In Iowa, the nursing profession started with nurses who visited sick people in their homes and administered care to the poor, transitioning in the early part of the 20th century to care for sick or injured employees in the state’s meat-packing plants. Today, Iowa nurses bring their care and compassion to a wide variety of settings, providing clinical care and patient support in hospitals, outpatient clinics, emergency rooms, surgical centers, residential care facilities and schools.

In fact, nearly 52,000 registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) were working in Iowa in 2018. If you want to join their ranks, read on to learn how to become a nurse in Iowa, from the best schools to earn your nursing education to the state’s standards for nursing certification and licensure.

Best Nursing Schools in Iowa

Iowa Badge ImageEducation is an important step on the road to a career in nursing, and our two lists of the best nursing schools in Iowa can help you pick the right school for you. The first list details the best undergraduate nursing schools in Iowa, and the second lists the best graduate colleges for advanced nursing students.

These lists can be a big help when researching nursing colleges — especially given that there were 40 colleges and universities offering nursing degree programs at various levels in Iowa in 2018. We gathered data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) and analyzed it with our specially designed methodology to compile the rankings. (Details of our methodology can be found at the bottom of this page.)

Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$7,128
Undergraduate graduation rate
72%
Undergraduate retention rate
87%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
88%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$4,768
Undergraduate graduation rate
35%
Undergraduate retention rate
54%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
86%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$27,684
Undergraduate graduation rate
44%
Undergraduate retention rate
79%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
98%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$3,912
Undergraduate graduation rate
35%
Undergraduate retention rate
64%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
85%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$26,440
Undergraduate graduation rate
43%
Undergraduate retention rate
66%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
100%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$15,327
Undergraduate graduation rate
41%
Undergraduate retention rate
67%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
75%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$4,620
Undergraduate graduation rate
27%
Undergraduate retention rate
60%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
82%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$13,356
Undergraduate graduation rate
35%
Undergraduate retention rate
33%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
71%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$3,432
Undergraduate graduation rate
25%
Undergraduate retention rate
60%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
91%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$4,223
Undergraduate graduation rate
43%
Undergraduate retention rate
64%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
99%
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
17
Graduate Tuition
$8,856
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
2
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$3,996
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
3
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
6
Graduate Tuition
$9,216
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
6
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
9
Graduate Tuition
$9,432
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
9
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Graduate Tuition
$6,996
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$9,079
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
3
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Graduate Tuition
$9,630
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Graduate Tuition
$10,548
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$16,020
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0

Nursing Accreditation in Iowa

Future nurses should check that the nursing college they wish to enroll at is accredited by an official accrediting organization. If a school or a program is accredited, that means the quality of the curriculum and education has been reviewed and found to meet or exceed national educational standards. This can be important during school, as accredited schools are eligible for federal financial aid that unaccredited schools are not, and after school, as many employers prefer to hire graduates of accredited schools over those from unaccredited ones.

It’s wise to make sure your Iowa nursing school is accredited by at least one of these agencies:

  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • National League for Nursing
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

Iowa Nursing Licensure

RNs and LPNs in Iowa are required to apply for licensure through the Iowa Board of Nursing before they can officially begin their careers. To do this, applicants must first graduate from an approved nursing program and show proof of a high school diploma or GED. Fingerprint cards and the appropriate fee must be submitted with the application. The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN) must be successfully completed before licensure can be awarded, but don’t worry — it can be retaken any number of times if something goes wrong.

Advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) in Iowa also apply for licensure through the Iowa Board of Nursing, whether they’re looking to practice as nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives or registered nurse anesthetists. Aspiring ARNPs are asked to provide a transcript showing completion of a graduate level nursing program, submit proof of advanced national certification through a national certifying organization, and remit an application fee. They must also hold a current RN license.

Iowa Nursing Organizations

Membership in a nursing organization at the state level can bring benefits to established working nurses as well as those just starting out in their careers. Networking, education and political advocacy are at the heart of many nursing associations in Iowa, which include such groups as the following:

  • Iowa Nurses Association:

    With more than 1,200 members, the Iowa Nurses Association offers opportunities to network with other nurses and to broaden your knowledge through articles, case studies and white papers. Members also receive magazine and newsletter access, a source for scholarship information and more.

  • Iowa State Council Emergency Nurses Association: 

    Members of this association can access recent newsletters and take advantage of a career center. The state council is part of the nationwide Emergency Nurses Association, which has more than 40,000 members. The list of benefits for members includes specialty pricing for emergency nursing certification exams.

  • Iowa Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association: 

    Iowa nurses who work with people with disabilities can find information and resources through this organization’s quarterly meetings and annual fall conference. IDDNA’s online career center also allows nurses to post their resumes and search for jobs.

  • Iowa Association of Nurse Practitioners: 

    Founded in 1975, the Iowa Association of Nurse Practitioners offers support to NPs through continuing education opportunities, legislative advocacy and networking and collaboration with other organizations.

Iowa-Specific Continuing Education

LPNs and RNs in Iowa are subject to similar continuing education (CE) requirements when it comes time to renew their licenses. All licensed nurses must submit their renewal application at least 30 days before the expiration of their current license and show that they have completed either 36 contact hours or 3.6 CE units.

ARNPs are expected to furnish proof of current national board certification in their practice specialty as an additional license renewal requirement, but the number of contact hours or CE units they must complete are the same as those listed for RNs and LPNs.

One contact hour of CE is described as 60 minutes of instruction or laboratory practicum, although a similar, approved learning experience may be accepted instead. Completing a nurse residency program or acting as a preceptor for a nursing student are alternative ways that nurses can complete their CE requirements.

Hospitals in Iowa

Hospitals can be a great place for LPNs, RNs and ARNPs to complete internships, find mentors and learn about job opportunities they might otherwise have missed. Here’s some basic information on the three hospitals in Iowa that have the state’s largest numbers of staffed beds:

  • University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (Iowa City): The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, located on the University of Iowa campus, employed more than 2,000 professional nurses in 2017. Nurses may be able to serve in areas as diverse as endocrine surgery, ocular prosthetics and pulmonary therapy.
  • Mercy Medical Center (Des Moines): Mercy Medical Center is a nonprofit Catholic hospital founded in 1893. It has grown to include a cardiac catheterization recovery unit, a children’s hospital and a gastrointestinal center.
  • Iowa Methodist Medical Center (Des Moines): This regional medical center and teaching hospital was founded in a single building in 1901, but now it employs close to 4,000 people. It is well-known in the Midwest for its cancer care services and also houses a Level I Trauma Center, a maternity center and a rehabilitation center.
Sources & Methodology

Methodology

Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we gathered data for 6,758 United States institutions. We then filtered that list of schools by state and analyzed the data for each state with two different methodologies, in order to create two different lists: our undergraduate list, based on 11 ranking criteria, and our graduate list, based on 9 ranking criteria.

Final data for the 2016-17 school year was used for these rankings. Schools that did not provide data for all of the required ranking criteria were disqualified from that ranking.

The 11 criteria for the undergraduate school ranking were as follows:

  1. Number of associate- and bachelor’s-level degree programs offered to nursing-related majors
  2. Number of associate- and bachelor’s-level nursing-related degree programs offered via distance education
  3. Variety of associate- and bachelor’s-level nursing-related degree programs offered
  4. Tuition
  5. Retention rate
  6. Graduation rate
  7. Average amount of federal grant aid awarded to full-time first-time undergraduates
  8. Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid
  9. Credit offerings (Military, Dual, Life Experience, AP)
  10. Services (Career Counseling, Placement Services)
  11. Availability of tuition plans (Guaranteed, Prepaid, Payment, Other)

The graduate school ranking scored schools based on 9 criteria, different from the undergraduate list. These 9 criteria were as follows:

  1. Number of master’s- and doctoral-level degree programs offered to nursing-related majors
  2. Number of master’s- and doctoral-level nursing-related degree programs offered via distance education
  3. Variety of master’s- and doctoral-level nursing-related degree programs offered
  4. Tuition
  5. Retention rate
  6. Graduation rate
  7. Credit offerings (Military, Dual, Life Experience, AP)
  8. Services (Career Counseling, Placement Services)
  9. Availability of tuition plans (Guaranteed, Prepaid, Payment, Other)

All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.

NOTE: Schools’ tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.

 

Sources

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed January 2018, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • About Mercy, Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, Accessed October 2018, http://www.mercydesmoines.org/about-mercy
  • About Us, Iowa Association of Nurse Practitioners, Accessed October 2018, https://iowaanp.enpnetwork.com/page/226-about-us
  • About Us, Iowa Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association, Accessed October 2018, https://iddna.nursingnetwork.com/page/35051-about-us
  • Continuing Education – Licenses, Iowa Administrative Code, Accessed October 2018, https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iac/rule/09-13-2017.655.5.2.pdf
  • Exam (NCLEX), Iowa Board of Nursing, Accessed October 2018, https://nursing.iowa.gov/licensure/exam-nclex
  • Free Hospital Profiles, American Hospital Directors, Accessed October 2018, https://www.ahd.com/
  • General Requirements for the Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Accessed October 2018, https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iac/rule/04-27-2016.655.7.2.pdf
  • Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Accessed October 2018, https://www.unitypoint.org/desmoines/iowa-methodist-medical-center.aspx
  • Licensure, Iowa Board of Nursing, Accessed October 2018, https://nursing.iowa.gov/licensure
  • Membership, Iowa Nurses Association, Accessed October 2018, http://www.iowanurses.org/Membership.aspx
  • Membership- Join Now, Iowa State Council Emergency Nurses Association, Accessed October 2018, https://iowaena.nursingnetwork.com/page/46881-membership-join-now
  • Mercy History, Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, Accessed October 2018, http://www.mercydesmoines.org/about-mercy/mercy-history
  • Nursing in Iowa: The Making of a Profession, Iowa Pathways, Iowa Public Television, Accessed October 2018, http://www.iptv.org/iowapathways/mypath/nursing-iowa-making-profession
  • Total Number of Professionally Active Nurses, Kaiser Family Foundation, Accessed October 2018, https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/total-registered-nurses/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
  • University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, University of Iowa, Accessed October 2018, https://uihc.org/locations/university-iowa-hospitals-clinics

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