improve your chances of getting into nursing school.
10. What other factors should I consider when choosing a nursing school?
When weighing your nursing school options, consider things like accreditation, clinicals, NCLEX pass rates and admissions requirements, but you should keep in mind some intangibles.
First, the reputation and quality of the school matters. Look for a school with a long record of excellence. Not only does it show the university is in it for the long haul; prospective employers want to see that a job candidate attended a university with a solid reputation.
Founded in 1931, the University of the Incarnate Word Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions has a long history of nursing excellence. In fact, the school was the first university west of the Mississippi River to offer an accredited bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Second, consider the faculty and instructor support available during nursing school. That’s because in a rigorous, accelerated curriculum like UIW’s ABSN track, it’s important to ensure you’ll have the resources you need to succeed.
11. How much time will I need to commit to the program?
Ask any nurse whether nursing school is hard and, chances are, you’re going to find unanimous agreement. No one said nursing school is easy — and that’s a good thing. After all, nurses carry great responsibility. They need to be highly skilled and knowledgeable about what they do.
For this reason, nursing school can feel a lot like a full-time job, especially an accelerated nursing track. Before deciding, you need to be honest about how much you can take on. If you need to continue working full time, an accelerated nursing track is probably not a good idea for you. However, if you already have a non-nursing degree or non-nursing college credits and want to switch careers to nursing as soon as possible, an ABSN track is your best bet.
12. Do I need prior nursing experience to succeed?
Certain nursing programs are suited for those who already have a nursing degree, such as RN to BSN programs. On the other hand, ABSN tracks like the one at UIW are tailored for students without a nursing degree. That means you do not need any prior nursing experience to be eligible for the ABSN.
Even so, some of our ABSN students have prior healthcare or patient care experience, though that’s not a requirement. This experience does help set you apart, and it shows you what you enjoy about patient care, which can be helpful for your personal essay and nursing school interview.
Get Started with Nursing School Today
Now that you know what questions to ask nursing schools, it’s time to pursue your goal of becoming a nurse. Through UIW’s ABSN track, you can achieve that goal in as few as 16 months through our hybrid online curriculum.
To learn more about the Accelerated BSN track at University of the Incarnate Word, fill out our online form, and our admissions counselors will reach out to you to get started.