For those seeking out RN licensure, the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) has been the standard educational pathway for the past 40 years. However, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is quickly becoming the most preferred route in the eyes of employers and healthcare leaders.
The South Dakota Action Coalition, comprised of healthcare leaders in South Dakota, released a status report for November 2013 – January 2014, revealing their goal of having 80% of the state’s registered nurses prepared at the baccalaureate level or higher by 2020.
Progress has been made in reaching this goal, but the state still has a long way to go. As of December 2012, 51% of all RNs actively licensed in South Dakota have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher.
Studies have shown that along with the benefit of receiving a more expansive and in-depth education, other benefits that come with pursuing a BSN as a path to initial licensure include a wider range of employment opportunities, higher job satisfaction, and higher salary prospects. Further, a statement released by the Council on Physician and Nurse Supply revealed that there is an increasing body of research that reveals a relationship between the level of nursing education and the quality and safety of patient care.
The South Dakota Board of Nursing exists to preserve the public welfare by ensuring that all who practice nursing in South Dakota are properly qualified and licensed. The Board is responsible for RN licensure and currently regulates 15,494 registered nurses (RNs) in the State of South Dakota.
Pre-Licensure BSN Programs in South Dakota
South Dakota is home to several colleges and universities offering BSN programs. These institutions can be found in the following cities:
- Sioux Falls
- Rapid City
A pre-licensure BSN typically consists of 120 credits earned over the course of four years. These credits are divided into up to four semesters of pre-requisites and four semesters of core nursing courses. Upon completion of pre-requisite courses, pre-nursing students may apply to the nursing program.
BSN pre-requisite courses can include:
- General Psychology
- Human Anatomy
- General Microbiology
Students must maintain a specific GPA requirement as the school determines to gain admittance to the nursing program in the second half of the four-year program. Students may also be required to complete and submit a Federal background check.
Upon admittance to the nursing program, students will begin core nursing courses, which can include:
- Healthcare Policy, Finance & Regulatory Environments
- Research & Evidence Based Practice
- Physical Assessment Across the Lifespan
- Patient-Centered Care Concepts
- Adult Health Nursing
- Child Health Nursing
- Behavioral Health Nursing
- Leadership in Professional Nursing
As part of the pre-licensure BSN degree program, students will also be required to complete clinical experiences, which will provide them with hands-on experience in local professional healthcare institutions.
Upon completing a BSN, students may continue their education even further and pursue a Master of Nursing (MSN). MSNs are currently being offered in three cities in South Dakota:
- Sioux Falls
- Rapid City
RN Examination and Licensure in South Dakota
Students who have completed a pre-licensure BSN are qualified to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to receive an RN license. To take the exam, candidates will first apply for licensure through the South Dakota Board of Nursing. Along with submitting the application to the Board, candidates will also be required to submit a $100 application fee.
Once candidates have applied to the Board, they will immediately register for the NCLEX-RN exam through the test-provider Pearson VUE. Candidates will be required to submit a $200 exam registration fee. Once the candidate has successfully registered, Pearson VUE will notify the South Dakota Board of Nursing.
In addition to these items, candidates will also be required to submit a completed background check and proof of their education to the South Dakota Board of Nursing. Once the Board has received all of the required items and determined the candidate to be eligible to take the exam, the candidate will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson VUE and will have 90 days to schedule their exam online through Pearson VUE. The exam will be provided as a computerized adaptive test (CAT).
Approximately ten days after exam completion, the candidate will receive their scores. If the candidate receives a passing score, they will also receive their RN license. However, if a candidate does not receive a passing score, they will have the option to submit a retake application.
First-time candidates waiting for their scheduled time to take the NCLEX-RN may apply for a temporary (90-day maximum) nursing permit for an additional $25 fee. This license will allow them to work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse at a particular facility until they complete the exam and receive their scores.
Residency Programs and Employment Opportunities for RNs in South Dakota
Several healthcare institutions in South Dakota provide residency programs for newly licensed RNs. These programs provide new RNs with hands-on experience and mentorship to help them with the often-daunting task of transitioning into the professional workplace. The following are some of the institutions that offer this opportunity:
- Avera McKennan Hospital, Sioux Falls
- Sanford Health, Fargo
- Regional Health, Rapid City
Research shows that BSN-educated RNs are more likely to have job offers shortly after graduation than are graduates in other fields. In a 2013 survey distributed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), results revealed that 59% of new BSN graduates had job offers at the time of graduation and 89% of new BSN graduates had secured nursing jobs within four to six months of graduating.
Further, in another 2013 study conducted by the AACN in which 515 nursing schools were surveyed, results showed that 78.6% of employers are expressing a strong preference for BSN-educated candidates.
Some of the fields BSN-educated RNs are qualified to specialize in include:
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- School Nursing
- Intensive Care Unit
- Public Health
- Nursing Leadership