Preparing for a future career in nursing requires more than a classroom education. High school students considering the nursing profession can pursue several avenues to kick-start their careers.
Some school districts even offer high school nursing programs or prerequisite courses to prepare high schoolers for college courses. This guide explores different ways to help you gain admission to your ideal nursing program.
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How to Prepare for a Career in Nursing
You can prepare for a nursing career as a high school student by exploring the coursework needed for a prospective program, along with other requirements. Outside of taking high school classes for nursing, you can gain experience by volunteering with healthcare facilities. Helping at local hospitals or assisted living facilities can prepare aspiring nurses through practical experience.
Researching nursing schools while in high school also allows you to identify the programs that best align with your professional and personal goals. Consider National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rates, GPA requirements, and preferred courses in your research.
1. Take the Right Classes
Because nursing relies heavily on math and science skills, you may wonder about which classes to take in high school for nursing. Try to take as many advanced placement courses as possible in these subjects to meet college requirements while still in high school and gain familiarity with the field. This list of prerequisites offers some required courses.
Spending a couple of hours each weekend at a hospital, assisted living facility, or another healthcare setting can help you learn more about the profession and whether it aligns with your ambitions. Volunteer work hours can also bolster college applications.
3. Interview a School Nurse
Most students have easy access to these professionals during the school day and can ask about their experiences. School nurses can share advice and offer tips on how to avoid common mistakes in nursing education.
4. Become a HOSA-Future Health Professionals Member
HOSA-Future Health Professionals, formerly Health Occupations Students of America, provides an opportunity for future health leaders, including nurses, to take advantage of professional and academic resources while still in high school. The group offers events, competitions, scholarships, and plenty of resources to help connect learners with the nursing world while still in high school.
5. Research Degree Types
With nursing degrees available at nearly every level, you will need to find the right degree that best serves your needs. If you are unsure about a lifelong nursing career, you can pursue licensed practical nurse qualifications or associate degrees in nursing. If you feel confident in your decision, you can apply directly to bachelor of science in nursing programs.
6. Learn About Waiting Lists
Some nursing programs, particularly those at community colleges and vocational schools, may have waiting lists — even for learners who meet all admission requirements. Ask prospective schools about their acceptance rates and when enrollees can start the program.
7. Check Out NCLEX Pass Rates
Know what to look for in a nursing program. NCLEX pass rates offer one of the best and easiest ways to determine whether a nurse training program prepares students for the rigors of the working world. Avoid schools with low pass rates, as this may indicate that learners did not gain the skills needed to meet basic competency requirements.
8. Learn Basic Life Support/First Aid
First aid and basic life support skills, which include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, come in handy for many professionals, including students who want to become nurses. Weekend training courses can help you become familiar with basic skills and help boost college applications.
9. Research Nursing Entrance Exams
Some nursing programs and schools require a nursing entrance exam on basic healthcare and nursing knowledge, including critical thinking, mathematics, reading comprehension, and natural sciences. A nursing program's curriculum and type of degree determine their required entrance exam.
10. Stay Up to Date
Reading publications such as the American Journal of Nursing or Science Daily can help you stay aware of current trends and issues in nursing. Following these publications also provides insight into common challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC
Brandy Gleason is a nursing professional with nearly 20 years of varied nursing experience. Gleason currently teaches as an assistant professor of nursing within a prelicensure nursing program and coaches graduate students. Her passion and area of research centers around coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout.
Gleason is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.
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