Published Mar 5, 2014
So I am about to begin nursing school later this year and I am already thinking about the future, because planning for the future is always a good idea when you do it for the right reasons. Anyway, I want to know what the nursing community thinks about the specialty rankings in the US News and World Report because I have doubts, yet I don't want to make a bad choice in the future based upon my own tenuous guesses.
To be clear, I am not one of these naysayers who believes that ALL academic rankings don't matter, or more precisely, that they aren't ANY indicator of a school's general quality. While I think that it is highly unlikely that the US News and World Report can actually sort out a discrete hierarchy of universities (is Princeton clearly so much better than Stanford that we can rank Princeton as #1 and yet Stanford as #5?) I also think that such indexes can give a reasonably clear picture of the quality of institutions when taken as a cluster. Thus I think that it is essentially beyond doubt that universities that rank near the top of the US News and World Report are, in fact, superior when compared to clusters of institutions ranked below them. What I doubt is being able to easily distinguish schools within those clusters. I can say that Stanford and Duke have advantages over Berkeley and UCLA but what I can't say is that Stanford is unequivocally better than Duke or that Berkeley is just always a better choice than UCLA. And so forth.
But the nursing rankings aren't based on an index of quantifiable metrics but rather they are based entirely upon surveys that only seem to convey the subjective opinions of people who work in academic nursing. This makes such hierarchies even more questionable since there is no universally shared methodology for distinguishing one school over another. Based on my own digging it seems hard to deny that Penn and Johns Hopkins are exceptional nursing schools and that their students do exceptional things.....but how much can we really say about the many other schools on the rankings?
Duke, for instance, made an astronomical jump in the last round of nursing rankings: from the time before to the latest rankings published in 2011. I think it climbed from being in like a top 30 position to a top 10 position! Either Duke made massive strides and changes in their nursing school, which seems to be the case actually (they have a brand new facility, etc), or they were severely underrated in the past or are severely overrated right now. But with results being dependent upon an opinion poll....who can say!?
What I really want to know about, then, are the specialty rankings. I am interested in geriatric nursing (I think that I want to be a GNP) but I want to know if it's really true that there is some kind of advantage to going to a US News ranked geriatric program over and against one that is not? If I were to go to Emory's advanced practice nursing program, for instance, would I really be at a disadvantage to students going to UNC-Greensboro? Why would a nursing school ranked so much higher (Emory over UNC-Greensboro) not also have a superior GNP program? Or take the University of Michigan. From what I can tell they seem to have a truly exceptional nursing school and yet they don't have a ranked geriatric nursing specialty? How can this be? Is there something that I am missing or are the specialty rankings just, well, bunk?
The reason this matters to me now is that I've been admitted to Emory's ABSN/MSN program with a specialization in geriatric nursing. I was surprised that a school like Emory didn't get ranked at all for this specialization (I find it odd that they only rank 10 schools actually) and I am concerned about going forward in a program that isn't ranked in the field that I wish to work in. My fears were magnified when I attended Emory's admitted students day and found that I was pretty much alone in my choice of specialization: everyone I talked to there seems to want to be an FNP or midwife!
Does anyone out there have any experience with this question?
HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD
In the US, undergrad/pre-licensure education prepares a nurse generalist - outcomes are 'measured' with a standardized test. So even though schools may vary dramatically in terms of assets, cost, etc.... deciding which one is "best" is a moot point, unless you are focusing on a specific new grad attribute.
There is so much controversy over the public rankings in Higher Ed... detractors feel that it is a marketing ploy based on snobbery. As we move further into competency-based education & clear outcome measures, the traditional criteria for rankings may become less important. After all, the benchmarks used to determine a "tier one" university (endowments, research funding, # PhDs awarded each year, faculty distinction/tenure, Phi Beta Kappa chapter, library size, etc) are basically meaningless when it comes to a job search.
When it comes to graduate education in nursing, the 'best' programs are those with the most qualified & 'connected' faculty in your chosen specialty. They open career doors that may not be available to your competitors.
nurseprnRN, BSN, RN
There may be a good reason that Duke doesn't have ranking for geri NP... and you may have identified it. Why not apply to one of the ones that does? Check who's on faculty, what they publish, what resonates with you? All grad schools are not created equal for all majors.
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