The Diploma Education for RN
Hollis Forster, RNC-NP
Another possibility for nursing school is to get a nursing diploma (as opposed to a BSN or ADN) from an accredited school. These programs are often hospital based but have connections with local community colleges. This is a good choice if you are looking for a nursing degree that will educate you to perform well, in an in-patient setting immediately on graduation.
These programs often start you working in a hospital almost as soon as school begins, giving you the opportunity to experience, first hand, the nuts and bolts, on the ground, functioning of a nurse. Bachelor’s degree programs, on the other hand, often require one to two years of theoretical course work before any clinical care is started. This immediate immersion into patient care may appeal to you for several reasons.
1. You will be exposed quickly to the kinds of skills needed in the nursing field.
2. You will be able to satisfy the emotional drive you have that sent you into the field in the first place.
3. You will have the opportunity to test whether you really love the field enough to complete all the theoretical learning involved with nursing, before spending too much time “in the books.”
Until the 1970’s this type of nursing degree was very popular. There were as many as 800 diploma programs in the U.S. in the 70’s. In fact, hospital based programs were the traditional mechanism for educating professional nurses. This has changed over the last thirty years, hospitals being supplanted by community colleges and Universities as the more popular educational system. There are currently about 100 programs available for nursing education at a diploma level.
These schools usually have a program of about three years and they do prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, but they prepare you for a job that is direct care related. That is, they do not give you the more extensive base of theoretical knowledge that helps prepare you for jobs in research, or leadership roles. And, although, with talent, experience and an RN license, you can grow into different career paths, the diploma educated RN will have less flexibility to get the nurse manager job right out of school or the nurse administrator role.
You will have the education and experience, though, to practice in a hospital immediately on your graduation and RN licensure. That is, many hospitals like to hire a nurse with the practical experience you will have after completing this course of study and clinical care. In some ways, you will be more completely ready to serve the patient’s needs than a nurse who spent many years in theoretical course work, but less clinical experience. Remember, you may also be able to become a practicing nurse right away, then return to school for an accelerated course to gain your BSN or MSN. That way, you have practical experience, plus the background, theoretical knowledge of a nurse who began with a higher degree. Then, career paths will be open for you as you progress in your experience and skill.