The US healthcare industry is growing and churning out a high number of medical professionals. Nurses are especially in high demand because of the many open positions and the rapidly increasing population of elderly persons who need professional care. The provisions of the Affordable Care Act have also been instrumental in promoting the nursing career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US is home to about 2.8 million Registered Nurses (RN). Students expected to graduate as RN’s need to undertake a two year, Associates in Nursing Degree (ADN) course.
Upon graduating, the RN student is eligible to sit the NCLEX-RN exams to obtain the necessary licensure and begin working. For those with an RN, the next plausible step is pursuing a Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN). The program takes between 2 to 3 years to complete. It is crucial for aspiring students to enroll in accredited nursing programs. Students who enroll in non-accredited, the state board approved schools may severely curtail plans to advance their career in the future because of the restrictions placed by accredited institutions.
Tuition & Additional Costs
Nursing schools are usually forthright about the fees they charge in the respective programs they provide. The cost varies a lot depending on the level of study, i.e., LPN, ADN-RN, BSN-RN and the more advanced, APRN. Fees for the RN program may vary from as low as $2,100 to $18,100 annually. There is always a noticeable variation in the in-state and out-of-state tuition. Non-residents typically pay more to pursue the nursing program. The other factors that may impact on cost include room and board and additional or miscellaneous cost. The latter constitutes items like:
• Insurance coverage
• Immunization certification
• Laboratory Fees
• Lab coat
• Miscellaneous gears
The most common gears for nursing school students include penlight, oximeter and a stethoscope. Since the attending nursing school can be costly, students can find cheaper ways to fund their education. The most popular ways include applying for government-sponsored financial aid, scholarships, school work program, and employer tuition reimbursement. Though limited in amount and scope, scholarships are generally free and carry the least risk. Students can also apply for a private student loan, but these tend to be very expensive in the long term.
Nursing Program Curriculum
The quickest way to become an RN is to pursue the ADN program. Prerequisite courses are mandatory for students who want to enter the RN program. The must do courses include Psychology, Communications, Nutrition, Microbiology, Chemistry and Anatomy, and Physiology. Anatomy and physiology classes teach students about basic human systems and the workings of the various components. Psychology classes, on the other hand, introduce students to the basic principles of the human mind and behavior. Once the student has completed the prerequisite courses, he or she can expect the following core courses under the Registered Nurse program.
• Foundation in Nursing
• Behavioral Health
• Nursing Care of Adults
• Maternal and Child Nursing Care
The duration of study depends on the nursing course you are pursuing. The ADN program typically takes between 2 to 3 years. Students can also pursue an RN online. It is important to recognize that most online courses are administered under the umbrella of the traditional campus-based nursing programs. Before pursuing an online program, students need to perform due research to verify the following information: the nursing school’s reputation, NCLEX-RN licensure preparation and passage rate and the overall quality of the faculty. For shorter programs like LPN, the study takes between 12 to 18 months. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program usually takes four years to complete.
Clinical Hours and Preparation
Students pursuing the RN program are expected to put up sufficient clinical hours to graduate and set the long drawn, NCLEX-RN exams. The total amount of hours needed by students and faculty is primarily tied to the state board requirements. The clinical hours are crucial because they offer nursing students, critical hands-on experience. Since the clinical hours are hugely demanding, students need to put a lot of effort and hard work to succeed. To better prepare for your clinical, you need to propagate your time and tasks based on priorities. The other helpful tip is creating a calendar that takes into consideration the assignment and examination due dates. Having proper preparation will help you ease anxiety and improve your GPA.
The NCLEX-RN Exam and RN Licensure
A well-tuned RN program should prepare student’s to pass the NCLEX-RN exams. Registered Nurses must pass the national, state-ordered NCLEX-RN exams to obtain a practicing license. Statistics show close to 5.5 million candidates have sat the NCLEX exams since 1994. The computerized examination typically constitutes 119 questions that must be done within a 6-hour window. Students who do not pass the exams are issued 45 days to prepare and resist the exams. Because every state has different eligibility requirements, students are strongly advised to stay updated with the state board requirements. The NCLEX exam covers the following critical areas of study:
• Physiology Integrity
• Safe, Operative Care Environment
• Physiological Adaptation
• Reduction of Risk Potential
• Nursing Management Care
• Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
• Health Promotion and Maintenance
• Psychosocial Integrity
The Jobs to Expect
During the clinical sessions, nursing students can prepare their future career paths by choosing different areas of specialization. The areas include Oncology, Orthopedics, Critical Care, Labor and Delivery and Medical Surgical, among other specializations. Critical care is a good career choice for professionals who want to work with critically ill patients. This category of patients includes those at risk of life-threatening diseases. Midwifery is perfect for nursing students keen on working with pregnant women; those who have given birth and those looking to get pregnant.
The anesthesia field is open to students interested in helping patients manage or reduce pain. Most RN graduates kick-start their career with an internship position in the hospital setting. Another sizable segment plies their trade in home health care settings, physician offices, rehabilitation centers, long term care facilities and public institutions like schools and military outposts. Most nurses with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) work in educational institutions and large hospitals. The national median hourly wage for nurses holding an RN is in the $20 to $38 bracket.
The pay scales usually vary mainly depending on the individual’s experience and work location. Some of the states that offer the highest amount of pay to Registered Nurses and other nursing professionals include Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, and California. When it comes to experience, RN’s can enhance their credentials and job-market attraction by obtaining the following certifications: Certification for Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB), Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and Certification for Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing (RNC-LRN) among other marketable professional credentials.
Nurses wishing to advance their studies following the traditional curve can pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN), Certified Nurse Midwife (CMN) and Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Nursing professionals aspiring to enter the field of research or become university or college professors can elect popular doctorate programs like the Doctorate in Nursing (DNP) and Ph.D. in nursing sciences. For nursing professionals who’ve chosen to pursue the scientific research route, the focus will mostly be trained on working with numbers, statistics, policies and medical discoveries.