How to Become a Nurse – Steps to Think About
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With human needs constantly changing and a range of health care specialties accessible, nursing may provide you with variety and the opportunity to accomplish meaningful work. Because nurses provide critical patient care, anyone interested in pursuing a career in nursing must make certain efforts to complete a nursing degree and obtain licensure.
If you’re interested in learning how to become a nurse, how long the process takes, and what to expect in this field, this guide is for you. Continue reading to learn about the common processes required to become a registered nurse.
Step 1: Determine if a career in nursing is a good fit for you.
Becoming a nurse is a significant professional path. Nurses shoulder a great deal of responsibility—and the demands of the profession can result in high levels of stress and anxiety. However, if you are committed to assisting others via your work, it may be an immensely gratifying vocation. To begin your journey, you can consider the following:
- Do I appreciate connecting on a daily basis with people from a variety of diverse backgrounds and life experiences?
- Am I equipped to cope with patients who may be battling major health issues?
- Can I efficiently manage my time, work long hours, and maintain my composure under intense stress?
If you replied ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might be interested in pursuing a career in nursing.
Bear in mind that nurses follow a fairly definite educational path—and have little latitude to deviate from it due to the multiple licenses and criteria they must adhere to. Prepare to devote at least two to four years to earning your degree and passing the demanding NCLEX licensure exam in order to obtain licensure as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse in your state (RN).
Step 2: Determine Which Type of Nurse You Wish to Be
As a nursing professional, you might work in a variety of settings. RNs are qualified to work in virtually any situation that delivers health care, including the following:
- Consultations with physicians
- Services of home healthcare
- Nursing homes
- Clinics for outpatient care
Along with selecting the care setting, nurses have the option of specializing and working with a population or department that interests them the most. For instance, registered nurses can get extra certificates in areas such as cardiovascular care, gerontological (adult) care, and ambulatory care.
After acquiring their RN license and gaining experience, nurses may desire to pursue a career as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These master’s-prepared nurses may work independently or in partnership with a physician to deliver care. Depending on their state of practice and licensure criteria, some may be able to prescribe drugs.
The critical point to remember is that if you choose to become a nurse, you will have many options—and numerous opportunities to enhance your career.
Step 3: Determine the Type of Education Required
As you’re probably aware, nursing aspirants can get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to aid in their licensure process. However, if you believe you’ll want to pursue more advanced responsibilities, there are further educational options to consider. To become an APRN, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is required—and many MSN schools offer emphases in advanced practice areas such as midwifery and women’s health. You can acquire your degree in a variety of methods, including through online nursing programs.
Selecting a Nursing Degree
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is an option for obtaining your license—or for continuing your study if you currently hold an associate’s degree.
- A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is commonly completed following the completion of a BSN. The MSN degree is the next step on the path to becoming an APRN. There are also bridge programs available for those with an associate’s degree who wish to accelerate their path from becoming an RN to completing an MSN degree.
A bachelor’s degree is frequently the first step for aspiring nurses. It may assist you in determining whether nursing is the correct career for you and in deciding whether to pursue a graduate education later on.
Select the Program Type
Numerous nursing students face particular challenges, ranging from earning a full-time job to geographical constraints. Nowadays, you can attend your nursing degree program in a variety of ways. The following are the various sorts of programs:
- Programs that are full-time. A full-time nursing degree program requires a full course and credit load to complete. A full-time program is frequently the quickest to complete, as students devote the majority of their time to education.
- Part-time programs are available. Part-time programs provide flexibility for students who have obligations outside of school, such as family or a job. Part-time students are not required to attend class every weekday and typically have a more manageable course load each semester.
- Programs offered on-campus. Typically, on-campus programs are conducted fully in person. Students must attend all classes and laboratory sessions, and their clinical experience may take place near the school.
- Online courses. Accredited online programs often maintain the same level of rigor as traditional on-campus programs. Portions employ a combination of synchronous and asynchronous education, allowing students to finish some of their work alone.
Additionally, some schools may offer unique hybrid programs or a combination of the aforementioned (for example, part-time online schooling), which can assist nursing students in completing their studies.
Locate a School Directory
When it comes to choosing a school, the results can be overwhelming. To help you limit down your alternatives, keep in mind that there are several critical variables to consider.
Accreditation is one among such elements. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredits nursing degree programs (ACEN). Accreditation certifies that a program adheres to specified quality criteria and prepares students appropriately for nursing licensure.
Additionally, as indicated previously, there are program concentrations to consider. If you wish to specialize in a certain field, seek for institutions that provide that emphasis. Following that, you’ll need to verify that you meet the university’s unique admissions standards. For instance, schools may require applicants to have a certain GPA or necessary coursework.
Finally, the structure of the program—online, on-campus, full or part-time—is critical if you have special scheduling and flexibility requirements. Almost any program type or level is available online, from online MSN programs to online RN to MSN programs to online nurse practitioner programs.
Step 4: Fulfill Prerequisites and Submit Applications to Schools
To be admitted to nursing school, various academic prerequisites and program requirements must be met. Requirements vary according on the sort of program to which you apply. For instance, many BSN programs last four years. Accelerated programs are typically two years in length and require that you have an associate’s degree in nursing or an equivalent combination of coursework/credits. Additional needs include the following:
- A grade point average of 2.0-2.5 or greater
- A resume
- A letter of intent
- A letter of intent
- Transcripts from prior academic programs
Typically, an application fee is required, and some programs require an interview to be considered.
Step 5: Graduation from Your Nursing Program
When you are accepted into a nursing program, you should plan on immediately getting to work learning the fundamentals of the profession. Coursework may cover a range of topics, from patient communication to disease and medication understanding. The amount of time you spend in class and studying each week varies according to whether you are a full- or part-time student, but on average, for every hour spent in class, you can anticipate to spend two or more hours studying and completing assignments.
Additionally, your degree will need clinical field experience. This often occurs at the conclusion of your program, and allows you to apply all of the cumulative knowledge you’ve acquired.
Step 6: Choose a Specialty and Earn a Certification
After completing an RN degree and gaining experience as a general nurse, you can focus on a more focused objective. You can earn certification in a specialty of your choice and then pursue it as a nursing career path. Certain APRN positions even have specialties within master’s degree programs to assist applicants in preparing for these roles. Several specializations include the following:
- Family Nurse Practitioner – A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who specializes in family health care. If you’re interested in assisting all members of a family unit in maintaining their health, you may want to consider this position.
- Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – This type of nurse assists patients who are coping with a variety of mental health disorders by putting them at ease.
- Nurse Practitioner in Women’s Health – Women’s health NPs specialize in women’s health issues, from pregnancy through menopause.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist — This sort of nurse may provide care to patients prior to and following childbirth, during surgery, or in other situations requiring anesthesia.
- Certified Nurse Midwife – Certified nurse midwives are experts in prenatal and postpartum care.
- Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – An ICU nurse assists patients who require a high degree of care due to serious conditions. The majority of intensive care unit nurses work long hours.
- Neuroscience Nurse – Neuroscience nurses provide treatment to patients suffering from a variety of neurological disorders. Numerous these disorders are highly critical, and nurses working in this department should anticipate difficult situations.
- Informatics Nursing — This specialty combines nursing and data science in order to discover trends, conduct research on evidence-based therapies, and optimize workflow efficiency in healthcare settings.
Step 8: Locate Work
Once credentialed and licensed, you’re almost there—all that remains is to find work! You can begin your job hunt by searching for vacancies in your area on popular job boards or by contacting local health care organizations to inquire about available employment. When speaking with prospective employers, demonstrate why you chose to become a nurse and the areas in which you are most enthusiastic.
Step 9: Continue Your Career Progression
You may develop your career in nursing by continuing to study and grow. As the need for nurses increases, specialties, and additional education may help you differentiate yourself and land the career you desire.
Earning your Doctor of Nursing Practice is one way to advance your career (DNP). This degree can assist you in transitioning to a more strategic job and enabling you to influence health care policy. Additionally, you can continue acquiring additional professional qualifications and specialties.
All certificates you receive will eventually need to be renewed in order to maintain your knowledge. According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a typical renewal time is five years (ANCC).