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3 Things To Look For When Choosing A Nursing School

By Kelly Larson on Friday, August 25, 2023


The decision to enter the nursing profession is never made lightly. Individuals who pursue this career path spend considerable time weighing many factors when choosing a nursing school. In addition to faculty, curriculum, and job placement, here are three things to consider before deciding on a program that effectively helps students achieve their goals.

1. Their NCLEX-RN(®) First-Time Pass Rate

In an article by the Journal of Nursing Education, it is stated that: “The first-time NCLEX-RN(®) pass rate is considered by many to be the primary, if not sole, indicator of the quality of prelicensure nursing education programs. Used by state boards of nursing, educational program accreditors, and nursing faculty, the first-time NCLEX-RN(®) pass rate influences important decisions about overall program quality, admission and progression policies, curricula, and teaching and learning practices (http://journals.healio.com/doi…).

In 2022, the pass rate for first-time U.S. educated test-takers was 79.9%. At University of Northwestern – St. Paul, we are celebrating a 100% first-time pass rate by our most recent cohort of twenty-nine School of Nursing graduates. The school has a long history of pass rates above the national average which shows the excellence of our nursing program, faculty and staff, and the hard work of our students. As of April 2023, the traditional NCLEX has been updated to the Next Generation NCLEX which is considered more rigorous because of a new grading system and new question formats.

2. Teaching Focused On People Skills, Not Just Technical Skills

An interaction with nursing staff can make or break your experience with a healthcare provider. Multiple studies confirm that nurses spend more time with patients than doctors, and the need for interpersonal skills has never been greater. In addition to patient interaction, graduates need to work closely and flawlessly with their team, staff in other departments, and outside agencies.

Regarding the new Next Generation NCLEX, it is said that, “The aim of the new test questions is to better simulate a hospital’s work setting and set the groundwork for better patient outcomes” (https://nursejournal.org/). The new test format is focused on evaluating nursing students’ judgment, decision-making, and critical thinking skills to determine if they are competent to make appropriate decisions about patient care.”

Northwestern’s School of Nursing values both physical and spiritual care, for patients and families, building a foundation for viewing each patient as a whole person instead of simply treating a problem. Students are constantly reminded that nurses should have a ministry mindset and learn servant-leadership principles.

3. They Care About Their Students, Not Just Their Grades

An indication of a comprehensive program is the value it places on student mental health. Nursing students in particular experience unique pressures. One study found that nursing students showed higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress than even nursing faculty and medical students (https://www.sciencedirect.com/…).

It is the responsibility of the nursing program leadership to make sure that there is a culture of support for students. The mission of Northwestern’s School of Nursing is “to equip students to grow both intellectually and spiritually so they can effectively serve in the nursing profession.” Faculty and staff are dedicated to helping students to flourish academically, spiritually, physically, and emotionally throughout the program. In addition to small class size and low student-to-faculty ratio, Northwestern follows a faculty advising model. This means that every student is led through the program by a faculty member, not an academic advisor. This method improves student graduation rates, retention, and decrease feelings of disconnection from the school.

As another show of support, Many campuses offer free counseling services for individuals with emotional health challenges. Some, like Northwestern, also provide small group counseling with options such as Coping Skills for Stress and Anxiety, Building Resilience, and Social Anxiety Skills. Because the stress of nursing does not end after graduation, ask each school you’re considering what resources they provide graduates for problems like burnout and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Ultimately, if God has called you to be a nurse, begin by praying for wisdom and seeking the counsel of those you trust when choosing a school. In addition to excellent academics, look for one that matches your personal beliefs about patient care, and that cares for you as a person. The world needs more nurses! At Northwestern you can get more than a degree – you can find your mission!