Last Updated on February 18, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford
Do you want to become a registered nurse? This article is for you. Learn how you can become a registered nurse in terms of technical and educational qualifications by reading below.
Nursing services are very in demand nowadays. Aspiring nurses kickstart their journey in nursing schools that introduce prospective career nurses to established medical institutions.
Step-By-Step Guide to Becoming a Registered Nurse
If you want to become a full-pledged nurse, you have to ensure you take every step with great passion and dedication toward helping people who are sick. It’s important to equip yourself with the right knowledge and skills in medical concepts and techniques, as well as the relevant experience to be able to handle special and complex medical cases requiring advanced nursing care.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a registered nurse:
Step One: Earn a Degree
It’s an absolute must to have formal education to become a registered nurse (RN). Many nursing positions would require a bachelor’s degree, while there are a few that can be attained with associate degrees. Some nursing positions, still, would require advanced degrees. Check the best nursing programs online today. Compare the best nursing schools and get information from sites like RNtoBSNProgram.com.
You have plenty of options when choosing the nursing degree program that’s right for you:
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
This is designed to help develop your solid foundational knowledge, skills, and attitudes for nursing practice which usually requires two to three years coursework. Once the coursework is finished, you must pass the nursing national licensure examination or NCLEX.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
This bachelor’s degree is another path you can take to become a registered nurse. Enrolling in this program doesn’t require an associate degree. A BSN program may consist of nursing courses, clinical education, and general education courses. Students are exposed to various clinical experiences, helping them decide on the nursing specialty they want to pursue, such as oncology or geriatric, after graduation.
If you’re a BSN graduate, you’ll have a higher chance of getting more secured nursing positions with higher salaries along with more responsibilities on your shoulders. A BSN would require completion of three to four years of nursing coursework. Similar to ADN, you still need to pass the nursing national licensure examination or NCLEX before you start practicing.
Accelerated Nursing Program (ANP)
Accelerated nursing programs, such as Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway or AMNP, is a very specific course option for people who have graduated with a bachelor’s degree (another field). The previous relevant coursework would count toward completing the accelerated program.
With an accelerated nursing program, you need to be full-time, intensive, and fast-paced. Most students can earn the BSN degree under an accelerated nursing program in 12 to 16 months. Most prospective candidates who completed an accelerated degree program, resulting in completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, are highly favored in the job market. It’s because such educational qualifications show employers that you’re well-prepared to start working in a real-life fast-paced environment.
Master of Science in Nursing
If you want to take your nursing career to the next level, consider taking a master’s degree or Master of Science in Nursing. Before taking an MSN program, an individual must complete a BSN program. Also, a license and minimum grade point average or GPA are required. You can find MSN programs offered online, which allows you to take your course on a full-time or part-time basis.
Obtaining MSN is beneficial in different ways because you’ll have the chance to take your courses to improve your general knowledge, skill, and attitude. Also, you can take a coursework catering toward your preferred specialty nursing skills. With MSN, you’ll learn not just about nursing education, but also leadership and business.
Step Two: Obtain a License
It’s important to pass the nursing national licensure examination (NCLEX) to obtain the right credentials to be able to start your nursing practice. Licensing requirements differ from one state to another and the person’s occupation and nursing specialty. Consult your administrative branch of nursing programs to provide you some assistance so that you can obtain the correct licensure. Make sure you understand the examination you need to take.
Take a look at the following examples of national licensure examinations for nurses:
- Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA: The CNA is a state competency examination designed for those who want to work as a nursing assistant. The CNA exam reflects the limited scope of nursing responsibilities demanded by the nursing assistant job, such as providing basic health advice, grooming, and bedside care to patients.
- National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-PN: For Licensed Practical Nurses or LPNs, it’s a must to pass this licensure exam. The LPNs can administer certain medicines and conduct some medical tests which are covered in the examination, along with additional responsibilities. That’s why LPNs perform a broader range of responsibilities as compared with CNAs.
- National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN: This licensure examination for nurses in considered the most in-depth. Once you pass this exam, you’ll be considered a Registered Nurse (RN).
Step Three: Get Employed
Finding a career as a nurse can be challenging. But, with the right credentials, connections, and strategies, you can find the best job you can start with. Nursing employment opportunities are usually available in the following places:
- Area hospitals
- Nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and residential care providers
- Health insurance providers
- Home health care agencies
- Travel nursing agencies
- Local government agencies
Here are a few helpful tips to land a successful nursing career, moving you closer toward your dream nursing job:
- Browse Specialized Nursing Job Websites: Search Google by typing in “nurse job websites” on the search box to find reliable sites with nurse job listings. Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, and other job sites uses keywords like “nurse,” “Registered Nurse,” and “RN”, including your preferred working location to generate more nursing job leads.
- Inquire About The Dates For Nursing Career Days: Ask the college career office when Nursing Career Days will be held at your school, and attend to have a chance to be referred to nursing jobs in various medical institutions, particularly in your locality. Contacting former employers, faculty, clinical supervisors, friends, and relatives to get informational consultation referrals is also a good idea.
- Attend Conferences and Join Nursing Associations: A great way to meet with top-caliber nursing professionals and employers is by attending workshops, conferences and events, and joining nursing associations. You can volunteer in organizing the meetings so that you can gain better exposure to fellow nurses.
Step Four: Choose Your Specialty
There are important factors to consider when choosing your nursing specialty, such as the salary, your personality, and the demands of the job.
Consider The Salary
When choosing a nursing specialty, one of the most important factors people consider is the typical salary. For those who want to make more money, pursuing management and leadership nursing positions is highly recommended. Also, you can choose an in-demand nursing clinical specialty which usually has a higher salary potential. But, of course, you have to expect more stringent qualifications and higher job demands and responsibilities if you want to land a nursing job with a high salary.
Choosing a nursing specialty should involve checking the annual salary of nurses to promote job satisfaction and fulfillment. Registered nurses have made an annual median salary US$73,300 in a 2019 report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics or US$35.40 per hour. With this given rate, the salary increase is 7 percent higher than in other jobs. The most popular nursing specialties include the following:
- Neonatal Nursing: Involves working with patients before and after the delivery of the baby in the neonatal units of hospitals.
- Nurse Midwife: Involves guiding patients throughout the entire pregnancy and delivery process. Nurse midwives are well-compensated.
- Clinical Nursing: It covers nurses who have advanced degrees and certifications. The primary responsibility is to check the work of other nurses.
- Critical Care Nursing: Hospitals, trauma centers, and critical care units employ nurses who are specialized in critical care.
Consider Your Personality
Nurses have different personalities too. While some are naturally introverts (not a people person), others are extroverts or love to communicate and work with people. It’s important to consider the type of personality you have when choosing a career so that you can fully enjoy the experience working as a nurse and avoid burnout.
Here are the possible nursing specialties recommended for introverts:
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Forensics Nurse
- Nurse Researcher
- Informatics Specialist
Here are the possible nursing specialties recommended for extroverts:
- Emergency Nurse
- Pediatrics Nurse
- Medical-Surgical Nurse
- Intensive Care Unit Nurse or Critical Care Nurse
- Family Nurse Practitioner
Consider The Demands of the Job
Consider what your daily work will look like. Are you more comfortable taking a leadership role? Then, you can be a nurse manager. Do you prefer working away from the patient bedside? Then, you can work in the following areas:
- Nursing informatics
- Nursing education
- Case management
- Infection prevention and control
For nurses who love clinical challenge, nursing specializations include the following:
- Critical care
- Family Nurse Practitioner
Step Five: Pursue Continuous Education Or Additional Training
Nursing continuing education provides nurses the chance to learn and advance nursing techniques toward providing safe patient care. Most states in the US require nurses to undergo continuing education or CE course every two to three years for licensure renewal.
Here are important things to know when it comes to nursing continuous education:
- Continuing Nursing Education (CNE): It refers to courses intended for nursing professionals. Continuing Education Units (CEUS) or Continuing Education Credits reflect the time spent in completing specific educational courses and approved activities. Generally, one CEU is equivalent to 10 hours of contact hours or instruction.
- Employer Requirement: Even if some state boards don’t require any continuing education for renewal, most employers and nursing associations for job-specific certifications, like neonatal, critical care, and medical-surgical, would require it. Check with your hospital and association to which you belong to know if you need to complete additional requirements aside from passing the state nursing board.
- State Requirement: Some states require specific topics for continuing education, while the remaining hours are spent on other courses. For example, nurses who are working in New York must take CE on Infection Control and Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse as part of their CE hours. Nurses in Michigan are required to complete a one-hour course on Pain Management.
Taking Care Of Yourself And Your Patients
Because of the current health pandemic, nurses are more at risk for contracting COVID-19 than those in office and non-healthcare jobs. Once you have started working as a nurse, remember to prioritize your health and safety by taking extra safety measures, such as improving your health through the following tips:
- Get yourself vaccinated.
- Strengthen your immune system with healthy diet and regular exercise.
- Take a rest.
- Stay abreast with the latest health news to prepare for the worse.
By staying safe and healthy, you can render better quality patient care. Also, you can take your nursing knowledge and skills to a higher level without thinking of any medical illness that can hinder you from achieving your career goals.
If you want to become a nurse, you just have to apply the tips shared in this step-by-step guide for your reference. Knowing the basic educational and work qualifications, choosing your specialization, and pursuing continuous education or additional training can help you in attaining your career goals.
Aside from getting a nursing job of your liking, continuous education is important to advance or upgrade your nursing knowledge and skills so that you can continue to provide excellent patient care. Also, it’s important to prioritize your health and safety at all times to ensure you provide the highest level of care to your patients. At the end of the day, it’s you who will decide what nursing specialization and workplace you wish to have to feel fulfilled and happy working as a nurse.