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Become a Registered Nurse in California - CA

How to Become an RN in California

If you're hands-on and personable, enjoy helping people and don't get woozy at the sight of blood, then you might want to consider becoming a registered nurse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses educate patients, coordinate care, and provide advice and emotional support for patients and their families. They also explain to patients what to do after treatment and administer medicines and treatments.

Nursing is also a growing career, with employment of registered nurses expected to grow nationally by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. If you live in California or plan to move there, here's the vital information you need to know about how to become a registered nurse.

Education requirements

In California and across the nation, registered nurses usually take one of three educational paths, according to the BLS:

  1. A bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN): These degree programs often take at least four years to complete. According to the BLS, the programs typically include "additional education in the physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking," beyond the basic nursing care courses. They also usually offer more clinical experience in non-hospital settings than do the shorter nursing programs.
  2. An associate degree in nursing (ADN): These programs usually take two-three years to complete. They cover the basics just as well as a BSN program, but they don't include the broader education and added clinical experience.
  3. A diploma from an approved nursing program: A diploma often takes about the same time as an associate degree (two-three years), but the difference is largely in how students are educated. Diploma nurses typically take courses that are hospital-based or clinic-based, rather than connected with a college.

Each of these three programs shares similarities: courses in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, microbiology, psychology, chemistry, liberal arts and other social and behavioral sciences. You'll usually, with any of the three programs, have the background to qualify for a staff nurse position once you take the exam to become a licensed registered nurse.

There are other kinds of nursing programs, as well, such as RN-to-BSN programs (an accelerated bachelor's degree program for those with an ADN or diploma in nursing), master's degree programs in nursing (to work in management nursing or administration), combined bachelor's and master's programs, and programs for those with a bachelor's in another subject who wish to enter the nursing profession.

Licensure requirements

To become a registered nurse in California requires both local and national licensure.

National certification is granted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) to graduates of approved nursing programs who pass the exam (called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN).

After obtaining national licensure, you must then obtain statewide licensure from the California Board of Registered Nursing. There are a couple of ways of earning statewide licensure, depending on whether you are a new graduate applying for your first nursing license or a registered nurse from elsewhere in the U.S. or Canada who is relocating to California.

You could obtain licensure by examination, which requires:

  • $150 fee
  • A completed application (which can be done online or by paper)
  • Completed fingerprints
  • A recent 2" x 2" passport-type photograph
  • A Request for Accommodation of Disabilities form(s), if you're disabled
  • Transcripts directly forwarded from your nursing school
  • Documents explaining convictions or disciplinary action, if applicable
  • International applicants also complete the Breakdown of Educational Program for International Nursing Programs form and Certified English Translation form (if it's not in English)

If you have an RN license in another state or Canada, you can earn licensure by endorsement (also known as reciprocity), which requires:

  • $100 fee
  • Completed application
  • Completed fingerprints
  • A recent 2" x 2" passport-type photograph
  • Completed Verification of License form or Nurses Verification Request Application (if your state board of nursing participates in the program), according to the California Board of Registered Nursing website
  • Transcripts sent directly from your nursing school
  • Documents explaining convictions or disciplinary action, if applicable
  • International applicants also complete the Breakdown of Educational Program for International Nursing Programs form and Certified English Translation form (if it's not in English)

How to maintain your license

As nice as it may sound, you can't earn your RN license once and continue on in your profession for a lifetime. You must maintain and renew it.

According to the California Board of Registered Nursing website, here are some of the most important things you need to know about renewing your state RN license:

  • The first California RN license you receive is issued for two birthdays (not two years), and it expires on the last day of your birth month. From that date on, it will expire every two years, if it's renewed in a timely fashion.
  • Renewal notices are mailed out three months prior to the expiration date
  • You may work pending the renewal of your license
  • You're required to complete 30 hours of continuing education for license renewal, through a board-approved continuing education provider
  • You'll pay a total of $140 for renewal

The process of becoming a registered nurse in California, from the education to licensure, may seem daunting, but the lives you may help or save in the nursing profession, and the people you'll meet, make it a worthwhile pursuit. Just stay up to date on practices and keep that license renewed and you'll be on your way to a long, fulfilling career as a registered nurse in California.


Sources:

  1. Continuing Education for License Renewal, California Board of Registered Nursing, California Department of Consumer Affairs,
    http://www.rn.ca.gov/licensees/ce-renewal.shtml, accessed September 19, 2014
  2. License/Certificate Renewal, California Board of Registered Nursing, California Department of Consumer Affairs,
    http://www.rn.ca.gov/licensees/lic-renewal.shtml, accessed September 19, 2014
  3. Licensure by Endorsement, California Board of Registered Nursing, California Department of Consumer Affairs,
    http://www.rn.ca.gov/applicants/lic-end.shtml, accessed September 19, 2014
  4. Licensure by Examination, California Board of Registered Nursing, California Department of Consumer Affairs,
    http://www.rn.ca.gov/applicants/lic-exam.shtml, accessed September 19, 2014
  5. NCLEX Examinations, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm, accessed September 19, 2014
  6. Registered Nurses, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-4, accessed September 19, 2014

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