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What are Nursing Schools?

Nurses are part of a team of medical professionals who provide hands-on care for patients. They often are the first line of defense when medical treatment for any condition is necessary – taking patient vitals, recording medical history and current symptoms and even dispensing medication to patients who may be hospitalized.

All nursing students, regardless of which type of degree they are earning, will be required to complete basic courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nursing, nutrition, chemistry and behavioral sciences.

Associate degrees, also called ADNs, can be earned in two to three years. Students who complete an associate degree program are qualified to work in doctor’s offices, hospitals and even nursing homes.

Some hospitals also offer diploma programs in nursing, one of the oldest and most traditional nursing training programs available. Those who complete a diploma program are qualified for entry-level nursing positions.

Those who wish to work in administrative roles should pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, also called a BSN. Students who choose an undergraduate degree program in nursing can expect to spend at least four years in a nursing program before completing their training. A master’s degree in nursing, also called an M.S.N., permits those who hold the degree to work in educational settings. Some nursing programs require their teaching professionals to possess a doctorate degree, while others only require an M.S.N.

All nurses are required to take a state licensing exam prior to practice. If the exam is passed, the nurse is considered registered, earning the Registered Nurse designation.

When choosing a nursing school, it is best to look for an accredited program. The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, or NLNAC, is among the quality accrediting agencies. The NLNAC website contains a listing of all programs which have received accreditation through them, the year they were accredited and primary contacts for the institution’s nursing degree program. Individual state nursing boards also can offer accreditation to programs within their states. A third reputable accrediting agency is the American Association of Colleges for Nursing, or AACN. Butler County Community College has accreditation through the NLNAC.

It also is wise to make sure nursing is a career in which you want to spend your life. While it can be very rewarding, it also can be stressful. Training to become a nurse also is a very demanding course of study, and students who decide to pursue nursing careers should be prepared to dedicate a significant amount of their time on coursework.

Karen Aul, M.S.N. and assistant professor of nursing at Butler County Community College, said students who are not prepared to put in the time will not be successful in nursing. “Nursing education has become complex and rigorous and there is a lot of information for students to learn in a short period of time.”

Melina Kerekes, a nursing student enrolled in Westmoreland County Community College’s nursing program, agreed that the workload is heavy and said students should be prepared for it.

Kerekes said she wanted to become a nurse for a variety of reasons. “First and most important, I like taking care of people. Nursing also is a field that is always going to be needed, and the pay is good.”

Westmoreland County Community College’s program is accredited by the NLNAC.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses, or RNs, was $64,690 as of 2010. The lowest 10 percent of those surveyed earned less than $44,190 and the top earners in the industry – those who possess a master-level degree – earned in excess of $95,000 per year.

Nursing, like many other medical careers, is expected to grow 26 percent by the year 2020. Due to technological advancements and the ability to treat diseases and conditions which previously could not be medically treated, the demand for qualified nursing professionals is not expected to decrease anytime soon.

Kerekes said she plans to specialize in neo-natal nursing, which involves working with and caring for premature babies. Nurses who choose specializations within the field can expect to spend more time in training at a school for nursing before completing their degrees.

Her advice to anyone considering entering the nursing field is to work hard, right from day one.

Aul also offered a bit of advice to anyone considering entering the nursing field. “I suggest that anyone who is interested in becoming a nurse participate in a job shadow of a nurse currently in the field. Before you ever consider enrolling, know what it is you’re getting yourself into first.”

Articles & content by Shari Berg,


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  • Practical Nursing
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  • Nursing
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  • Nursing, BS (Online Only)
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*High school diploma or GED required.

*Licensed by OBPVS.


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