Guide to Become A Registered Nurse

Registered Nurse Resource – Everything You Need To Know Before You Become A Registered Nurse

In order to become a registered nurse (RN), a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing is usually required — though some candidates choose to earn diplomas from approved nursing programs. These programs may be offered in a traditional, on-campus format, online, or in a blended format that incorporates campus and web-based learning.

Regardless of their chosen pathway, RNs should complete courses in fields such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and nutrition. Once they complete their studies, RN candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to be licensed. A license is required to work as an RN in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. In addition to the license, RNs may choose to become certified in gerontology, pediatrics, or other specialized fields.

RNs are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for RNs are expected to rise 15% — adding more than 430,000 new positions — between 2016 and 2026. In addition, their annual salaries are above average. RNs can choose from several specialized roles, including critical care nurses who work in intensive-care units, neonatology nurses that care for newborns and infants, and rehabilitation nurses who care for patients with temporary or permanent disabilities.

There are many different pathways of education if you wish to become a registered nurse. However, all will culminate into your taking the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination) exam. Let’s take a look at the various pathways you can follow in order to take the NCLEX-RN exam, as well as various other resources you may need if you are thinking about becoming a registered nurse.

The Different Education Pathways

You can become a registered nurse using the following educational methods:

  • Undergraduate. The Diploma in Nursing (DiN) was once the most popular way of becoming an RN and getting into nursing. This diploma can be obtained through schools of nursing based in hospitals.
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). To complete this course, you will need to learn about nursing, anatomy, chemistry, nutrition, microbiology and other specialized subjects. Furthermore, it includes a number of liberal art subjects. Although the DiN was once the most popular, most people now choose the ADN instead. It allows you to gain employment in an entry-level position. Choosing the ADN method is generally the quickest way of eventually becoming an RN. The program takes between 2 and 3 years to complete. It can be followed through by taking courses from hospital-based schools and community colleges.
  • Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing (BSN). This degree takes four years to complete and can be done either at college or university. It is also possible to take part in fast tracked RN-to-BSN programs, in which case the program takes just 2 or 3 years. If you already hold a non-nursing Bachelor’s degree, you can take part in accelerated programs, which should only take one to one and a half years to complete. A BSN offers:
  • Preparation to work in any type of healthcare setting.
  • A concentration on human growth, psychology, biology, human development, microbiology, nutrition, organic chemistry, physiology and anatomy during the first two years.
  • A concentration on chronic disease, adult care, child health, maternity, mental health pediatrics, psychiatric health and community health during the final two years.
  • A focus on political, cultural, social and economic issues that affect health.
  • Nursing theory
  • Graduate level. There are three graduate level options for those who are interested in nursing work. These options are:
  • Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN), which helps you to become an Advanced Practice Nurse, nurse educator or nurse administrator.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD), which is a degree focused on research, allowing you to become a teacher or researcher after completion.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which focuses on leadership roles and clinical practice.
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Online Options

More and more people are looking into ways of studying online. Traditionally, this was not possible for nursing because it is such a hands-on job. However, there are now various bachelor and associate degrees that can be completed in part or fully online. Nevertheless, some clinical experience has to be obtained as well, which distance learning students must do in their local community. There are full online nursing programs for those looking into doing the RN to BSN program or online RN to MSN. These use full online classrooms because they are designed for those who already work as a nurse. There are also online options for accelerated programs, which are designed for those who rapidly want to do a career change. Take note, however, that these programs are generally only available to those who have healthcare experience and those who have a high GPA.

Getting Licensed

Each state in this country has a nursing board, which has the mission of making sure the public is protected from harm caused by incompetence. The way these boards function vary, however.

Some of the things they do include:

  • Deciding what is necessary for a student to become licensed and retain it. This looks at initial education, dedication to continuing education, developing competency and more.
  • Deciding what the parameters of nursing practice are. Each state has a statute known as the Nurse Practice Act, which defines these areas.
  • Looking into complaints delivered by or about licensees and managing disciplinary actions.

Prerequisites for Studying Towards Becoming An RN

If you want to practice as a registered nurse, you must hold a nursing diploma or associate’s degree. However, there are also prerequisites before you can get accepted in these programs. These generally depend on the state you are studying in, although there are some standard requirements.

These include:

  • Minimum scores on SAT or ACT.
  • A GPA between 2.0 and 3.25
  • Three years of math subjects, including algebra II and geometry
  • Three years of science subjects, including chemistry and biology
  • Four years of English
  • Two years in any other foreign language

If you want to earn a BSN, then you usually have to make sure that nursing becomes your major, once your prerequisite classes have been completed.

Program Accreditation

You should always look into program accreditation. This will tell you that the program you are going to take is nationally recognized. Schools have to go through a very strenuous process in order to receive accreditation. If you want to apply for financial aid, you have to study with a school that has been accredited, so this is incredibly important. Furthermore, only if you study through an accredited school can you move on to further education.

There are numerous accreditation bodies across the country. Generally speaking, however, a school will tell you themselves who they are accredited with. You can, and should, double check this. This is important because accreditation can be different for every school. Furthermore, it is generally best to study with a school that has held their accreditation for a long period of time. The two main accrediting bodies at present are:

When you look into nursing schools, you must also look into whether they prepare you for the NCLEX. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a school that prepares you for NCLEX is automatically accredited. Particularly since there are more and more online programs, there is a real risk of studying at one of these schools. There are various drawbacks to studying at a non-accredited school, as they are not state board approved. It is possible that you can still take the NCLEX, but you will generally struggle to keep up with continuous education, which means you won’t be able to keep your license.

Getting Certified as a Registered Nurse

Once you have chosen your degree program and you have completed it, it will be time to take the NCLEX exam. To do this, you must first apply for your license, which is done with the board of nursing in your state. Each state has different criteria for eligibility, so you have to ensure that you meet these first. The NCLEX covers the four “categories of needs.”

These categories have been established nationally and are the following:

  1. A care environment that is safe and effective (including infection control).
  2. Psychological integrity, which is about coping and adaptation.
  3. Health maintenance and promotion, which is about early intervention and focusing on preventing health issues, rather than curing them.
  4. Physiological integrity, which is about making sure patients are comfortable and properly cared for.

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The Cost of Becoming a Nurse

The cost of studying towards becoming an RN depends entirely on which route you decide to take. To become an ADN, which takes 2 years, you can expect to pay around $31,000 for the full degree. It is no surprise, therefore, that many choose to go for the associate’s degree, as this is cheaper. However, it also limits your career plans and you will have to study far more if you want to become a nurse practitioner or a midwife, which means it would cost you more overall. This is why you may want to opt for some sort of bridge program instead. You also have to make sure that you understand that the fees you will be quoted by the various colleges and universities will only cover the tuition. You will also have to consider things such as your books, accommodation, travel and more.

Scholarships for RN’s

There are a number of nursing scholarships available for those students who are interested in working in the healthcare sector. It is known that nursing education can be incredibly expensive, particularly if you want to go to one of the more prominent universities. This is why there are numerous bursaries and scholarships available for students, to give them a chance to make it in this profession. This financial aid is available for all types of nursing degrees and it is also available for those who are looking for different types of medical programs, such as certified midwife or nurse midwife. It is important to look into the programs that are available to you.

The most popular ones include:

Working as a Registered Nurse

As a registered nurse, there are numerous possible places of work. These include physicians’ offices, hospitals, home or community healthcare, schools, nursing care, correctional facilities or even the military. The pay varies depending on where you work and how long you have worked.

During the census in 2012, the average pay for nurses was found to be $65,470. This is the median wage, meaning half of all nurses earn more and the other half earn less than that. During the same census, it was uncovered that the bottom 10% earns less than $45,040. On the other end of the spectrum, the top 10% earn more than $94,720. Of course, pay is not just about the money you receive. Different employers offer different benefits, including things like childcare, flexible schedules, bonuses, educational benefits and more.

It is also important to remember that your salary will depend on your working schedule. In hospitals or care homes, for instance, patients need round the clock care, which means night shifts are often involved. These also pay more for weekend shifts or holiday shifts. Additionally, you may be placed “on call,” which means you are not at work, but available for work, and you should also receive remuneration for this.

In terms of prospects, it is interesting to note that the nursing profession is one of the fastest growing in our country. It is growing faster than any other kind of profession. This is due to a number of reasons:

  • The population is aging, which means there is a growing demand for nursing care.
  • The population is getting unhealthier, with obesity still being on the rise, even in younger people. Various other health complaints (like diabetes) are associated with this and require nursing care.
  • Because of the Affordable Care Act, more people now have access to healthcare.
  • Hospitals are trying to discharge patients as soon as possible to free up bed spaces for acute care and to keep costs down. This means that home healthcare is in high demand. Indeed, we see that the greatest growth in jobs is in long term rehabilitation, including those involving Alzheimer’s disease.
  • There is also tremendous growth in outpatient care, including rehabilitation, same day chemo, surgery and more. An increased number of procedures are done on an outpatient basis, which means that people need more care at home.

The prospects for nurses, clearly, are very good. It shoulde be noted, however, that even within the profession, some have better prospects than others. The best jobs are out there for those who hold a BSN, for instance. Furthermore, those who have extensive work experience are also generally favored. This is why students are encouraged to take on volunteering work while they are studying, allowing them to gain experience in healthcare settings. Over the coming decade, a high proportion of nurses are expected to retire, adding to the pressure of healthcare needs as they will themselves become elderly. This means continued growth in work prospects for nurses.