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Washington Nursing Schools and Programs

| Courtney Smith-Kimble

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Students planning to pursue careers as registered nurses (RNs) or nurse practitioners (NPs) can consider nursing programs in Washington. Over 59,000 RNs and nearly 4,000 NPs work in Washington. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data also indicates much faster-than-average projected increases in employment for these Washingtonians from 2018-2028.

RN employment
RN Job Growth
Annual Salary for Washington Nurses
Nurse Licensure Compact State?

Why Attend a Nursing Program in Washington

Students pursuing nursing careers in Washington enter a thriving workforce after graduation. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue and Olympia-Tumwater metropolitan areas offer some of the strongest salaries for nurses. Survey data collected through University of Washington's Center for Health Workforce Studies indicates that over 83% of nurses feel that their roles provide a sense of accomplishment and their employers offer promising development opportunities.

The demand for nurses in Washington currently exceeds the supply, demonstrating a critical need for more professionals in the field. Washington is not a right-to-work state, allowing nurses to more freely unionize.

Nursing Program Requirements in Washington

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90.6%
Washington Nursing Board: Washington State Department of Health Nursing Commission

Accredited nursing programs in Washington qualify graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and apply for nursing licenses. Students can acquire RN licenses after earning associate or bachelor's degrees. The overall licensing process typically takes less than two weeks.

A prospective nurse can begin by submitting an application through the mail or online. Application intake and background checks can take up to 48 hours before an initial review. Final nursing application review requires an additional 48 hours.

Washington is not a Nurse Licensure Compact state. Nurses with out-of-state licenses may need to obtain additional licensure to practice in Washington.

Certified Nurse Assistant

CNAs play an integral role in providing quality patient care. These professionals help turn, move, bathe, and groom patients. Other duties include documenting information, answering patients' calls, and cleaning patients' rooms. CNAs primarily work in assisted living facilities and hospitals. This role typically requires training and background checks.

CNA Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate; ACT or SAT scores; official transcripts
  • How Long to Complete: 4-12 weeks
  • Accrediting Bodies: Washington State Department of Health Nursing Commission; Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

Washington Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Each applicant needs at least 85 hours of training through an approved program.
  • Exams: Washington Nurse Aide Exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: While not applicable for general license renewal, specialized departments may require continuing education credits.
Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs monitor patients' health and provide general care, including inserting catheters and checking blood pressure. Other duties include communicating with patients about their care. LPNs typically find employment in nursing care facilities and hospitals, while some work in physicians' offices or for home healthcare organizations.

LPN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate; minimum 2.0-2.5 GPA; ACT or SAT scores; background check
  • How Long to Complete: 1.5 years
  • Accrediting Bodies: ACEN

Washington Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Accredited LPN program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Annually
  • Continued Education: 45 hours every three years
Registered Nurse

RNs record patient histories, administer medication, and collaborate with patient care teams. They also provide emotional support to patients' families and educate patients about their health conditions. RNs primarily find employment in hospitals but may also work for ambulatory services and nursing facilities.

RN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: 3.0 GPA; letters of recommendation; ACT or SAT scores; personal statement
  • How Long to Complete: 2-4 years
  • Accrediting Bodies: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Washington Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Annually
  • Continued Education: 45 hours every three years
Nurse Practitioner

NPs are master's level advanced practice RNs. Other advanced practice nurses include certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or certified registered nurse anesthetist. While NPs typically provide primary care, these professionals can also deliver specialized care. Duties often include performing exams, ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing health issues, and prescribing medication. NPs work in physicians' offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, and educational services.

NP Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: 3.0 GPA; three letters of recommendation; BSN from an accredited school; official transcripts
  • How Long To Complete: Two years
  • Accrediting Bodies: CCNE and ACEN

Washington Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Master of science in nursing (MSN)
  • Exams: Exams vary by specialization. Individuals can seek specialty certification through various organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program.
  • Renewal Frequency: Five years
  • Continued Education: 30 hours

Featured Online Programs

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Washington

Nursing schools in Washington state prepare graduates to enter a growing field. Projections Central, with assistance from the BLS, provides data indicating a projected 20.5% employment growth for RNs from 2018-2028, with NPs receiving a 28.5% projected employment growth rate in the same period.

Washington ranks among the top states for lucrative mean wages. However, applicants should also consider the cost of living compared with other states. For instance, Washington is 13% more expensive than the national average.

Nursing Level Salary Projected Job Growth
Certified Nurse Assistant $36,3100 11.6%
Licensed Practical Nurse $59,780 8.4%
Registered Nurse $91,310 20.5%
Nurse Practitioner $126,480 28.5%
Sources: BLS and Projections Central

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Washington

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Registered Nurses

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary for RNs
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue $95,120
Olympia-Tumwater $93,270
Walla Walla $91,280
Spokane-Spokane Valley $89,890
Wenatchee $88,550
Source: BLS

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary for NPs
Longview $139,560
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue $128,960
Bremerton-Silverdale $126,290
Wenatchee $123,060
Spokane-Spokane Valley $120,750
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an RN in Washington?

Nursing programs in Washington state offer multiple options for aspiring nurses. Students who wish to enter the field quickly can earn an associate which requires two years. Prospective nurses looking to qualify for leadership opportunities or pursue advanced degrees can earn BSNs which require four years.

How do I become an RN in Washington?

Students who wish to enter the nursing field can prepare by applying to the best nursing schools in Washington. After earning a degree, each graduate qualifies to take the NCLEX exam to receive a license. While the associate in nursing degree is the minimum educational requirement to become an RN, most students earn BSNs.

What is the best nursing college in Washington?

Students should identify their educational and professional goals to determine the best nursing school in Washington. The "best" school aligns with a learner's individual needs, including cost, flexibility, and location. You can view some of the top-ranked nursing programs in Washington here.

How much is nursing school in Washington?

Nursing programs in Washington vary in price. Prospective enrollees should take time to explore school structures and learning formats. Private schools typically cost more than public universities. Students can also access online programs, which commonly feature lower tuition costs.

Resources for Nurses in Washington

  • Established in 1908, WSNA advocates for RNs working in the state. Members gain access to a 17,000-member network, mentorship opportunities, access to educational events, and free continuing education opportunities. WSNA features nurse conventions and features grants and scholarships for student nurses.
  • Formed in 1992, the Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners United of Washington promotes the work of NPs in the state. Members can connect with lobbyists who work on ARNP legislation, newsletters, and continuing education courses. This organization also provides relevant professional development events and a career center.
  • This nonprofit organization serves Chinese RNs, NPs, and nurse educators who hold BSNs, MSNs, or doctor of nursing practice degrees. PCNA aims to diversify the nursing community and improve minority health in the region. The association offers professional development, leadership, and continuing education credit opportunities.
  • Founded in 1956, SNOW advocates for school nurses in Washington. SNOW facilitates collaboration between members and relevant stakeholders, along with supporting research in the school nursing field. Members can access professional development, scholarship, and educational opportunities along with conferences and newsletters.

Nursing in Surrounding States

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