NURSE.com: Back to School – Tips on How to Return to the Classroom

Jane Dolan RN, MSN, did her part to dispel the myth that there isn’t much money available for graduate nursing students in a national cover story in Nursing Spectrum. “There is money out there and students should take advantage of it,” said Dolan, graduate clinical and recruitment coordinator at Pace University’s Lienhard School of Nursing in Pleasantville, N.Y.

Nursing Spectrum, published by Gannett Health Care group, ran a national cover story featuring Jane Dolan RN, MSN, Graduate Clinical and Recruitment Coordinator in the College of Health Professions. Dolan provides tips on paying for school for graduate nursing students.

From the story:

Going back to school can be good not only for an RN’s career, experts say, but also for the profession and the country.

As part of a 2010 report, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, in partnership with the Institute of Medicine, called for improvements to nursing education and for RNs to climb the educational ladder. That conclusion stemmed from evaluations of the public’s needs, healthcare’s complexity, systemic gaps and the importance of nurses having educational parity with their peers, said Michael Bleich, RN, PhD, FAAN, a member of the Future of Nursing committee.

Although it may be a national imperative, pursuing an advanced degree is about personal and professional growth and “creating a set of experiences to enliven the cognitive capacity of a person, the spiritual and human dimensions of caring,” said Bleich, a professor and former dean at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing in Portland. “Nursing is a discipline that is robust and expansive,” he said. “This isn’t for the faint of heart.”

Likewise, going back to school isn’t for the timid. Many returning students, who found becoming an RN hard enough, now have to factor in growing family and professional obligations.

Consider Christi Reeves, RN, BSN, who completed an online RN-to-BSN program at the University of Texas at Arlington. She was married and pregnant with her third child while completing the program. Her new degree already has yielded clear rewards.

“I had a lot of clinical experience after I did the ADN,” Reeves said, “but the BSN has helped me understand the whole picture of the patient.” It also helped her land a job as trauma program manager at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas, a larger facility than her previous one.

Reeves and educators who survived their own graduate education experiences offer their advice on going back to school.

CHOOSING A PROGRAM

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, more than 170 U.S. educational programs are available to allow RNs to progress from a diploma or associate’s degree to a master’s degree, and more than 600 RN-to-BSN programs are offered. A majority of those programs include at least some online component.

Here are some key considerations in choosing a program:

Do your homework.Talk to colleagues about BSN programs they’ve completed, Reeves advised. Her colleagues didn’t seem to like their online programs, in part because they were difficult to navigate. But when UTA came to her hospital, she had a chance to evaluate the program and log on to explore more.

Bleich advised asking others who have been through a program about its difficulty, the quality of its professors, whether assignments were relevant and engaging and whether the program fostered personal growth.

Weigh online versus traditional options. Online programs are popular. For example, UTA’s enrollment for this spring’s online RN-to-BSN program reached 4,000. “If you know you like to have face-to-face contact, online may not be good for you,” said Ceil Flores, RN, MSN, CNE, student success coordinator at UTA’s College of Nursing. But online learners have a lot of scheduling flexibility and can pursue programs that might not be available locally.

Get the facts. Ask about a nursing program’s accreditation, clinical rotation opportunities and graduation rate. Be sure to learn admission requirements, such as whether Graduate Record Examination scores are required. And ask what students are expected to be able to achieve after completing the program, Flores advised.

PAYING FOR SCHOOL

Jane Dolan RN, MSN, would like to dispel the myth that there isn’t much money available for graduate nursing students. “There is money out there and students should take advantage of it,” said Dolan, graduate clinical and recruitment coordinator at Pace University’s Lienhard School of Nursing in Pleasantville, N.Y.

At Pace, Dolan said, the first stops are the graduate admissions office to review eligibility for merit scholarships and the financial aid office for information about loans or other assistance. A separate office is dedicated to helping RNs track down additional funding opportunities.

Read the rest of the article at NURSE.com.