Thursday, December 18, 2014

Plan B needed

Throughout this journey so far, I never really thought about what if I were not admitted into the accelerated nursing programs at SUNY Downstate and CUNY Lehman; in fact a part of me was almost fearful that I would be accepted into either (or both) programs because of the drastic change it could potentially have in my life. Now that reality have set in and that I have just completed Anatomy and Physiology II, I realize that there is a strong possibility of me not being accepted into these programs, especially since it seems like the average GPA of admitted students is 3.7 or above. Tried as I may, I was unable to obtain that elusive "A" in my anatomy classes and my GPA in the prerequisites is going to suffer a bit (I estimate my GPA at about 3.6). While I am forever and always an optimist, I am also a realist and I have to put something in place in the event I do not get into either of my choice schools.

Option 1: Traditional Bachelor of Science program

I am already probably going to apply to Lehman's traditional BSN program when I apply to the accelerated program but I am also looking at the traditional or generic nursing program at CUNY York College as well. This is the closest school to me distance wise and more than likely clinicals would be in the area which would be great especially since they start early. This program seems a bit longer than other traditional programs (about 2 1/2 years instead of two) so that is definitely something to consider since time is a major factor for me. 

Option 2: private college/university

I am not too sure about this option but if I were considering a private school, my top choices would be schools in Nassau County, Long Island, including Adelphi University, Molloy College, and New York Institute of Technology- Westbury. Proximity wise these schools are a reasonable distance away from home and all of the schools have good reps to my knowledge. The problem is that the tuition is pricey and I don't know if I am comfortable with potentially owing so much money (I average $60,000) for only a second bachelor's degree. I wasn't willing to owe that much for a Masters of Social Work degree so why should I do it for a Bachelors in Nursing? Nonetheless, I should at least consider at least one of the schools since the public schools are super competitive and my GPA is not all that at this point. I hope if I do apply there is a nice financial aid package included.

Option 3: Associate programs in nursing

I had considered this  before and discussed it in my post but not only are these programs just as competitive as the BSN programs, I would have to go to night school which may not work for me, although it would allow me to probably maintain my job. Daytime is an option as well but I would not be able to keep my current job and it would take much longer to obtain the BSN. The only way this would work is if I get a healthcare related job while in the program, obtain my license after two years, and go for RN-BSN while working as a nurse (this is assuming I am able to get an RN position).

Option 4: Don't quit my day job

If I don't get into my choice programs I simple stay put. I may not have a desire to stay in my current job for the next decade or two but I am blessed to at least have one and I won't have to worry about the unknown.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Online science courses

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I am currently taking prerequisite courses so that I can qualify for nursing school in the near future but what I may not have mentioned was that all of the courses I am taking are online, including my science courses. While ideally science courses should be taken in person with a "wet" lab, circumstances may be such that you are not able to. For example I work full-time and have a family so online courses are just more convenient for me (I can go to school anytime of the day as long as I meet deadlines). With that being said there are definitely some things to consider before enrolling in online classes, particularly science ones.

Is the school you plan on taking your online science courses at legit? It is very important that courses can be transferred so the college offering courses has to be reputable and legit. What do I mean by legit? Usually online science courses that are legit have an on campus component from an accredited college/universities with an already well established reputation. Most major colleges/universities offer at least some online courses but not as many schools offer online science courses so do your research (I am currently taking courses at Cayuga Community College which is part of the State University of New York).

Are you computer savvy? You certainly do not need to be a computer expert to take an online course but you do need to be comfortable with computers because all of your assignments, exams, and even your communication is done online. And although tech, instructor, and even classmate support is available if needed, it isn't immediately available like it would be in a traditional classroom setting. Also some science courses have virtual lab components (like the ones I am taking) so you need to be well versed in different applications. Again they aren't difficult but you have to be comfortable with computers and adapt quickly to learning new things.

Reliable high speed is absolutely needed. If you don't have high speed internet (I really don't know anyone who doesn't to be honest) don't even think about taking any online course let alone a science course. In fact don't even take a traditional college course because many of them are online intensive or have some sort of online component as well. Also you have to be able to get online when you need to so relying on the computers at the public library for example is not going to cut it.

Make sure the online science course has a lab component. This one is tricky because some online science courses don't have a lab component which is needed for nursing school admissions. Make sure you read the description carefully (you can usually tell when there is no lab by the number of credits for the course, i.e. 3 credits versus 4 credits). If there is no lab, see if there is an online separate lab course or if you can do the lab in person (which would be considered a hybrid course). It doesn't matter if the lab is virtual, onsite (at a college campus), or done at home, make sure there is a lab.

Does your school of interest accept online science courses? Transcripts do not annotate whether or not a course was completed online or not but it is possible that the school admissions may "suspect" that a course was taken via distance learning if the school is located in a different state or something. Personally I don't think it is necessary to mention that you are taken courses online as long as it is from a reputable school (see above) but if you are apprehensive, find out from your schools of interest if online science courses are acceptable (I actually did this in the earlier stages of researching nursing programs). If a school however explicitly states that they do not accept online science courses and you have to take your science prerequisites online, then find another school. My experience is that most nursing programs do accept online sciences classes although a few may state a preference for science courses with "wet" labs.

I love taking online courses overall and that includes science courses. I do believe however that taking biology courses online is a little more difficult than in person because you are on your own for the most part and time management is even more crucial. I cannot "wing it" or cram (that is a recipe for failure) and I have to actually read/study and do my assignments by a specific deadline. Exams, while technically open book, still requires understanding of the material because they are strictly timed (i.e., 30 minutes for 25 questions). Also when something goes wrong (I had two incidences over the years, one pretty recently) there is no immediate resolution. Still nothing beats being able to take an exam at 10:30 at night and I actually feel I am learning more online than I would in a traditional class (I would probably fall asleep in night school anyway). Online science courses is definitely not for everyone but so far it works for me.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

More decisions

When I started this journey almost 2 years ago, I had every intention of being admitted into an ABSN (accelerated Bachelors of Nursing) program by 2015 or 2016, TOPS. Now that reality has set in, I may have to wait as late as 2017 (when I am 37 years old, ugh!) since I do not have things in order as I had hoped. For starters, with the competition of nursing school being so fierce and me limiting myself to 1 of 2 ABSN programs means I am not guaranteed entry into any nursing program. Secondly, I am only taking about 2 pre- requisite courses per year (initially I had planned to take 3 or possibly 4). While this pace is probably ideal for me, it does nothing for my timeline. Third, I have hardly any money saved up for living expenses currently for the time when I enter school (not to mention I have not cleared up my credit card debts as yet). My husband is very supportive and will be able to manage most of our living expenses without me working but it will be difficult for him to be financially responsible for everything. Even if I manage to obtain part-time or per-diem employment if and when I enter nursing school, I doubt what I would make would help too much without any type of supplemental saving.

I have also decided to apply to Lehman's traditional BSN program in addition to their ABSN program whenever I decide to apply to the school. Why? For starters the ABSN program is super competitive and if I don't get in, I will be screwed since that may the only college I apply to (assuming I choose Lehman over Downstate). Also the 2 year BSN program would allow me to work or do summer externships, which is very for related work experience. My family may also suffer less since I am quite convinced that I will be a lunatic trying to successfully complete an ABSN degree while raising kids. I hate the idea of being in school for so long only to obtain another BS degree though. I have not given up on my nursing goals but sometimes when I look at all that I have to accomplish to get to where I need to be, I get frustrated and a little discouraged. No one ever said a career change was easy. I guess I better just learn to adapt or just give up!  

Monday, May 5, 2014

CNA Training May Not Be Necessary?

I recently reviewed information on the New York State Department of Health and Prometric regarding CNA/Nurse Aide training and found that I may be able to take the NYS Nurse Aide licensing exam without re-training! This is of course due to that the fact that I was already a CNA but never worked in a paid position. The reason I assumed I had to retrain was that my license lapsed a long time ago (in 1999) but when reading the New York Nurse Aide application form, it appeared that I may be able to apply under the following route:

Route 6
"Select this certification route if your certification is currently lapsed and you successfully completed a NYS-approved nursing home nurse aide training program on or after July 1, 1989. Your certification is considered lapsed if you have not worked for pay as a NYS nurse aide in the last 24 months at a NYS nursing home or other approved facility."

Other routes that may be applicable once I graduate from nursing school (God-willing) would be the following:

Route 3 

"Select this certification route if you are a U.S.-trained graduate nurse. You will not be required to complete further training but you must take the exam."

Route 4
"Select this certification route if you are a currently active RN or LPN licensed in the United States. You will not be required to complete further training or take the exam."

Route 3 and 4 would probably be a waste of time (and money) since I would either be licensed as an RN or be preparing to take the RN NCLEX exam to become a RN. My best bet would be to take the exam after my first clinical course or at some point while in school so that my skills are "refreshed." I would rather spend my money on Phlebotomy training anyway. 

Source: New York Department of Health Nursing Home Nurse Aide Certification Handbook 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

SUNY Downstate Information Session

Earlier this week I attended an information session of the accelerated bachelors of nursing program at SUNY Downstate and despite a lot of the information I have obtained prior to the session via the school's website and email correspondence with Admissions, I found it very informative. I realize through the information session though that I really have to put my game face on. First of all, Downstate only admits 60 students to the program every year but receive as many as 500 applications yearly to the accelerated BSN program alone. Also cumulative GPA from student's first degree may carry more weight than I had hoped (although the science GPA carries a significant amount of weight as well) so I am a little nervous of how competitive my GPA from my first degree of 3.2 would be. I just started taking my science prerequisites this semester and I must say that Anatomy and Physiology 1 is kicking my butt! It doesn't help that I am taking the course online either. I am doing OK up to this point though (my overall grade to date is in the B+ to A- range) but for the first time since taking prerequisites I do not know if I will be getting an A for this course and I still have 3 more sciences to go (Anatomy and Physiology 2, Microbiology, and General Chemistry). In the past a B+ would have been fine but now, especially since my previous GPA may not be that competitive, I need all A's. It was also recommended that those without healthcare experience do some volunteer work. Now honestly I had no intentions of volunteering because I felt that with all of my other responsibilities (full time job, 3 kids, school, etc.), I didn't want to be bothered but if I want to show how serious I am about a potential nursing career I may have to reconsider, even if its just a couple of hours a week for a few months. I am already planning on doing a CNA (certified nurse assistant) course so it may not be as hard as I think but I will have to do the volunteer thing prior to initiating CNA training. I also found out that getting letters of recommendation from my employers would be acceptable which is great since I do not know how letters of recommendations would work for online courses (my previous degree was completed well over a decade ago so that is not an option for me). My only concern with requesting letters of recommendations from my managers is that I would have to reveal, at least partially, my intentions of resigning my job if accepted which may be awkward but I do have a good reputation at work and I am generally well liked by managers so it may not be as bad as I anticipate.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Associates in Nursing degree?

I wouldn't be me if I didn't double guess myself at least once every few weeks. My plans, thus far, is to take online prerequisites (as many as I can) and once accepted and enrolled in an accelerated Bachelor's of Nursing program, quit my job and pursue a nursing career. While this is the fastest way to a BSN (Bachelors of Nursing) degree for me, its not without it flaws. Here are the negatives:

I would have to quit my job. I have never quit a job in my life and although I have a very supportive husband, the job market is shaky and I have a nice "stable" job with good benefits.
If I don't like nursing, I would be stuck because I would have left my job. There would be nothing to fall back on.
The intense nature of an accelerated program would limit me to per-diem or part-time jobs with a great deal of flexibility.
I may not be eligible for most summer nursing internships since the majority of them require full-time commitment.
Last but not least, I would have to quit my job (I know I stated this already but quitting a job is unheard of in my family).

All that being stated, I have also considered ASN (Associate of Nursing) programs and more specifically, evening and/or weekend programs. Initially I was against this route because of the length of time it would take to get a BSN (3-4 years taking this route because I would have to transfer into an RN-BSN program) and I was uncertain of the marketability of having an ASN in nursing with respect to jobs (most jobs in New York City prefer BSN for new grads). Also since I work full-time going to nursing school 3-4 nights per week at  roughly 5 hours at a time would be torture and I probably would never see my family during the semester. Conflict with scheduling would also be inevitable since my husband works the occasional night shift. Despite the negatives, there are some positives to going the slower route:

I could probably remain working at my job through the duration of nursing school for both the ASN and the RN-BSN degrees.
I would take out less school loans (or possibly no loans) because I would be employed and could just pay for some of my school tuition out of pocket.
If I do not like nursing or no longer want to continue with nursing school I could just stop attending and remain at my current job or do something else.
Although job market is very tough for non-BSN grads, I could still become a license registered nurse with an ASN degree and I could look for work while I am working (its always easy to find a job when you already have one in my opinion). There are a limited number of weekend/evenings programs though so I would have to consider commuting (work to school), childcare (specifically if my husband is working on any given night) and my stamina (I am fairly energetic but that type of scheduling for such a long length of time would be a lot for me). I don't know but I think nursing school would be better if I worked less and schooled more.