We all think we know what a nurse does on a day to day basis: they assist doctors, look after patients in the hospital, and carry out minor procedures like vaccinations and dressing wounds. Most people have been cared for by a nurse at least once in our lives whether it is for a routine or emergency health matter, but the reality is that we only see the surface of what is involved in a nursing career. A registered nurse (RN) is someone who provides physical and emotional support to patients in a wide variety of settings and situations. Depending on their training, they may be responsible for diagnosing conditions and prescribing treatments or providing general health advice.
The career attracts many people because it offers long-term job security, plenty of variety, regular challenges, and incredible rewards as well as the opportunity for progression. It is, however, a demanding career that requires training and commitment. Do you have what it takes? This guide will take you through the 5 key steps involved in becoming a registered nurse.
- 1. Take a close look at your skills
You will need to complete theoretical and practical training to become a nurse, but there are also plenty of skills and qualities which a nurse requires to be successful. People are often drawn to a career in nursing because they want to help others and to make a positive impact in their community: strong social skills, a natural empathy, and the ability to build a rapport with patients and colleagues. The best nurses are those who are active listeners who can communicate, multitask, and solve problems under pressure. There is no denying that the job can be stressful and demanding, both physically and emotionally, and you need to be able to remain calm and resilient under pressure.
- 2. Consider the education required
Becoming a registered nurse requires between 2-4 years of training, depending on the route you take. An associate degree is typically completed in 2 years, a diploma in nursing in 3 years, and a bachelor's degree in 4 years. Each of these routes combines theoretical learning alongside practical experience which you get from working (under supervision) in healthcare facilities. The nursing program you choose should be approved by the state in which you want to work to ensure you will be able to get a license after completing the training. Your nursing program should also be able to support you in arranging your nursing clinicals to ensure you are well placed to apply for your license.
However, if you opt for a bachelor's degree and the training provider is nationally accredited (i.e. accredited by the Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)) you would be able to get licensed in another state if you should you move in the future.
- 3. Find and complete an accredited nursing program
There are several types of nursing programs to choose from differing entry requirements. The most popular routes are the associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. Generally, most institutions expect you to have a high school diploma or GED. They are likely to carry out a criminal background check and to ask for your medical history. Some institutions may ask that you complete an entrance exam known as the National League for Nurses Pre-Entrance Exam and/or to have a sound education in chemistry, anatomy, physiology, math, and English.
- 4.Apply for your nursing license
When you have completed your training as a registered nurse, you need to apply for a license to practice in the state where you want to work. You can do this by applying to the relevant state board of nursing, each of which will have their own requirements. For example, it is not enough to have completed your theoretical learning, as you also need to evidence that you have enough hours of practical experience in healthcare through clinical placements. To obtain your license, you will need to complete the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX).
- 5. Continue to advance your education
Once you have completed your registered nurse training, obtained your license, and secured a job, you may think that you are finished. However, as a registered nurse, you should be investing in your education throughout your career. There are always new procedures and medications to become familiar with as well as emerging research on medical issues to understand. In addition, if you want to specialize in a particular type of nursing such as midwifery, mental health, or family nursing, or you want to become a licensed nurse practitioner (LPN) or other leadership roles, you will need to complete further study.