Becoming a nurse is a noble pursuit.
As hospitals continue to be understaffed, the only solution is to find and train more nurses. If you’re a young person about to enter college or even if you’re someone that’s rethinking their career, why not learn how to become a nurse?
Not only will you have the satisfaction of helping people every day, but the pay is also pretty good and you get to work in a field that’s always advancing. Don’t get us wrong, however, it’s not going to be an easy road.
Today, we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide for becoming a nurse in the United States. You’ve got to be smart and dedicated, but if you’re willing to put years of hard work into it, the payoff is incredible.
How to Become a Nurse in America
As long as you’re okay with going through years of education and placement work, then the process of becoming a nurse isn’t so bad. You’ve got some choices to make first, though.
Choosing Your Path
You first need to decide how you would like your nursing career to go. Mainly, you’ll want to figure out what type of environment you’d like to work in. Registered Nurses work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical environments.
Certified Nursing Assistants, on the other hand, typically work in nursing homes. Beyond these distinctions, you’ll be able to specialize in a specific type of nursing like geriatric, pre-natal, or critical care.
Giving a lot of thought to this before you begin your education will be helpful, but you’ll have opportunities to make these decisions along the way as well.
Getting Your Undergrad
Having an idea for your career path will help dictate what kind of education you’re going to need. All nursing programs will include a combination of classroom work and clinical work so that you’re getting the theory and the practical skills simultaneously.
There are different levels of education that you’ll have to look into. You can obtain a nursing diploma or an Associate’s degree from a community college or vocational school. But, if you want a Bachelor’s degree, you’ll have to attend a college or university.
Now, if you’re transferring into nursing from another career, you might have other things going on in life that prevent you from physically attending classes on campus. You can obtain a bachelors degree online, so long as you complete your mandated clinical work at a hospital in your community.
If you so choose, you’ll be able to go on to complete a Master’s or Doctoral degree from a college or university after your undergrad.
Obtaining a License
Completing your education isn’t the end of the road. You’ll have to take an entrance exam to be able to begin working as a nurse and these exams will differ based on the field that you’re attempting to get into.
These licenses and their requirements might differ slightly from state to state, which can be complicated. For example, the Texas Board of Nursing issues licenses and disciplines its nurses for violations of the Nursing Practice Act, which may require the help of a nursing license defense law firm.
To become a certified nursing assistant, you’ll have to take a state-mandated competency exam. A licensed practical nurse would need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam, aka the NCLEX-PN. Registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses need to pass the NCLEX-RN to earn their license.
Gaining entry into other fields might include passing the exam from the American Midwifery Certification Board to work as a midwife or the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists to become an anesthetist.
Earning a Master’s or Doctoral degree will also qualify you to become a nurse practitioner, midwife, or anesthetist, as well.
Options for Career Changers
If you’re coming from a completely different field, you can take an accelerated BSN program to become a nurse in less than the typical 4 years. As long as you’ve got a degree, you can return to school and forego all of the general education courses that you’ve already received and only complete nursing-related courses.
Finding Your Calling
Because you’ve got several options when you enter the nursing field, you’re going to want to know what each one entails. Here, we’ll give you a quick rundown of what you can expect from each level of nursing so you can choose accordingly.
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)
A nursing assistant helps patients with everyday tasks like bathing, eating, arranging meetings with loved ones. They clean patients’ rooms and record/report information to the RN.
The education is a 1-3 month post-secondary certificate or diploma. This level is perfect for someone that wants to quickly enter the nursing field and gain on-the-job experience. You can expect to make about $28,000 per year.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
An LPN will provide patients with basic care like changing bandages, dressing, giving medication, and bathing. As with a CNA, they work under the supervision of the RN in charge.
You can become an LPN with a 1-year diploma or certificate, but you can work your way up to becoming an RN with job experience. The median salary for an LPN is about $46,000.
Registered Nurse (RN)
An RN will fully coordinate a patient’s care, giving them their medication, helping doctors with examinations and surgeries. They educate patients on their condition and help manage other employees at the hospital or clinic (notably the CNA’s and LPN’s).
To become an RN, you’ve got to complete a 2-year Associate’s degree or a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. You can move up the nursing ladder by completing post-graduate degrees or obtaining certificates while you work. The median annual salary for an RN is just over $73,000.
Choose Your Path
You can delve much deeper into specific nursing careers as you work through your education and get job experience. Transferring into midwifery or anesthetics is a possibility even when you’ve been working for a few years.
At the end of the day, we’re always going to need nurses in every field imaginable. Choose your path and learn how to become a nurse so you can start caring for patients as soon as possible.
If you found this post helpful, come back and visit us for more on health, lifestyle, and money.