Employment figures demonstrate a strong demand for qualified nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average 7% employment growth for registered nurses (RNs) from 2019-2029. For more advanced nursing roles, projections indicate a 45% growth rate for nurse practitioner (NP) jobs from 2019-2029, far outpacing the national average.
Career levels for nurses include licensed practical nurse (LPN), RN, and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Each level requires different nursing degrees and, in some cases, certification. All roles require state licensure.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average 7% employment growth for registered nurses (RNs) from 2019-2029.
This page explores the steps required to become a nurse, nursing school requirements, and how long it takes to become a nurse.
What Do Nurses Do?
Nursing responsibilities vary among roles. LPNs are responsible for providing basic patient care. Their job duties include measuring vitals, performing physical exams, administering medications, and handling basic patient needs, such as eating and dressing.
Nurses enjoy many job opportunities in diverse settings.
RNs provide more advanced patient care, serve in managerial and leadership positions, and educate nursing students. Typical job duties include performing diagnostic tests, overseeing nursing staff, and supervising nursing students during clinical fieldwork.
Nurses enjoy many job opportunities in diverse settings. They may practice in hospitals, residential care facilities, home healthcare services, educational services, and community health centers. Nurses in medical and healthcare services collaborate with doctors and other nurses on a daily basis.
Consult the following link to learn more about nurse responsibilities.
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How to Become a Nurse
To become a nurse, you must first complete educational requirements. LPNs need a certificate or diploma in nursing from an accredited program. Aspiring RNs must earn a minimum of an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or equivalent training. Advanced nursing roles, such as APRN, require a graduate degree in nursing.
After obtaining your nursing degree, you must then seek state authorization to sit for the national licensure exam for LPNs or RNs. Most states do not set a specific timeframe for application approval for exam authorization. Therefore, candidates should apply well before their target exam dates. Test-seekers can use the waiting period to prepare for the exam.
LPNs and RNs must hold licensure through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), though requirements vary by state. The NCSBN offers National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX) for LPNs and RNs.
Eligibility to sit for the NCLEX exams requires test authorization. State or district regulatory bodies grant this authorization to individuals who meet specific nursing requirements. Authorized individuals need to register for the NCLEX, which costs $200 as of 2021.
The NCLEX exams focus on client needs, physiological integrity, and safe and effective care environments. Candidates can prepare for the tests by reviewing the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN test plans. License renewal timelines vary by state. Many states take part in the Nurse Licensure Compact, allowing nurses to practice in multiple states.
Nurse Degrees and Roles
Responsibilities and salary potential for nurses increase with education, certification, and employment levels. The BLS reports median annual earnings of $48,820 for LPNs and $117,670 for APRNs as of 2020. Below, we explore the necessary education requirements and typical responsibilities for four nursing careers.
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Further Education for Nursing
Many nurses pursue additional education for nursing specialties, including cardiology, surgery, prenatal, and gerontology. Most concentrations require additional certifications. Professionals should prioritize organizations with accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or the American Board for Specialty Nursing Certifications.
Certification boards for nursing specializations include:
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American Nurses Credentialing Center
A subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, ANCC awards internationally renowned certification in several specialty practice areas. Specialties include cardiac-vascular, medical-surgical, pain management, and psychiatric-mental health certifications.
The American Board of Nursing Specialties
The ABNS represents approximately 750,000 certified nurses globally. The board awards specialty nurse certifications, promotes career development, and advocates for improved healthcare outcomes and patient safety.
The Competency & Credentialing Institute
CCI aims to improve patient outcomes and awards perioperative nursing certification in several focus areas. Specialty practice areas include ambulatory surgery, surgical services management, and the perioperative central nervous system.
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
AACN grants internationally recognized RN certification in acute and critical care. The association also provides free continuing education opportunities.
Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
ONCC grants RNs nationally accredited oncology nursing credentials in several focus areas. ONCC-certified nurses can pursue specialties such as advanced oncology, pediatric oncology, blood and marrow transplant, and pediatric hematology.
Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing
Sigma represents 135,000 members globally as the first national organization to fund nursing research. This organization offers its members career advice, education opportunities, and leadership programs.
The National Student Nurses Association
NSNA serves nursing students seeking career resources and graduates preparing for their initial nursing licensure. The association also advocates for high-quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare.
The American Nurses Association
ANA represents the interests of the nation's four million RNs as one of the largest professional nurse organizations in the country. This association comprises the American Academy of Nursing, the American Nurses Foundation, and ANCC.
The National League for Nursing
NLN, the oldest professional nurse organization in the United States, advocates for nursing education in postsecondary institutions and healthcare organizations. The organization provides continuous education, networking opportunities, and career advice to its members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you be a nurse without a degree?
Yes. To become an LPN, you need a certificate or diploma in nursing, plus licensure. To become an RN, however, you need an ADN or equivalent training and licensure.
What are the different levels of degrees in nursing?
An aspiring nurse can pursue an ADN, along with BSN, MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. in nursing degrees.
How many nurse prerequisites are needed?
Nurse prerequisites vary with program level, school prestige, and program length. Most LPN programs require a high school diploma or GED certificate.
How long does it take to become a nurse?
You can complete LPN education requirements in one year and RN requirements in 2-3 years. Licensure timelines vary among states and districts.
What careers are in nursing?
Common nursing careers include LPN, RN, APRN, NP, nurse midwife, and nurse anesthetist. Most nurses can also pursue certification in specialties, such as oncology or surgery.
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