Recent data shows approximately 47,000 registered nurses are actively practicing in Washington, but new practitioners are still sorely needed. A 2011 University of Washington study of registered nursing in the state projected a job vacancy rate of 13.6 percent by 2031, representing more than 12,000 unfilled nursing positions in hospitals, ambulatory clinics, residential care facilities and community health organizations.

In order to meet that expected need, nursing colleges are hard at work educating the next generation of registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse practitioners (NPs) and others. Read on for information on how to become a nurse in Washington, including the state’s approach to nursing certification, licensure basics and a list of professional organizations that can support you in your career.

Best Nursing Schools in Washington

Washington Badge ImageWashington is the home to 51 nursing schools, but not every school is the right choice for every prospective nursing student. In order to help future nurses weigh their options, we’ve created two rankings of the best nursing schools in the state — one for graduate programs and one for undergraduate programs — based on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Here are our findings of the best nursing schools in Washington. If you’re curious about how we came to these conclusions, you can learn details of our methodology — such as the specific data metrics we used to rate these colleges and how we added them together to determine our final score — at the bottom of this page.

Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Undergraduate tuition
$19,032
Undergraduate graduation rate
17%
Undergraduate retention rate
71%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
100%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$39,600
Undergraduate graduation rate
73%
Undergraduate retention rate
85%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
99%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$40,500
Undergraduate graduation rate
75%
Undergraduate retention rate
87%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
96%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$9,694
Undergraduate graduation rate
84%
Undergraduate retention rate
94%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
58%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$38,980
Undergraduate graduation rate
84%
Undergraduate retention rate
92%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
99%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$5,907
Undergraduate graduation rate
52%
Undergraduate retention rate
76%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
89%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$26,100
Undergraduate graduation rate
54%
Undergraduate retention rate
81%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
100%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$6,110
Undergraduate graduation rate
47%
Undergraduate retention rate
76%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
93%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$38,520
Undergraduate graduation rate
71%
Undergraduate retention rate
82%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
98%
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Undergraduate tuition
$9,324
Undergraduate graduation rate
67%
Undergraduate retention rate
79%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
90%
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
15
Graduate Tuition
$19,353
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
10
Graduate Tuition
$15,207
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$11,224
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$16,457
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
2
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
4
Graduate Tuition
$25,381
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$15,207
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$15,207
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$27,432
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0

Nursing Accreditation in Washington

Potential nursing students may be concerned about tuition costs, available financial aid or number of nursing programs at their chosen nursing school — and rightfully so. However, accreditation is one of the most important factors to keep in mind. Accredited schools have been evaluated for their curriculum, their clinical facilities and their overall approach to nursing instruction and given a stamp of approval by an impartial organization of nursing and education professionals.

If you’re shopping around for nursing colleges in Washington, make sure to choose one that has been accredited by one or more of the following organizations:

  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education
  • Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission

Washington Nursing Licensure

All Washington nursing school graduates are required to obtain a license before they can officially begin their careers. This procedure includes earning a passing grade on the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) or licensed practical nurses (NCLEX-PN), providing fingerprints to the state for a background check, and paying a fee of $120.

After gaining a few years of experience as an RN or LPN, some professionals decide to return to school and continue their nursing education in a more advanced and specialized direction. NPs and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) need to earn at least a master’s degree in their chosen specialty before they can apply to be licensed. Washington also requires that advanced practitioners submit to a background check, complete pharmacology and AIDS education coursework, provide documentation of the nursing certification they earned when passing the license exam and pay a fee of $125 to the state nursing board.

Washington Nursing organizations

Nurses who want to become active in the professional community in Washington can join local nursing organizations, which can offer camaraderie with fellow nurses, access to exclusive professional development opportunities, and guidance when they need it. The following are just a few of the professional associations available to nurses in Washington:

  • Washington State Nurses Association:

    This nursing union is dedicated to meeting the needs of nursing educators and healthcare managers, as well as practicing nurses. Members of the organization receive a subscription to The Washington Nurse and discounts on the association’s education programs, and can also participate in mentoring services and networking events.

  • Nursing Students of Washington State:

    Formerly known as SWANS, NSWS is a statewide student-specific nursing association that hosts networking opportunities, education programs and scholarships for the next generation of Washington nurses. Members can even receive liability insurance through the association.

  • Washington Association of Nurse Anesthetists:

    This organization works to meet the needs of its membership with job listings, education resources and conferences. This is another group that’s common for students to join — 2018 membership consisted of 772 certified registered nurse anesthetists and 729 students.

  • West Sound Advanced Practice Association:

    Established advanced practice nurses and advanced nursing students in the Western Puget Sound region can join this organization. Its list of membership benefits includes access to networking events, scholarships and continuing education opportunities.

Washington-Specific Continuing Education

Washington nursing licenses expire every three years, on the license holder’s birthday. In order to keep their license current, Washington nurses are required to keep documents that illustrate at least 531 hours of active practice and complete 45 hours of continuing education (CE) classes.

These classes may take several forms, including workshops, self-study, online courses, on-the-job learning or traditional classroom education. Topics covered in CE courses may include geriatric health, nursing ethics, leadership principles and domestic violence.

Hospitals in Washington

When nursing students participate in clinical experiences, they often participate in hands-on training at local hospitals. What’s more, the majority of nurses in the workforce are employed in hospital facilities. The following hospitals in Washington are some of the biggest medical centers in the state:

  • Providence Centralia Hospital (Centralia): Providence Centralia Hospital specializes in hip and knee replacements. In addition, the hospital provides other surgical services, as well as emergency, diagnostic and cancer care. People in the community can also sign up for health education courses and participate in support groups on site.
  • Swedish First Hill Campus (Seattle): This facility, founded in Washington’s largest city by Dr. Nils Johanson, has been providing quality care to patients for over a century. Swedish First Hill Campus maintains dedicated institutes for cancer treatment and orthopedic medicine that offer specialized care, as well as a host of other institutes, from digestive health to neuroscience.
  • Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital (Spokane): Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital was founded as a modest 31-bed facility in 1886. Now the hospital is among the largest in the state and has become well-known for its cancer and transplant centers. The facility also contains the only a Level II Pediatric Trauma Center and Level IV NICU in Eastern Washington.
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/
  • American Hospital Directory, Accessed August 2018, https://www.ahd.com/
  • Washington State Registered Nurse Supply and Demand Projections: 2011-2031, University of Washington, Accessed August 2018, https://depts.washington.edu/uwrhrc/uploads/CHWS_FR134_Skillman.pdf
  • How to get back into nursing in Washington state, The Seattle Times, Accessed August 2018, https://www.seattletimes.com/explore/careers/how-to-get-back-into-nursing-in-washington-state/
  • Nursing Accreditation and Approval Status, Everett Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.everettcc.edu/programs/health-safety/nursing/accreditation
  • Nursing, Pacific Lutheran University, Accessed August 2018, https://www.plu.edu/nursing/
  • Accreditation, UW School of Nursing, Accessed August 2018, https://nursing.uw.edu/about/accreditation/
  • Accreditation and Membership, Seattle University, Accessed August 2018, https://www.seattleu.edu/about/accreditation-and-membership/
  • Nurse Licensing – Registered Nurse, Washington State Department of Health, Accessed August 2018, https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/RegisteredNurse
  • Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner License Requirements, Washington State Department of Health, Accessed August 2018, https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/AdvancedRegisteredNursePractitioner
  • Licensed Practical Nurse, Washington State Department of Health, Accessed August 2018, https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/LicensedPracticalNurse
  • Washington: Board of Nursing CE Requirements, Nurse.com, Accessed August 2018, https://www.nurse.com/state-nurse-ce-requirements/washington
  • Nurse Licensing – License Renewal, Washington State Department of Health, Accessed August 2018, https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/LicenseRenewal
  • Continuing Competency, Washington State Department of Health, Accessed August 2018, https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/ContinuingCompetency
  • Options and Acceptable Documentation of Continuing Competency Requirements, Washington State Department of Health, Accessed December 2018, https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/669332.pdf
  • Continuing competency, Washington State Nurses Association, Accessed August 2018, https://www.wsna.org/nursing-practice/continuing-competency
  • Washington State Nurses Association, Accessed August 2018, https://www.wsna.org/
  • Nursing Students of Washington State, Accessed August 2018, https://www.nsws.org/
  • Washington Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Accessed August 2018, http://www.wana-crna.org/
  • West Sound Advanced Practice Association, Accessed August 2018, https://www.westsoundapa.com/
  • Providence Centralia Hospital, Accessed August 2018, https://washington.providence.org/Locations-Directory/C/Centralia-Hospital
  • Swedish First Hill Campus, Accessed August 2018, https://www.swedish.org/locations/first-hill-campus
  • Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, Accessed August 2018, https://washington.providence.org/locations-directory/s/sacred-heart-medical-center

Explore schools offering nursing programs