The nursing diploma was more common a few decades ago than it is now. During the 1970s, more than 800 diploma schools existed. Today, there are less than 100 such schools. Since it takes from two to three years to earn a diploma, many students are, instead, opting for the ADN degree. With that said, many students opt for the nursing degree, as it usually is awarded by hospital-based nursing schools that provide hands-on education, and graduates are qualified to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure as a registered nurse (RN) just as a student with a degree.

Prerequisites for Earning a Nursing Diploma

Some hospital-based nursing schools require that non-nursing prerequisite courses be completed at another school prior to admission, such as biology, chemistry and algebra. Other schools will coordinate their program with classes at a nearby school, and many offer self-contained classes that would help the student complete a full course schedule for the nursing diploma. In all cases, a high school diploma or GED is a prerequisite for entering a nursing diploma program.

How to Get a Nursing Diploma

A nursing diploma usually is available through hospital-based nursing schools, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities. However, potential students may discover that diploma programs are not as prevalent as other nursing degree programs. Additionally, the student who pursues a nursing diploma will discover that career advancement and further education only is possible through obtaining a degree rather than a diploma. On the other hand, a diploma is sufficient to become an RN, and a diploma is not a barrier to advancement in some cases. The diploma, like the associate’s degree, puts an emphasis on hands-on education through clinical environments. Like the nurse with an ADN, the nurse with a diploma will take courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, psychology, emergency medical technology, first aid, physical education, foods and nutrition, child growth and development, in addition to supervised clinical practice in patient care.

Careers Available After Obtaining a Nursing Diploma

A nursing diploma prepares the student for work within a hospital or inpatient environments such as nursing homes, mental health institutions, private homes, community health clinics, and public health departments. Many hospitals and medical institutions offer nurses a variety of schedules, from part-time work to daytime, evening, or weekend hours in order to fill their needs. This flexible scheduling can be a benefit to nurses who have other commitments such as family or continuing education courses.

A nurse with a diploma can provide basic bedside care for the sick, injured and convalescent patient under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. These nurses observe patients and report adverse reactions to treatments or medications. Some diploma nurses can help to deliver, to care for, and to feed infants. Experienced diploma nurses may supervise nursing assistants and aides. LPNs work directly with patients and are responsible for a wide range of duties that include performing injections, vital signs, basic diagnostic tests, wound dressing and the administration of medications.