Back in 1869, five Sisters of Charity traveled via stagecoach to Helena, Montana from Leavenworth, Kansas. They helped establish St. John’s Hospital. Later, others came and helped establish hospitals at Virginia City, Butte, Anaconda and Billings. These pioneers were among Montana’s first nurses and an inspiration to other nurses in Montana who would follow in their footsteps.

Montana’s nursing workforce has grown and in 2018 there were more than 10,000 registered nurses (RNs) working in Montana, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additionally, there were over 2,000 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and more than 700 nurse practitioners (NPs) and other advanced practice nurses, the BLS notes. The Montana Department of Labor predicts strong demand for additional nurses from 2017 to 2027, and many Montana colleges have responded to this need by increasing the capacity of their nurse education programs

Keep reading to get the full scope of the nursing landscape in Montana, including educational and licensing requirements as well as professional organizations dedicated to promoting the field of nursing in the state.

Featured Nursing Schools in Montana

Montana Badge ImageChoosing the right school to teach you how to become a nurse can be a difficult decision, especially with 15 nursing schools in Montana to choose from. To help students narrow down their decision, we’ve compiled two lists of data about the nursing schools in Montana, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate level. Our data comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and it may be able to help you decide which nursing school in Montana could be right for you.

Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$2,280
Undergraduate graduation rate
7%
Undergraduate retention rate
97%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
68%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$5,182
Undergraduate graduation rate
46%
Undergraduate retention rate
69%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
88%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$2,478
Undergraduate graduation rate
26%
Undergraduate retention rate
60%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
76%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$4,402
Undergraduate graduation rate
33%
Undergraduate retention rate
60%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
91%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$4,397
Undergraduate graduation rate
27%
Undergraduate retention rate
57%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
89%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$5,490
Undergraduate graduation rate
54%
Undergraduate retention rate
76%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
83%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$5,435
Undergraduate graduation rate
41%
Undergraduate retention rate
74%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
87%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$4,752
Undergraduate graduation rate
24%
Undergraduate retention rate
57%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
75%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$3,840
Undergraduate graduation rate
44%
Undergraduate retention rate
49%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
93%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$1,680
Undergraduate graduation rate
8%
Undergraduate retention rate
51%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
78%
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
0
Graduate Tuition
$16,820
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0

Nursing Accreditation in Montana

When researching prospective Montana nursing schools, students should pay particular attention to accreditation. Only colleges that have received accreditation by a nationally recognized accrediting body are known to meet certain educational standards of excellence for their nurse education programs. In Montana, the primary nurse education accrediting bodies can include:

  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Each college featured in our rankings of the best nursing schools in Montana has achieved accreditation. The Montana State Board of Nursing can require students to complete a nurse education program from an accredited school of nursing to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is a prerequisite to obtaining a nursing license in Montana.

Montana Nursing Licensure

Montana nurses must obtain — and maintain — a license through the Montana State Board of Nursing. Licensure measures a student’s ability to effectively practice nursing.

Students who want to work as LPNs or RNs must first complete an accredited nurse education program and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-PN or the NCLEX-RN. They also must complete a background check and submit a fingerprint card to the state nursing board. Nursing licenses in Montana must be renewed every two years, and they expire on December 31 on either odd or even years depending on the year in which the applicant was born.

For additional information about Montana nursing licensure requirements, check with the Montana State Board of Nursing.

Montana Nursing organizations

The field of nursing is constantly changing and adapting to advances in technology and medicine. Professional nursing organizations can help Montana nurses stay abreast of change, learn new skills, and connect with peers through conventions and regular networking opportunities. Here’s a list of some leading professional nursing organizations in Montana.

  • Montana Nurses Association:

    The leading nursing organization in Montana can help nurses by promoting professional and ethical standards, as well as offering opportunities for professional development. The association has an annual convention in Helena, as well as member retreats in other parts of the state.

  • Montana Student Nurses’ Association:

    This statewide voluntary membership organization can help students prepare to obtain initial licensure through mentoring opportunities. It also can convey to students the ethical standards and skills they’ll need to succeed and thrive in the workforce.

  • Montana Primary Care Association:

    This nonprofit group advocates for better access to high-quality primary care in community health centers across the state. The association can provide learning opportunities and technical assistance to health centers, as well as advocate for expanding resources and forming key partnerships in the state.

Montana-Specific Continuing Education

Continuing education is a requirement for Montana nurses to maintain an active license. Montana LPNs, RNs and Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) must complete a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education during each two-year licensing period. Continuing education can make certain that nurses learn new skills that can help with clinical decision-making, as well as help expand their depth of knowledge in particular nursing roles.

The Montana Office of Rural Health & Area Health Education Center generally offers seven free online nursing education modules where Montana nurses can obtain many of their required continuing education credits at their own pace. For more information on continuing education for nurses and the requirements, check with the Montana State Board of Nursing

Hospitals in Montana

Many nursing students in Montana are likely to work in one of the state’s hospitals since 60 percent of licensed RNs work in hospitals, the BLS reports. Hospitals usually work closely with colleges and universities offering opportunities for students to gain clinical experience while in college. Nursing program graduates often find that hospitals can provide a good place to gain entry into the nursing workforce, as well as practical clinical experience.

Here’s an overview of three of the prominent hospitals in Montana.

  • Benefis Healthcare – East Campus (Great Falls): Benefis East Campus is one of the leading medical centers in the Great Falls region. The East Campus houses the Orthopedic Center of Montana, neonatal intensive care unit and Benefis Birth Center, women’s health, heart and vascular and many other additional services. Benefis East has 478 private beds.
  • Billings Clinic Hospital (Billings): Billings Clinic is one of the larger healthcare organizations in Montana, serving parts of northern Wyoming and the Dakotas as well. The physician-led, 304-bed hospital included a level II trauma center and a 20-suite family birthing center. More than 4,000 people work at Billings Clinic, including more than 400 physicians and advanced practitioners.
  • Kalispell Regional Medical Center (Kalispell):The 340-bed KRMC serves residents of northwest Montana. Its service area includes 13 counties and covers nearly 40,000 square miles. Core services include a Level III trauma center, cancer care, digestive health, primary and surgical care and many additional specialties. The hospital is contracted with more than 130 primary care physicians.
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

  • About Billings Clinic, Billings Clinic Hospital, https://www.billingsclinic.com/about-us/
  • About, Kalispell Regional Healthcare, https://www.krh.org/krhc/about
  • About SCL Health, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health Network, https://www.sclhealth.org/about/
  • About the MPCA, Montana Primary Care Association, https://www.mtpca.org/about/
  • American Hospital Directory, https://www.ahd.com/
  • Benefis East Campus, Benefis Health System, https://www.benefis.org/locations/east-campus/east-campus
  • Faith Inspired Early Health Care, Montana Women’s History, Montana Historical Society, http://montanawomenshistory.org/faith-inspired-early-health-care/
  • License Information, Montana State Board of Nursing, http://boards.bsd.dli.mt.gov/nur#1
  • Mission Statement, Montana Nurses Association, https://www.mtnurses.org/about/
  • Montana Employment and Labor Force Projections, Job Growth from 2017 to 2027, Montana Department of Labor and Industry, https://lmi.mt.gov/Portals/193/Publications/LMI-Pubs/Labor%20Market%20Publications/Projections2017-27.pdf
  • Montana Healthcare Practitioners and other Technical Occupations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mt.htm#29-0000
  • Online Nursing Education Modules, Montana State University, http://healthinfo.montana.edu/events-training/NursingEd.html

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