With their state-of-the-art medical technologies and outstanding nursing programs, the United States has long been one of the most desirable destinations for international nursing students to enroll. As an international nursing student studying in the U.S., you’ll have the opportunity to receive a top-notch education that provides hands-on experience under the guidance of world-class nurse faculty members.
But before you can begin learning from leading experts in the field, there are a few important things that all international nursing students should know. Below, you can find out the crucial skills you need before enrolling in a U.S. nursing school, and how to set yourself up for career success.
1. Strong English skills are a must.
One of the most frequently asked questions of any international nursing student is, “Do I need to have good English to succeed in my program?” To put it simply: Yes, you need to have a good grasp of the English language to enroll in a U.S. nursing school.
Most nursing school programs will require you to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to ensure that you understand the language well enough to complete the coursework. This is true whether you’re a first-year nursing student or an experienced RN enrolling in graduate-level studies in the United States.
2. You need to complete prerequisite coursework first.
Before you can apply to nursing schools in the United States, you need to show proof that you have completed the necessary prerequisites for the program. International nursing students must fulfill these prerequisites in order to obtain an F-1 visa, which allows you to take up foreign residence in the United States for the duration of your program.
Once you’re accepted into a nursing program, your school admissions office will issue you an I-20 application form. The next step is to fill out this form and take it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where you will pay a fee to submit your application for a student visa.
3. Take advantage of scholarships and financial aid programs.
Even for in-state students, the cost of nursing school in the U.S. can be steep. In-state nursing students can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000-$8,000 per year, depending on the type of education, location and the type of school (i.e., public vs. private).
As an international nursing student, you can expect to pay more than an in-state American student. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of housing, food, and all the basic nursing supplies you’ll need for nursing school. To help ease the financial strain, be sure to apply for financial aid and scholarships that are available to international nursing students. You can find out which financial aid opportunities are available to you by getting in touch with the admissions office of any nursing school you’re considering.
4. Buy everything you need in advance.
Studying in the United States for the first time can be overwhelming. With so much to take in, it’s easy to forget all the supplies you need before your first day.
Depending on when you arrive, you’ll want to figure out which medical supplies for nursing students in advance and order them sooner rather than later. This includes at least a few sets of scrubs, a good pair of slip resistant shoes and compression socks, note-taking supplies, a stethoscope, and a clipboard, just to name a few.
5. Study groups are key to your success.
Though you may prefer to study solo, don’t immediately dismiss the idea of joining a study group. As an international student, being part of a study group can make all the difference in your success. Studying in a group can help you retain more information from class, improve your test scores, and provide you with moral support from your fellow classmates. Additionally, working with a group builds teamwork and social skills, which are highly valued in the field of nursing.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Nursing school is challenging even for those who are accustomed to U.S. teaching styles. If you’re struggling to keep up with the coursework or to understand a certain concept, don’t hesitate to reach out to your nurse educators. After all, they were once nursing students as well and have been in your shoes.
Though they may not know the exact challenges of being an international nursing student, they can help make your life a lot easier in several ways. Be sure to make use of their office hours and let them know what you’re struggling with. They may post their lecture slides online to help you study or work with you one-on-one to help you better understand the lesson.
7. Get comfortable with NCLEX-style testing.
Don’t wait to begin preparing for the NCLEX test. Instead, start studying for it while you’re enrolled in nursing school. This challenging test—which is required to become a nurse in the United States—can throw many students off with its different styles of questions. The format ranges from multiple-choice, order response, calculation questions, and select-all-that-apply questions, which can take some getting used to.
Being an international nursing student can be challenging. On top of social and cultural barriers, you’re also faced with undergoing a rigorous program that will put your skills to the test. Don’t let this dissuade you from pursuing your dream of studying nursing in the United States. By keeping the above things in mind, you can ace your nursing school program and go on to become a successful nurse.
Higher institutions of learning are responding to the demands of society in the need for additional Registered Nurses (RNs) by offering accelerated degrees in nursing. These programs are designed for those who hold a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in areas other than nursing. Many schools offer an accelerated, or direct entry, program for a BA/BS to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN); fewer schools offer a BA/BS to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or BA/BS to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
There has been a steady increase in the number of RNs with a bachelor’s degree over the past several years. One reason for this increase could be attributed to the fact that nurses with a bachelor’s degree report earning an average of $10,000 more per year than those nurses with a diploma or Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). Additionally, many institutions are requiring their staff nurses to hold a minimum of a BSN even for direct patient care or charge nurse positions. In turn, these facilities are paying higher wages to attract and retain the bachelor’s-prepared nurse.
Accelerated nursing programs require a rigorous commitment to the program, which can run anywhere from 12 to 24 months, depending on the institution. Most schools offer traditional or hybrid tracks where courses are delivered on-campus with a few courses completed online. Those schools with traditional (weekday courses on the campus) tracks discourage their students from working during the accelerated program to foster an environment of less distractions and to aid in the overall success of completing the demanding coursework and clinical requirements.
Tuition for accelerated programs may vary from school to school. Public institutions, such as California State University, Fullerton, run close to $23,000 for tuition and fees. Private schools like Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, charge over $80,000 for their 15-month program. These tuitions and fees do not include other necessary items such as books, lab fees, uniforms, transportation to clinical sites, etc. Students must plan for several more thousand dollars to cover these additional items.
Prerequisites for accelerated programs also vary according to the school. For example, Samford University in Alabama requires those applying for the accelerated BSN program to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in the past 10 years with a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.5. Additionally, the program requires the applicant to have completed a number of science courses including anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and chemistry. Most nursing programs also required students to complete the TEAS test and/or Critical Thinking tests prior to admission.
Coursework for the accelerated programs remains fairly stable as set forth by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the requirements for accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Courses may include:
Adult Health I, II, III
Health Assessment and Promotion
Women’s Health Nursing
Child and Adolescent Health Nursing
Epidemiology for Population-Based Care
Inter-Professional Health Care Practices
Leadership in Nursing
Public Health Nursing
In addition to the coursework, nursing students will also complete over 1,035 hours in clinical rotations through a variety of medical settings such as critical care, medical/surgical, emergency rooms, labor and delivery, pediatrics, psychiatry, and community health.
For those students who have completed a bachelor’s degree in another field, and now see the value that nursing has to offer, options such as accelerated nursing programs allow them to pursue that career at any stage in their life path. Accelerated nursing programs are an excellent way to complete a degree in nursing, in a short period of time, for a lifetime of reward and benefit.
Transitioning from RN to MSN
Principles of Professional Role Development
Written and designed for RN to MSN students, this book focuses on the multitude of Masters' prepared roles available to a transitioning student, from nurse practitioner and beyond. Transitioning from RN to MSN examines both direct care roles (e.g., Clinical Nurse Leader), indirect care roles (e.g., Informaticist), and also covers new emerging areas.
If you watch any team of nurses at work you’ll notice a few things right away. You might observe that they never stop moving – they’re in motion all the time. But even as they are moving, they communicate with each other effectively with an almost shorthand style of nursing communication.
Here are some of the more common ways nurses communicate with each other and with their teams to give patients the best care possible while streamlining their own work processes.
Ticket to Ride
Although most patients might not realize it, every time a nurse hands off a patient to someone, they are checking to make sure the patient is safe. “’Ticket to ride’ is a communication tool used by most hospitals,” says Kimberly Mays, RN, MSN, MBA, CJCP and RN consultant with the Joint Commission Resources. “When a patient goes down for an x-ray or off the inpatient unit, there’s hand-off communication between the nurse and the transporter.” What information do they include? Details like if the patient is on oxygen, if they need a stretcher or wheelchair, if they are a fall risk, or even if they need an IV. “It’s the important things that someone who will accept temporary responsibility needs to know to keep them safe,” says Mays.
Mays also reports that the nurse-to-nurse bedside reporting is a great tool for nurse-to-nurse communication. When a nurse is going off shift, he or she will give a report to the incoming nurse in the presence of the patient. They discuss condition, medications, and procedures so everyone is on the same page. “It shows a level of teamwork,” says Mays. “And if I get anything wrong, please let me know.” Most hospitals want to do right by their patients, says Mays, and so reporting in front of the patient at shift change time is a great way to make sure the medical team and the patient’s team all have the same information.
Mays also notes another typical nursing communication tool that works for nurses individually, with their team, and with the patient as well. Hourly rounding, in which nurses go into patients’ rooms every hour to check on them and see what they need, sounds like it might add more time to the day, but the opposite is true. “It makes it easier,” says Mays of hourly rounding’s benefits. “You’re proactively addressing patient needs instead of reactively addressing patient needs.
Instead of making the extra steps to help recover time lost or if a patient falls behind on pain medication, for example, are eliminated. And, Mays says it was always nice to do hourly rounding before heading to lunch or dinner because then patients knew where she was and honored her time away for the most part. “It builds the trust in patients that I will be there to take care of them,” she says. “I found value in it from the very beginning.”
Different from hourly rounding is the walking rounds interdisciplinary teams take to assess patients. Everyone on the team from the physician and nurse to the respiratory therapist walks the rounds to check on patients and are able to offer a unique point of view of what the patient needs. “It’s a team approach to patient care,” says Mays.
Within each team of health care professionals, there’s a certain culture, says Mays and learning how to talk and have your voice heard within each of these is essential. Knowing what to expect at each step is a good way to start perfecting your communication approach.
Nurses relay information all day long. They talk to patients, to families, to physicians, to management, and to each other constantly to learn new things and to share what they know.
But if you find others constantly seeking you out for certain information – for instance do you have a special skill with computers that makes your unit run well or do you have extensive knowledge about a certain condition? If your colleagues come to you frequently, you might want to consider sharing your knowledge in a more formal way. Not only will you help others, but it’s a great career move that makes you more comfortable with public speaking, enhances your leadership, and helps educate others so they can also add to their knowledge.
How can you share your knowledge?
1. Host a Lunch Class at Work
Holding a lunchtime talk or seminar at work fills a dual purpose. You can help your colleagues and that benefits your organization overall. You can be very informal about it and just let people know you’d like to get together to talk about how to prevent falls in the elderly, for example. Or you can make it more formal and book a conference area or meeting room.
2. Bring Your Know-How to Your Community
People who don’t work in the medical industry are always looking for information from people who are. As a nurse, you have the authority to help people, and they know you’ll give them accurate information. Offer to host a talk at your local library or senior center about nutrition for babies or staying active as a senior.
3. Head Back to School
Offer to go into a school if your specialty is adolescent health or you have great advice to offer about managing stress the healthy way. No matter what your specialty as a nurse, you can bring your career advice to any level school to talk about what a nurse does, your typical day, and the training you need. This is a great way to encourage the next generation of nurses!
4. Mentor Your Younger Colleagues
Offer to help your new coworkers review for any exams or certifications. Hold a series of after-work review sessions for a group of new nurses. Even just a couple of hours showing them good study tips and techniques can help them succeed and helps you polish your mentorship skills.
No matter where you host your talk, prepare ahead of time so you can use your time efficiently. Have an outline of what you want to say and do a couple of run throughs. It’s a good idea to have a handout or two to give your attendees some information to bring home.