Considering nursing programs: Top picks for EMS professionals

In this economy, EMS professionals seem to be considering a number of factors when choosing nursing programs

Last month we discussed what factors you might consider in choosing the right nursing program for you. Maybe I can help narrow your search if you're a busy EMS professional seeking to attend nursing school.

When I went to nursing school, few EMS professionals were considering nursing as an additional opportunity. Male EMS professionals were even less likely to take the big step. Today, things are quite different. In fact, since I completed nursing school only a short six years ago, I have heard from countless EMS colleagues considering the option. I guess once they saw that this dope could pull it off, anyone could!

In this economy, EMS professionals seem to be considering some of the same factors. They generally want the following out of a nursing program: 

  • To continue to work while attending school. This could mean that the option of attending courses part-time or on weekends and evenings is important. A predictable and consistent schedule is vital because convenience and scheduling are a top concern. 
  • Affordable education 
  • Value on clinical experience
  • Credit for previous education, no matter when courses were completed. Many colleges and universities require major science courses to have been completed within the past five years. This could be an issue for the EMS professional who completed A&P or microbiology several years ago and has just now decided to pursue further education. 
  • To get 'er done! They expect to work hard and dedicate themselves, but they don't want to take two years to do it. 
  • Avoiding "death by PowerPoint" with focus on applying new clinical skills and the nursing process. EMS professionals tend to gravitate to programs that include clinical simulation, computer simulation, group learning and frequent computerized testing. 
  • To pass the NCLEX the first time. Therefore, a program's reputation and use of computerized test preparation is valuable. 
  • A different clinical experience from that of entry-level nursing students. EMS professionals don't want to spend much time in the ED or OR, but they want to branch out from their comfort zones by spending time in the ICU, pediatrics and OB. 
  • Respect from the nursing staff. They want to avoid any gender or professional (anti-paramedic) bias. I recall before I went to nursing school being told by my male nursing mentors, "Don’t tell the nursing faculty you are a paramedic!"

One of the all-around best choices is a paramedic-to-ADN "bridge" or "transition" program. These are typically facilitated by community colleges or universities and are usually more cost-effective than private colleges. Unlike traditional programs, there are relatively few real bridge programs across the country. The benefit of a true bridge program is that it articulates previous paramedic education into completed credit hours. This saves the student time and money.

For example, our institution started the first paramedic-to-ADN bridge program in our state and articulates 29 college credit hours for paramedic graduates from a state- or nationally accredited program. In addition, bridge programs often offer hybrid courses — part in-class, part online.

Those looking to maximize convenience with an online or distance program have two great choices to consider. I may be revealing a little personal bias here as I am a graduate of Excelsior College, but I would still keep this college on the top of my list of choices. Although tuition will be more than your local community college, you can’t beat the convenience. Excelsior College has been awarded the National League of Nursing (NLN) Education Excellence Award twice. It shares this honor with only one other educational institution.

In addition, Excelsior College cares more about what you know than when you learned it. So you will likely receive credit for those old courses you took 10 years ago. The downside is that its ADN program is not a bridge program, so you still have to take the complete load of nursing credits to graduate.

The flexibility of the program is very attractive, though. You can generally progress as slowly or quickly as you want. I took three months off in the middle of my coursework to deal with a family crisis and then started again when I could. Try that with a traditional program! It still only took me 16 months to complete my ADN program with Excelsior College.

Another top pick would be The College Network. It is well-known for its excellent academic support, resources, friendliness and convenience. Partnering with a variety of top national educational institutions, it offers online and distance learning and guaranteed financing. Many students value the "at your place, at your pace" philosophy.

Designed with working adults in mind, the Network has developed comprehensive learning modules to help nursing students succeed. Content from each course has been condensed and organized, making learning efficient. I wish I could have benefited from this resource when I went to school. The College Network also gives a 10 percent tuition discount for NAEMT members.

Hopefully, I have shed some light on some nursing programs that offer opportunities for EMS professionals. We wish you success in your future endeavors.

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