I am currently a senior in the BSN program, which will be the college’s second BSN class (the diploma program was over 100 years old before they switched to BSN). Personally I think it’s a really good program, not that I have a lot to compare it to, though :P
As I spend more and more time on the clinical floor, I have heard directly from more than one Sentara Norfolk General staff nurse that our graduates are the best new grads in the area. Now some of this might just be expected since we are educated in Sentara facilities and so as students we become very familiar with eCare (the electronic medical record system used by Sentara) by the time we graduate. However they’ve also told me that we’re the best in terms of clinical skills and experience as new grads. Sentara makes sure that you get your experience from the ground up by requiring you get certification as a Nursing Care Partner (basically a nurse aide who can draw blood) before you are allowed to begin clinicals as a RN/BSN junior, and as things stand currently we have by far the greatest number of clinical hours of any nursing program in the region. On the floor where I have clinicals this semester, a new grad nurse from another local BSN program had to have one of our Sentara students show her how to change an adult diaper. This would never happen to a Sentara new grad, or at least I would be very very surprised
We also have some really cool simulation labs on campus where we have the opportunity to provide care to pretty realistic robotic patients and get the chance to respond to patient changes/emergencies and receive immediate feedback without having to worry you'll screw up and hurt the patient.
In terms of lecture and teaching, a number of the theory-based classes are online or hybrid classes so you need to be a good independent learner. And as in any demanding health science program, you need to have great study skills because there is a TON of stuff to learn and more than can be taught in class. In class be prepared to cover the overarching concepts and some special notes, and learn the details on your own. (From what I’ve heard from students at other schools, this sounds pretty standard for a nursing program.) The majority of the instructors are great…not everyone loves every teacher and personally there are one or two who are clearly excellent, expert nurses but that I think have room for improvement as far as lecture teaching goes, but I feel like I’m getting a great education. Most instructors are very accessible and willing to meet to go over tests or give you some mentoring advice, and many will respond to texts or emails over the weekend. The school provides a lot of instruction on NCLEX-style questions and provides us access to an online NCLEX test training and review program. Many of the tutorials and practice exams on there will be mandatory throughout various courses and they are excellent preparation. Papers: we tend to have a few important papers due a semester. If you’re comparing Sentara to ODU, I have a family member in ODU’s program and it sounds like they do a LOT more papers than we do. You will however do your fair share of writing in online discussion board posts.
Like all nursing programs, it is demanding. The faculty recommend not working at all while a full-time nursing student, and if you have to work, not working more than 20 hours a week. I would follow those guidelines and make sure you have your financial ducks in a row to make sure you have adequate time to study, because if you can’t afford to cut back at work and you end up not being able to study enough and fail a class, you will have to sit out of the program for a year until that class comes around again. (And six months from failing the class while you are not a full-time student, you would have to start making payments on your student loans!)
Last year Sentara graduated their first BSN class and they got a 96% pass rate on the NCLEX, so I figure the college must be doing a decent job. Their diploma program also had pass rates consistently in the 90s
I hope this information has been helpful to you! If you have any questions, please feel free to private message me.