Nursing FAQs

Learn what makes Kirkwood's nursing programs stand out! Find answers to common questions about getting started at Kirkwood, questions about transferring, and how to find a job after graduation.

If your question isn't answered here, feel free to contact the Department of Nursing at 319-398-5563.

Getting Started

The nursing program does not utilize a waiting list. We do, however, generally receive more program applications than we have openings in the fall. We do not hold those applications for the next term.

You must reapply each term. Upon completion of the necessary prerequisites, the program GPA is the deciding factor for acceptance into the nursing program.

Minimum program GPA of 2.75.

ALL prerequisites must have been completed (minimum "C" grade, unless noted):

  • Introduction to Nursing (grade must be a B- or better)
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & II (including Lab) (grades must be a B- or better)
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & II (including Lab) (BIO-168 & BIO-173) (must be less than 5 years old)

Attending a program conference is also required. Attendance date must be less than two years old from date of entry into the technical portion of the program.

Your CNA license must be listed as Eligible on the Direct Care Registry for the State of Iowa OR have passed all of the units for HSP State Certification (CORE, HMM & PADL) and the HSP state exam.

If you graduated from a U.S. high school or college, you are not required to take the TOEFL.

If you graduated from a high school or college outside the U.S., a TOEFL IBT of ≥ 84 with a Speaking score ≥ 26 is required.

If you are from one of the countries listed below, you are eligible for an exemption from the TOEFL requirement:

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Canada (except Quebec)
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United Kingdom

Other foreign language tests may be substituted for TOEFL IBT. Verification of the ability to read, write, speak, and understand English as determined by the TOEFL or IELTS. A passing score is:

  • 560 for the paper-based TOEFL
  • 220 for the computer based TOEFL
  • 6.5 for the IELTS academic

Algebra, Biology, English, Psychology, and Computer Technology classes will help you prepare for the nursing program.

Be sure to check out our High School Health Academy Program — we partner with local school districts to help you explore health care options and earn college credits before you graduate.

You're not able to take Gen Eds at the same time and must complete all of the general education requirements before you can start the technical portion of the program. Check out the worksheets and roadmaps below to help you build your academic blueprint for graduation, exams, and licensing.

Clinical courses are held within the 7-county area Kirkwood serves. A variety of long-term care facilities and hospitals are utilized.

  • Travel is required and students are responsible for their own transportation.
  • Some clinical sites include parking fees. Car-pooling is encouraged.

Kirkwood's nursing curriculum is very intense and requires a lot of study time. Many students do work part-time while they're taking classes.

We recommend planning for 4-6 hours of studying for every hour you spend in a class or clinical. For example, a 3-credit lecture class will require about 12-18 hours of study per week.

If you must work, we advise not more than 20 hours a week.

Important note: You CANNOT work the shift directly prior to your clinical day. This is for patient safety and is closely regulated.

Once the criminal background check is completed, any offenses, other than traffic violations, must be reported to the Human Services department in Des Moines.

You'll be given documentation to complete, which will be sent along with the background check to the Department of Human Services. Human Services will then make the decision on whether or not the student will be allowed to participate in clinical.

Even if you are cleared to participate in clinical, the Iowa Board of Nursing (IBON) has the right to decline licensure. Criminal background checks are repeated prior to taking the licensure exam and are always done upon an offer of employment in any health care setting.  IBON requires students to submit their legal paperwork prior to taking the licensure exam.

If you have concerns that something on your Criminal Background Check would prevent you from being licensed as a Registered Nurse, you can contact the Iowa Board of Nursing to determine your eligibility. 

  • Here is the link for the Iowa Board of Nursing’s Criminal Conviction Eligibility form. Make sure you read the information thoroughly. Remember, there is a $25 fee which is explained on the form.
  • The conviction would need to be quite serious for an applicant to be denied licensure, though you may need to meet some requirements.
  • If you need further information, please contact Doug Bartels, Associate Director of Enforcement,
  • If you decide to proceed with your Nursing education at Kirkwood Community College, please know that you will also have to complete an additional federal and state background prior to admission to the technical program.

Nursing program staff will notify you in writing if you are unable to take a clinical course for any of the following reasons:

  • Denied licensure by the board
  • License is currently suspended, surrendered or revoked in any United States jurisdiction
  • License/registration is currently suspended, surrendered or revoked in another country due to disciplinary action
  • Refusal to participate in the background check or evaluation process
  • A felony conviction
  • A felony, serious misdemeanor, or aggravated misdemeanor charge with an outstanding disposition or warrant
  • A serious misdemeanor or aggravated misdemeanor conviction in which the probationary period has not been completed
  • A criminal conviction of any kind, related to past employment, and/or a health care system or organization
  • Certain inclusions on the child, dependent adult, and/or sexual abuse registry
  • A criminal conviction of any kind related to illegal distribution or theft of drugs in the past 10 years
  • 2 OWI convictions in the past 3 years
  • A criminal conviction related to the possession of drugs, and/or illegal substances in the past 3 years

Any of the criteria listed below may also disqualify you from enrollment in Kirkwood's nursing program:

  • A misdemeanor conviction involving domestic abuse with injury, violence, or sexual misconduct
  • A pattern of criminal convictions or charges
  • Recent criminal conviction(s) or charges of any type

While enrolled in the nursing program at Kirkwood Community College, it is expected that students report all child abuse, dependent adult abuse, and/or criminal activity in which they are involved, to Kirkwood Community College Nursing Department within forty-eight (48) hours of the incident.  Failure to do so could result in criminal charges per Iowa Code and removal from the program. 

Transferring to Kirkwood

It depends on the number of prerequisites you have remaining — an advisor can help you determine what classes you'll need.

Connect with an advisor

Note: Acceptance into the Technical Day Program is fall term only.

Your nursing and other general education courses will be evaluated by the Nursing Program department coordinator and Kirkwood Enrollment Services.

Before sending in your transcripts, we highly recommended meeting with an advisor first. Please bring a copy of your unofficial transcripts, unless you have already sent them to Enrollment Services/One Stop. This way, we'll be able to assess your current status and work with you to plan your path for success at Kirkwood.

Schedule a meeting with an advisor.

After Graduation

Yes — you can work as an LPN in any state in the U.S. However,

  • IF you are planning to move permanently to another state right after graduation, you should set up a appointment to meet with the Dean to ensure all license by examination requirements for that state are met.
  • IF you temporarily travel to a state to assist in a disaster or to work as an agency or travel LPN, you can work in many/most states on your Iowa multi-state or “Compact” license or obtain a license by endorsement from that state. 

Yes — you can work as an RN in any state in the U.S. However,

  • IF you are planning to move permanently to another state right after graduation, you should set up an appointment to meet with the Dean to ensure all license by examination requirements for that state are met.
  • IF you temporarily travel to a state to assist in a disaster to work as an agency or travel RN, you can work in many/most states on you Iowa multi-state or “Compact” license or obtain a license by endorsement from that state. 

After the second semester of the technical portion of the nursing program, you'll earn a Practical Nurse diploma and will be eligible to complete the LPN licensure exam.

If you continue through the full program, you'll earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and will be eligible to complete the RN licensure exam.

Many area colleges and universities offer a bachelor's degree in nursing. Our ADN programs transfer to 11 accredited four-year nursing programs in Iowa and one in Nebraska. Your state license will remain as an RN.

Talk with advisor about continuing your studies.

You must apply to the Iowa Board of Nursing (IBON) and successfully pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before you're licensed in the state of Iowa.

After successfully completing the practical Nursing program, you are eligible take the LPN licensure exam (Licensed Practical Nurse).

After successfully completing the ADN program, you are eligible to take the RN (Registered Nurse) licensure exam.


Department of Nursing
2172 Linn Hall