According to the Department of Labor, nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. In Virginia alone, a severe shortfall in nurses is expected after 2015. In response, top-ranked programs statewide offer nursing education at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. These programs differ in their missions, clinical experience opportunities and licensure exam pass rates. While admission is competitive, scholarships and financial aid are available. Information sessions are offered regularly.

The University of Virginia

Ranked 15th nationally by "U.S. News & World Report," the University of Virginia Nursing School at Charlottesville offers a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing as well as post-master's certificates, a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice. UVA's primary goal is to educate nurses who promote good health in diverse communities and advocate for humane patient care. Students learn critical thinking and ethical decision-making, while simulated learning opportunities and pre-professional activities provide clinical experience. The 2012 licensure pass rates for the BSN and MSN programs were 88 percent and 90 percent respectively.

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond is a Catholic University whose nursing program ranks 36th nationally, according to "U.S. News and World Report." VCU offers traditional BSN and MSN degrees and an accelerated BSN program for those with a bachelor’s degree in a different subject. VCU also offers post-master’s certificates for students interested in becoming educators, practitioners or leaders and a pre-nursing program as preparation for entry into the bachelor's program. Students do most of their clinical work at VCU Medical Center. The 2012 licensure pass rate was 94 percent for the BSN program.

George Mason University

George Mason University's Nursing School in Fairfax is ranked 79th by "U.S. News & World Report." Part of the College of Health and Human Services, the program seeks to develop nurse leaders through service to diverse communities, health promotion and early disease detection. The program offers regular and accelerated BSN programs; the latter is entirely online. Graduate programs include the MSN, DNP and Ph.D. as well as certifications in nursing administration and nursing education. Moreover, students perform clinical work in a variety of community settings. In 2012, the licensure pass rate was 88 percent for the BSN program.

Marymount University

Marymount University in Alexandria is ranked 193rd nationally by "U.S. News and World Report." The university offers a traditional BSN, an accelerated program for career changers and a hybrid class requiring online and traditional coursework for working nurses seeking the BSN. Students are trained in health education and preventive care and are provided with a wide range of clinical experiences with patient simulations and internships at venues like Georgetown Medical Center. In addition, the licensure pass rates in 2012 were 92 percent for those in the BSN program and 97 percent in the accelerated BSN program.

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