It can be very interesting to become a nurse in California. There are various different entry pathways, allowing for different professional positions as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can earn as much as $44,000 per year, and registered nurses (RNs) can earn as much as $70,000 per year on average.
ENTRY LEVEL PRACTICE NURSES
STAGE 1. COMPLETE THE REQUIRED NURSING EDUCATION COURSES.
There are different options for you, and these are:
- Licensed Practical Nurse, which takes around a year to complete and prepares you for the NCLEX-PN examination.
- Associate’s degree, which takes two years to complete and prepares you for the NCLEX-RN examination.
- Bachelor’s degree, which takes four years to complete and prepares you for the NCLEX-RN examination.
Entry into all programs in California is incredibly competitive. Hence, it is recommended that you do as well as possible on all your prerequisite courses. LPNs have a C average as a minimum recommendation, but this is generally not enough to be accepted.
STAGE 2 – COMPLETE THE NCLEX-PN OR NCLEX-RN EXAMINATION.
This is a standardized national test that proves you have the right training to start work as a nurse.
ADVANCED PRACTICE NURSES
For Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs), the stages are more enhanced.
STAGE 1. EARN A GRADUATE DEGREE AT A MASTER’S LEVEL AS A MINIMUM.
The exception is for public health nurses, which is a bachelor’s degree program. The program you complete must be accredited by the NLN (National League of Nursing, or one that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The California Board of Registered Nursing determines whether or not a program is approved. Their full list can be found here.
There are six types of APNs in California, namely, the NP (Nurse Practitioner), the Nurse Midwife (NMW), the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse (PMHN), the Nurse Anesthetist (NA) and the Public Health Nurse (PHN). Each has different methods of certification. See RN to MSN for California.
NPs and NMWs can have prescriptive authority. To gain this, you must complete coursework covering advanced pharmacology. Additionally, 520 clinical supervised hours dealing with medical devices and drugs must be completed.
STAGE 2 – BECOME NATIONALLY CERTIFIED.
Here is where you need to indicate the classification for which you want to be certified. This is elective, unless you choose to be an NA. However, most will choose to gain this certification. This is completed through national agencies, who each have their own requirements. California recognizes:
- The AANP (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners), which recognizes the Adult Nurse Practitioner and the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP.
- The ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center), who recognize Adult Nurse Practitioners, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP), Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP), Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), Pediatric Nurse Practitioner PNP) and the Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).
- The AACN Certification Corporation (American Association of Critical Care Nurses), which recognizes the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.
- The NCC (National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties), which recognizes the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) and the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP).
- The PNCB (Pediatric Nurse Certification Board, which recognizes acute and primary care pediatric nurse practitioners.
- The ONCC (Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation), which recognizes the Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS).
- The American Midwifery Certification Board, which recognizes the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM).
- The National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA), which recognizes the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
STAGE 3 – APPLY TO RECEIVE YOUR CERTIFICATE.
For this you must disclose your social security number. The Board will be able to assist you if you do not have a social security number.
To become certified as a nurse practitioner, you must complete the Application for Nurse Practitioner Certification. Nurse midwives must complete the Nurse-Midwife Certification. A Clinical Nurse Specialist must complete the Application for Clinical Nurse Specialist. The Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse must complete the Application for the Listing as a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse. The Nurse Anesthetist must complete the Nurse Anesthetist Certification. The Public Health Nurse must complete the Application for California Public Health Nurse Certificate. Each of these has different requirements in terms of necessary documentation, fees and identification procedures.
NPs and NMWS can have prescriptive authority, for which they must apply separately. As an NP, you must use the Nurse Practitioner Furnishing Number Application and as an NMW, you must use the Nurse-Midwife Furnishing Number Application.
All APNs must have a full criminal history background check. Additionally, they must submit fingerprints through LiveScan.
STAGE 4 – RENEW YOUR CERTIFICATE.
You will receive an RN license renewal reminder about 3 months before its expiration. Renewal can be done online. At this point, you will need to resubmit your finger prints as well.
NPs, PHNs and PMHNs do not have to put in a separate renewal application, as it will be completed together with their RN renewal. However, NAs, CNS and NMWs do have to renew their license every two years before the final day of their month of birth. Additionally, you must renew your prescriptive authority separately.
California has determined that RNs must complete 30 hours of continuous education (CE) every two years in order to renew their license. No further CE requirements are set for APNs. However, national certification agencies do have additional requirements that you will have to meet.
California Board of Registered Nursing
Board of Registered Nursing
1747 North Market Boulevard, Suite 150
Sacramento, CA 95834
Board of Registered Nursing
P.O. Box 944210
Sacramento, CA 94244-2100
Main Phone: (916) 322-3350
Hearing impaired individuals can call the TDD number: (800) 326-2297