If you are an empathetic individual who wants to serve in the healthcare industry, applying to become a registered nurse could be a great way to kickstart your career.
As a registered nurse, you’re able to work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, community health centers etc., and later, get to specialize in various areas of healthcare such as pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, and even emergency medicine.
Before we delve deeper into how you can become a registered nurse, let’s get a solid understanding of the basics.
Who is a Registered Nurse?
A registered nurse (RN) is a licensed healthcare professional, trained to offer patient care and education, and manage other healthcare services. As an RN, you would be responsible for multiple duties that could include:
- Assessing patient health status and medical history
- Developing and implementing care plans
- Administering medications and treatments
- Monitoring patient progress and adjusting care plans as needed
- Educating patients and their families about health conditions and treatments
- Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care
Now that we have understood what a registered nurse does, let’s look at the requirements and factors you need to consider to become a registered nurse.
Requirements to Become a Registered Nurse
Here are some steps you need to take if you wish to become a registered nurse:
- Obtain a High School Diploma: The first step is to have a high school diploma or GED in order to pursue a nursing education.
- Attend a Nursing Program: Next, you will have to gain admission and attend a nursing program that is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Such programs may include associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree courses in nursing.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Once you complete your nursing program, the next step is for you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This exam will test your theoretical knowledge and practical skills as a nurse, and is a mandatory requirement to obtain a license.
- Apply for a Nursing License: Once you have passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you can now apply for a nursing license in the state where you want to practice. To do so, you will be required to provide documentation of your education and exam results, and pay the required fee.
- Maintain Your License: If you want to continue practicing as an RN, you must be aware of the requirements for license renewal in your state, and meet these requirements in a timely fashion. These requirements may include continuing education courses or other professional development activities.
In addition to these steps, many nursing programs require you to gain practical experience through clinical rotations or internships while you study in a nursing school. Such rotations and internships will help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to be an effective registered nurse.
Fastest Ways of Becoming a Registered Nurse
While becoming a registered nurse typically requires completing an accredited nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). here are some ways to potentially complete the process and start practicing as a registered nurse more quickly:
- Accelerated Nursing Programs: A traditional nursing program can span between 16 months to 4 years, depending on your chosen specialization. However, some schools offer accelerated nursing programs that allow you to earn a nursing degree in a shorter amount of time than a traditional program. Usually, accelerated programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. As these programs aim to finish the coursework in a shorter span of time, they are usually more intensive and require students to complete many assignments in a short period of time.
- Concurrent Enrollment Programs: Some universities also offer concurrent enrollment programs allowing you to take nursing courses and complete your general education requirements simultaneously. Such programs offer a lot of flexibility and let you earn your nursing degree faster than a traditional program.
- Prior Education or Experience: While this may not apply in every state, some nursing programs may offer credit for prior education or experience in healthcare. For instance, if you have worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or have completed coursework in a related field, you may be able to transfer some of your credits to a nursing program.
While these options may help you complete your nursing education more quickly, it is important to consider the fact that they would also be more intensive and require more commitment, dedication and time than a traditional program. Ultimately, you must choose the program that fits your individual needs and goals.
Next, let’s briefly talk about the career options that would be available to you as soon as you become a registered nurse
Career Options for a Registered Nurse
Becoming a registered nurse will open up opportunities in the healthcare sector that will make a diverse range of career options available to you. You may need additional education to advance your career, but it is good to get an idea of the paths that you can choose.
Some of the most common career paths for you, as a registered nurses, include:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): A Clinical Nurse Specialist is an advanced practice registered nurse, specializing in a specific area of nursing, such as pediatrics, oncology, or critical care. These specialists provide direct patient care, and are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures for their area of specialization.
- Nurse Educator: As a Nurse educator, you will get to work in academic institutions to train and educate future nurses. You would also get to design and develop nursing curricula and mentor potential nursing students who wish to advance in the profession of nursing.
- Nurse Administrator: Nurse administrators oversee the operations of various healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. These professionals manage budgets, supervise staff, and ensure that healthcare services are efficiently made available.
- Nurse Practitioner: Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses who provide primary care services to patients, including diagnosing and treating illnesses, prescribing medications, and ordering tests.
- Travel Nurse: A travel nurse usually works on short-term contracts in various healthcare facilities across the country. These professionals offer temporary staffing support during periods of high patient volume or staff shortages.
- Forensic Nurse: If you choose to become a forensic nurse, you would be working with law enforcement agencies to investigate and provide medical care for victims of crimes, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.
- Occupational Health Nurse: As an occupational health nurse, you would get to work in workplaces that provide healthcare services to employees. Occupational health nurses focus on preventing workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
While these are only some examples of the many career options available to registered nurses, you can choose from a plethora of other specialized nursing roles you can explore with the right additional education and experience.
Registered nurses are considered to be essential members of the healthcare team, as they provide critical care and support to patients and their families. With their specialized knowledge, empathetic nature and practical medical skills, they can prove to be extremely resourceful in times of crisis and emergencies.
We hope we were able to shed some light on the concept of a registered nurse, how you can explore faster ways of becoming one and understand your career options once you have obtained your license.
If nursing is not your calling, please feel free to explore other articles on our website to find what you are looking for. We wish you the best!
Frequently Asked Questions
The time it takes to become a registered nurse varies depending on the kind of program you choose. Generally, there are three main pathways to becoming a registered nurse:
1) Diploma in Nursing – This program typically takes 2 to 3 years to complete
2) Associate Degree in Nursing – This program requires 2 to 3 years to complete and makes you eligible for the National Council
3) Bachelors of Science in Nursing – This program usually takes 4 years to complete and students studying this course are also eligible
You can choose which program you would like to enroll in based on your personal educational requirements.
Yes, it is possible to enroll in an online program to become a registered nurse. Many universities now offer online nursing programs that lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. An online nursing program may include courses in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nursing fundamentals, and nursing ethics. Online programs also require students to complete in-person clinical experiences at a healthcare facility.
When looking for an online program, you should consider specific requirements for admission, such as prerequisite coursework or minimum GPA requirements. Additionally, it is important to note that each state has its own licensing requirements for registered nurses. So please research all about the requirements in the state where you plan to practice.