How to Become a Neuroscience Nurse

Published October 26, 2022

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Neuroscience nurses work in one of the fastest-advancing fields of medicine. This guide explains how to become a neuroscience nurse and what the work is like.

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How to Become a Neuroscience Nurse
Credit: Solskin | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Neuroscience nurses care for patients with neurological conditions, such as brain injuries or stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, or epilepsy. Because our understanding of neuroscience advances rapidly, this is an especially exciting field for nurses interested in the brain and the nervous system. Learn how to become a neuroscience nurse and what neuroscience nursing jobs are like.

How Long to Become

2-4 years

Degree Required

ADN or BSN

Certification

Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN®)
(Certification Recommended)


What Is a Neuroscience Nurse?

Neuroscience nurses work in hospitals, independent practices, and in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. They care for patients with neurological diagnoses — conditions affecting the nervous system. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.

While our understanding of how the nervous system works is growing rapidly, many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are still being researched. This is a complex and rapidly-changing area of medicine.

Neuroscience nurses, also known as neurology nurses, perform physical assessments and examinations, help patients recover from neurological conditions, and assist patients with mobility. They may work with neurologists, surgeons, psychiatrists and psychologists, and physical therapists.

Steps to Becoming a Neuroscience Nurse

The first step in becoming a neuroscience nurse is earning a nursing degree. You can earn either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). While the ADN is faster, because neuroscience is so complex, many employers require or give preference to nurses with a BSN.

Since many neurology patients have had a stroke or brain injury or otherwise are at high risk, employers may require a certificate in basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, or speciality nursing certifications.

1. Earn an ADN or BSN Degree From an Accredited Program

An ADN degree takes two years to complete, compared to four years for a BSN. ADN programs are generally much cheaper. However, if you want to earn a master's degree and become an advanced practice nurse (APRN), you will need either a BSN or to enroll in a RN-to-MSN program. Nurses with an ADN and nursing experience can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program.

2. Pass the NCLEX to Receive RN Licensure

Once you earn your degree, the next step is to pass the NCLEX-RN examination. Once you pass, you are eligible to apply for your state nursing license. Before you choose a school, be sure to check its NCLEX-RN pass rate.

3. Gain Experience in Neuroscience Nursing

The final step in how to become a neuroscience nurse is to develop experience in neuroscience nursing. As an entry-level neurology nurse, you will receive extensive on-the-job training in a hospital, health center, or other care setting.

4. Consider Becoming a Certified Neuroscience Nurse

Once you have experience as a neuroscience nurse, you may wish to earn certification, such as a Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN®) or as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN®). The American Board of Neuroscience Nursing administers both of these credentials.

Featured Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Neuroscience Nurse Education

If you want to become a neuroscience nurse as quickly as possible, you may consider earning a two-year ADN degree, getting your RN license, and finding a neurology nursing position. However, while this is the fastest and most affordable way, a BSN may be more valuable if you want a supervisory role or to earn a graduate nursing degree.

ADN Degree

Students short on time or budget-conscious may prefer an ADN. This degree is often cheaper than a BSN, and most students finish in two years. But, many employers require or strongly prefer a BSN, especially for higher-level positions. That said, there are pathways to earning a BSN later if an ADN is the best choice for you now.

  • Admission Requirements

    High school diploma or GED certificate; courses in math and science

  • Program Curriculum

    Practical nursing skills, health assessment, communication, legal and ethical aspects of nursing

  • Time to Complete

    2 years

  • Skills Learned

    How to administer medications, perform different health tests, hygiene and infection control, patient education skills, and how to work as part of a healthcare team

BSN Degree

A BSN takes at least four years, compared to two years for an ADN. Many employers prefer or require a BSN degree. Also, If you plan to earn a graduate degree or become an APRN, the BSN will help set you on that path.

  • Admission Requirements

    High school diploma or GED certificate; courses in math and science; typically at least a 3.0 GPA

  • Program Curriculum

    Practical nursing skills, health assessment, communication, legal and ethical aspects of nursing, theory and background of nursing, evidence-based nursing practice

  • Time to Complete

    4 years

  • Skills Learned

    How to administer medications, perform different health tests, hygiene and infection control, patient education skills, how to work as part of a healthcare team, how to conduct nursing research, nurse leadership

Neuroscience Nurse Licensure and Certification

Once you have your nursing license, you will need to maintain it through continuing professional education. Specific requirements vary by state, but in general, you must participate in a certain number of hours either from accredited providers or from activities that have received approval from accreditors. These include conferences, classes, webinars, or approved reading and tests.

Entry-level positions in neuroscience nursing require just a nursing license, but once you have experience as a neurology nurse, you may want to earn a specialty certification. The American Board of Neuroscience Nursing administers the most common neuroscience nursing accreditations, the CNRN and the SCRN. To apply for either neuroscience nurse credential, you need at least one year of experience as a neuroscience nurse or a stroke nurse within the last three years, a current and unencumbered RN license, and a passing grade on the certification course.

Working as a Neuroscience Nurse

Now that you know how to become a neuroscience nurse, you may wonder what the work is like. In a specialized hospital or department in a large hospital, your work may be very specialized, such as stroke treatment and rehabilitation, or more general if you are working in a neurology department or practice that treats all conditions.

Because you will likely be working with people who have experienced brain damage from injury or illnesses, you will need exceptional non-verbal communication skills, creativity, and patience. While patients of all ages can have neurological conditions, many conditions are more common among older adults, so skills with gerontology nursing will come in handy.

According to Payscale, the average neuroscience nurse salary is $73,361 as of October 2022. Salaries vary based on location, role, experience, and education and certification.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Neuroscience Nurse


What professional organizations should neuroscience nurses consider joining?

The American Association of Neuroscience Nursing, which oversees the CNRN and SCRN certifications, is the main professional organization for neuroscience nurses. You may also wish to consider joining the Association of Child Neurology Nurses or the World Federation of Neuroscience Nurses.

How long does it take to be a neuroscience nurse?

Becoming a neuroscience nurse can take between 4-6 years. It takes at least two years to earn an ADN and four years to earn a BSN. After earning a degree, you can sit for the RN licensure exam. Once you have earned an RN license, the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing requires at least one year of experience as a neuroscience nurse or a stroke nurse to be eligible for certification.

Who do neuroscience nurses work with?

Neuroscience nurses work with neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, physical therapists, physicians, and other nurses. They treat patients of all ages with any kind of neurology conditions, but in general, they are more likely to treat older adults.

What are some key traits for neuroscience nurses?

Because the neuroscience field changes rapidly, neuroscience must be quick and lifelong learners. Neurology patients may have more difficulty in communicating or regulating emotions, so nurses will also need excellent non-verbal communication skills, patience, and creativity.


Page Last Reviewed on October 15, 2022


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