1) What program(s) did you apply to and where?
MUSC in Charleston, SC for BSN
UAB in Birmingham, AL for MSN
2) What characteristics did you look for in your BSN/MSN programs?
For BSN, I looked at NCLEX pass rates and the number of people who start the program compared to how many graduate. This is very important since some programs only graduate a small percentage of the people who start. I wanted a program that would support me and make sure I graduated.
For MSN, I looked at pass rates for boards, curricula, and talked to people I knew about the general reputation of the school. I also considered the school ranking from US News and World Reports. Lastly, cost was a big factor since I was limited in the amount of loans I wanted to take out.
3) For those making a career change, did you have trouble getting funding? And if so, what options did you find that allowed you to continue on your path?
I had to take out a significant amount of private loans to get through my BSN, since I was not able to work. And I don't suggest working during an ABSN program. Your GPA is too important! I had a prior BA and JD degrees.
4) Did you contact any faculty in the program prior to applying, and if so, what questions did you ask? What did you think was most pertinent to know about the program and faculty prior to applying/enrolling?
I talked to the admissions person at MUCS, and she was lovely and very helpful. I e-mailed some with the director of my program at UAB.
5) What was the curriculum like? Did you find the workload light, moderate, or heavy? How much time did you dedicate to school work in the average week?
For my ABSN, it was my life during the program. Since I didn't work, I had some time here and there to spend time with my friends, but you will need to do school work 7 days a week throughout the program. And some days (not a lot but it happens) between lectures and preparing for clinical the next day I'd spend all day (8 am to midnight) getting everything done. There were many night where I only had time for about 4 hours of sleep. It is not easy! But if you like learning, it is a great experience. It is amazing how much you learn and change in 15 months.
The amount of work for an MSN is overwhelming. I find it to be much harder than the BSN content, but I have been able to work full-time while going to school part-time. I just have done nothing but work and school for 3 years.
6) What have been your experiences with clinicals? Do you feel that they prepared for hands-on, real-life work?
For both degrees, I feel like you leave knowing enough to be safe and have enough of a foundation to be able to learn your job. But you are a long way away from actually knowing what to do. That's what orientation is for.
7) How easy/hard was it to find employment upon graduating from your BSN program? Have you had to relocate to find a position?
I relocated by choice, because I wanted to start with the best program I could find at a top hospital. For my BSN I had a job offer 2 months before I graduated. I only applied to one hospital and got an offer for their very competitive residency program.
8) How happy are you with being a nurse? What would you change? What would you keep the same?
I absolutely love being a nurse and wouldn't change anything. It has been the best decision I ever made. The amount of career opportunities is outstanding, the pay is good, and you know that the work you're doing has a huge impact on the lives of your patients and their families. It is tough work, but so rewarding.
6) If you've gone on to an MSN program, do you feel that it was beneficial to have received a BSN from Duke versus other schools?
IMO, grades are much more important than the name of the school.
7) If you don't mind, a salary range would be much appreciated, as I continue to hear that the prestige of the school plays a role in salary, yet I cannot seem to find much information to support that claim.
I have never heard this before. Salaries range greatly depending on the area of the country you're in. As a staff nurse, the hospital will have a starting pay that all new grads start at. It doesn't matter where you went to school. And usually the pay is not negotiable. I would say you likely can expect starting pay to be around $25/hr, plus differentials for nights and weekends. But like I said that can vary a lot based on your exact location.
My last piece of advice is to not underestimate how important your GPA is. You'll hear things like C=RN and such, but in this job market, employers can have their pick of who to hire. An easy way to weed out candidates is by GPA. It takes more than just brains to do well in nursing school and employers know this. I know my GPA has been a big factor in my ability to be able to choose where I want to work. Also having a prior degree and career will open doors for you. It gives you an opportunity to stand out from other candidates. In interviews, you can talk about how your past experiences have influenced you and what they add to your perspective on nursing. Which definitely helps in landing your dream job after graduation!
I wish you well as you start your journey to becoming a nurse. If you like it half as much as I do, you'll be happy the rest of your life