Learn About Nursing Diplomas
A diploma is an entry-level credential in the field of nursing. In the United States, the diploma is often awarded by nursing schools housed in hospitals. Students who have successfully completed the requirements for a Diploma in Nursing are then qualified to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) test, which is the first step to applying to be a licensed Registered Nurse.
Nursing diploma programs that offered apprenticeship-style education were the major source of registered nurses until the 1960s. In recent times, nursing education has shifted to institutions that offer education at the college and university level. While the nursing diploma program (housed mostly in hospitals) was most popular during the mid-twentieth century, many hospitals have since stopped subsidizing these programs and there are today there are less than 70 such programs.
Assess Your Options: Diplomas vs. Degrees
For entry-level nursing jobs, there isn’t much difference between a diploma or a degree. However, A nursing degree is helpful once you are further down your career path, especially if you’re interested in combining your experience in patient care with hospital administration, leadership, or assuming more responsibilities (and pay) once you’re on the job. Online nursing programs have been making these degrees more accessible in recent years.
Though it is possible to become an RN with just a diploma, you will need a degree in order to advance in your field. Otherwise you’ll need to supplement the knowledge you gained from your Registered Nurse diploma with additional coursework like that of your colleagues with a bachelor’s degree (in nursing, a BSN) or an associate’s degree (an ADN or ASN).
Accelerated RN to BSN programs are available to nursing students who wish to transition to a bachelor’s degree after working with a diploma RN. If you decide to pursue a BSN, look for programs that will give you credit for the coursework you’ve already completed for your diploma. You can expect to take more courses in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences while earning this degree.
Prepare for Your Nursing Diploma
A nursing diploma program will be a good choice if you’re ready to hit the medical healthcare job market now. Even if you have an interest in pursuing a higher nursing degree, you might not have the financial resources or time to complete the additional credits that associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in nursing require.
Nursing diploma programs rely on hands-on clinical practice to emphasize the day-to-day strategies that nurses use to provide care for their patients. They also focus on the ethical, professional, and legal obligations nurses must adhere to on the job. In addition, you can expect to take classes that offer a foundation in the biological and social science aspects of the nursing practice. Online nursing programs, which generally do not offer RN diplomas, will usually need to contract with local, brick-and-mortar clinical institutions to provide the real work experience required to train nursing students.
Diploma program graduates find employment in the following areas:
- Acute care, where you will care for patients undergoing surgery or dealing with a specific health condition
- Long-term care, where you will help those who need extended care, such as in nursing homes or private households
- Community healthcare, where you will work in community clinics or visiting community members in their homes
Decide Where to Earn Your Nursing Diploma
Nursing diplomas are available online and offline, though options will be limited as the popularity of diploma programs decreases. You can study through a university or learn directly from a hospital.
Registered Nurse diplomas are occasionally offered as distance-learning opportunities by medical and health sciences schools. These programs make arrangements with multiple hospitals and clinics so that students living nearby can augment their online coursework with the clinical practice component of the nursing degree. Expect to take courses in clinical practice, basic pharmacology, and nursing informatics. Student who pursue Online nursing diplomas often suffer from a lack of practical hands-on experience. As a result, hospitals are less inclined to hire online graduates. Be sure to verify that any online RN programs that you’re considering are accredited, reputable, and offer legitimate clinical experience.
You can also earn hospital-based diplomas. More common and thus perceived more credible than online RN programs, hospital-based diplomas are popular options that prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exam. Although many hospitals prefer to hire nurses with a BSN, you can find an entry-level nursing job with a diploma.