How to become a Registered Nurse
Helpful steps to becoming a registered nurse:
- To verify your interest and ability in nursing arrange for a job shadow.
- Evaluate degree paths and make a decision on the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or Diploma in Nursing.
- Research accredited nursing programs for an understanding of admission requirements and prerequisites.
- Apply to an accredited nursing program and successfully earn your elected degree.
- Study for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse.
- Start your career as a registered nurse. If pursuing a nursing specialty focus on an entry-level position in the area of your desired interest, complete the requirements, and pass your state’s certification test.
- If you hold the Associate Degree or Diploma in Nursing and would like to advance, research employer tuition reimbursement plans and apply for a RN-to-BSN program.
Before committing to a career in nursing, what options are available for exposure to the real-life experience of a practicing registered nurse?
Many aspiring students can gain insight into their nursing career choice by requesting a job shadow. A practicing registered nurse will then allow the student to “shadow”, or follow them throughout a typical shift to observe their daily actions and experiences. This real-life experience provides exposure to the daily responsibilities and physical demands of a registered nurse. It is a great way to evaluate one’s tolerance to blood and needles. Many colleges, universities, and hospitals highly recommend this process and offer job shadowing programs for prospective students.
Learn more about the registered nurse license.
When studying to become a registered nurse, are internships required or helpful?
While not required by most programs, internships are strongly recommended. Colleges and universities often arrange paid hospital internships for students. Clinical classroom instructors occasionally join interns at the hospital to provide additional training. Internships prepare aspiring nurses with real experience, and provide insight on specific areas of interest.
What advancement opportunities are available for a registered nurse?
Registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees may choose to advance to a master’s or doctorate degree and become Advanced Practice Nurses (APN). There are four separate fields of APNs. Permission and salary levels vary for each and are dependent on the Nurse Practice Acts (NPAs) within each state:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP): This level of nursing is closely associated to that of an actual practicing physician. NPs have the ability to write prescriptions and often focus on a specific health need or age group. Family Nurse Practitioners, better known as family nurses, often serve as family doctors and provide a broad range of services to patients from childhood to old age.
- Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CNA): Because they can administer anesthesia services just as an anesthesiologist (MD), CRNAs require an extensive amount of education and training and must acquire a certificate to work in all 50 states. In the job market, CRNAs suffer no inferiority to their MD counterparts. Each year in the United States 26 million patients are anesthetized. Over 65% of these are administered by CRNAs.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): Focusing on a specific population and specialty, a CNS provides one of the highest levels of expertise in the nursing field. Specialties address disease types, medical environments, or specific patient types as is the case with pediatrics. Specialists may also focus on specific procedures or duties that involve teaching and consulting, clinical practice, research, and or management.
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): This dedicated field could be closely compared to that of an Obstetrician/Gynecologist. It is centered on labor and the delivery of babies. It is also concerned administering prenatal and postpartum care for new mothers. CNMs deliver babies in both hospitals and homes, and often remain with the mother for the entire labor process. Extensive training is required to recognize when abnormal signs and symptoms require a physician to be involved in the delivery. CNMs are qualified to prescribe medications in most states, and may also administer drugs and perform medical procedures if requested by the mother. Additional abilities include prenatal and postnatal care, family planning and birth control counseling, as well as normal gynecological services.
What is the difference between a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse (LPN)?
Less education is required to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In fact, LPNs require only one year of healthcare education, while a registered nurse requires at least two to four years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov 2013), registered nurses earn approximately $64,690 in median wages per year, whereas licensed practical nurses earn about $40,380.
Learn more about the registered nurse degree.
How can a licensed practical nurse become a registered nurse?
Accelerated programs are available to move from an LPN to registered nurse; however, an LPN must first possess at least two years of nursing experience before entering the program. A second option would be to earn the Associate Degree in Nursing or Diploma which would take an additional two-to-three years to complete. Once obtained, graduates would be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse.