IVs and Syringes and Scrubs, Oh My! How to Become a Nurse

female nursing student working at the hospital

The nursing profession has come a long way since Florence Nightingale opened Britain's St. Thomas Hospital School of Nursing in 1860. St. Thomas was the first school in the world to train nursing students. The first students graduated in 1865, a time that Nightingale described as "when the simple rules of health were only beginning to be known."

Since then, millions of men and women have entered this profession as critical front-line members of a health care delivery team.

There are different levels of nursing professionals who care for patients and help them protect their health. Check out this handy guide on how to become a nurse and jump-start your career today.

How to Become a Nurse

There are different types of degrees and levels of certification available in nursing. Regardless of which career level you choose to follow, you should first consider what work environment works best for you. Ask yourself what type of setting inspires you to do your professional best.

Would you like to be helping out in a nursing home? Is your goal to be in a hospital or you want to work in a more personal setting like a doctor's office? Your answers to these questions will be your starting point on targeting which level of nursing is best for you.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) decides which nursing classes and degree programs are accredited for each state. Check the ACEN website to see your state's list of acceptable programs.

Most of these nursing degree programs lead candidates to become certified registered nurses (RN's.) Read further to find out more about how to become an RN.

How to Become a Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) provides direct care to patients and assists doctors with medical procedures. RNs may administer medication or operate medical equipment in hospitals or doctor's offices. or other healthcare facilities. RN's often specialize in certain medical areas of study, such as geriatrics or oncology.

RN's are required to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree before they can be hired. These BSN degrees are available at most four-year colleges and universities. Coursework for the BSN degree includes a combination of classroom work and on-the-job training.

BSN candidates take classes in microbiology, physiology, and anatomy during their first two years of study. Some RN programs will focus on specialized fields such as chronic disease and community health during the program's final two years. Students also do clinical rotations to receive on-the-job training.

Once RN's complete their bachelors' degree, they take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN.) RN's need to pass this exam to get their license.

How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

Another certified level is the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Vocational Nurse (LVN.) LPN/LVNs provide basic patient care, like changing bandages and bathing. Some states also allow LPN/LVNs to administer patient medication.

LPN/LVNs enroll in vocational training or programs offered at two-year community colleges. LPN/LVN candidates receive either a certificate or an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) upon completion. Training includes classwork and clinical field practice in any healthcare facility.

LPN/LVN candidates must pass a certification exam called the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN). Working as an LPN/LVN can give you an insider's perspective into the nursing industry. Some healthcare facilities even provide scholarships to working LPN/LVNs to help them continue their education and reach RN certification.

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is sometimes considered the entry level of the nursing profession. A CNA helps patients with feeding and dressing, especially in nursing homes. They also answer patient calls, record information, and clean rooms.

CNA students complete a 75-hour training course, such as the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP.) These programs are often available online or at technical colleges and nursing homes. Topics studied at this program includes CPR, infection control and range of motion exercises. Candidates are then required to pass their own state's competency test to get their license.

Nursing Field: What's The Prognosis?

Does the coursework and commitment level outlined above intimidate you? Don't worry. The good news is that the prognosis for a secure future in nursing looks promising.

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' shows that nursing will grow between 15 and 31 percent by 2026. This job growth is faster than the average for other occupations. About 2.4 million new professionals will need to meet the demands of the aging baby-boom population and their increased preventative care attention.

There are 16 U.S. states that will have an RN shortage by 2025. Arizona leads the pack with the greatest expected shortage in relation to their expected demand. There will also be plenty of hospital jobs available in Colorado and North Carolina as well.

You may find that some of the nursing programs in these areas will offer scholarships as a way to attract prospective students to their region. So it's a wise move to research these regions around the nation to find out where there are RN shortages. Explore these areas ahead of time and you will know where you'll find the most opportunities in the years ahead.

RN median salaries in 2017 are around $70,000 per year. LPNs enjoy a median salary of $45,030 per year. CNA's earn a median salary of $27,500 per year.

For more information on nursing, read nursing education journals. They can help you with your education and career planning.

Next Steps

Are you still interested in becoming a nurse? If so, begin by assessing just how secure a medical career can be and then follow the steps fleshed out in this how to become a nurse guide.

Prepare this way now and you too will be the best nursing professional that you can be.

Oh, and don't forget to keep tabs on our blog for more tips!


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