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how to become a nurse


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Melissa’s Answer

Recommend attending a junior college to obtain your LVN license. Then you can work towards earning your RN via online classes while working.

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David’s Answer

Steps to Becoming a Nurse
When you learn how to become a nurse you’ll find the first step is getting a solid education, whether you hope to be an LPN, RN, or administrator. Every state and the District of Columbia require students to graduate from an accredited nursing program in order to become licensed.

Step 1: Choose a nursing path
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Nursing can take you in many directions, from starting out as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or staff nurse to working your way up to nurse administrator.

When choosing your career path, think about the type of work environment you prefer. For example, RNs can be found in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical settings, but certified nursing assistants often work in nursing homes. What type of setting will inspire you most?

Because there are so many facets to healthcare, nurses often specialize in certain areas, such as geriatrics or critical care. If you have a passion for a certain type of nursing, consider the type of schooling you’ll need to get there.

That brings us to the next step in becoming a nurse:

Step 2: Earn a degree
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The career path you’re interested in pursuing will typically dictate the type of nursing degree you need. Nursing programs include classroom instruction as well as clinical experience. The latter will allow you to gain hands-on knowledge, ask questions in real-life scenarios, and connect with nurses. The experience will also give you the chance to observe how a medical facility runs.

Before choosing a program, determine how nursing school will fit into your busy life. Will you have time to get to campus? Many nursing bachelor’s and master’s degrees can be earned online (with clinical requirements completed in your local community).

An associate’s degree program takes less time to complete, allowing you to enter the workforce sooner. The downside? Employers may be more apt to hire a nurse with a bachelor’s degree because they received a more in-depth education. However, plenty of nurses with ADNs go on to earn higher degrees with the help of tuition reimbursement from their employer.


The following list details the types of nursing degrees available:

Nursing diplomas are offered at community colleges and vocational schools.
Associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) can be earned at community colleges.
Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) are available at colleges and universities.
Master’s degree in nursing (MSN) are available at colleges and universities.
Doctoral degrees (DNP, ND, PhD, DNSc) are available at colleges and universities.
Step 3: Get licensed
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Once you complete your education, you’ll need to take an exam to demonstrate your knowledge and nursing skills. Nurses need to be licensed in order to practice, and exams are the prerequisite to licensing. The NCLEX exams, other certification exams, and the topics covered, differ based on your chosen career path.

To become a licensed certified nursing assistant (CNA), you’ll need to pass a state competency exam.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).

RNs and all advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are required to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to earn licensure.

Nurse practitioners must pass a national certification exam administered by a professional organization, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Upon completing their education, nurse midwives should pass the exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), while nurse anesthetists must pass the exam given by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

After you become a nurse…
Continuing education: Nurses are required to complete continuing education courses, usually every two years. Check with your state nursing board for requirements.
Get certified: If you decide to specialize in a certain area of nursing, consider earning professional certification. This cements your commitment to the field and demonstrates your skill set to employers.
Earn an advanced degree: Earning a master’s degree will qualify you for a career as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, and certified nurse anesthetist.
For the Career Changer: Accelerated BSNs
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You want to become a nurse, but your background is in finance. No problem. Not all RNs start out in nursing. Motivated by job dissatisfaction, salary, and other reasons, some RNs choose to head back to school and earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but who has the time and money to invest in another 4 years of school? Enter the accelerated BSN.

Accelerated BSNs are designed specifically for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field.

While you may have to complete certain science and math prerequisites, accelerated BSN students aren’t required to take general education courses again. Instead, the accelerated program (usually about 18 months) focuses solely on nursing skills. Students graduate with a BSN and should be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN.

Career changes within nursing
Nursing is infamously rewarding and challenging at the same time. After years of bedside care, some nurses look for a career switch within the field. Often, going back to school is the way to make a change.

Specialize: Earning a master’s degree allows you to choose a specialty such as midwifery or informatics. If an MSN isn’t what you’re looking for, enroll in a certificate program, which takes less time to complete. You can choose from a variety of nursing specialties.
Teach: If you enjoy guiding new nurses in the workplace, you might be a good fit as a nurse educator. Colleges and universities hire nurses who hold a master’s or doctorate to teach nursing courses.
Research: A Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) qualifies you to work in medical research. Your work could help make advances in the nursing profession.
Levels of Nursing
There are few career paths that offer the same opportunities for advancement and career diversity as nursing. A complex healthcare system creates a wide range of options for nurses. And, as more patients look for specialized approaches, nurses can fill this demand by gaining more education, which often equates to a higher salary.

Entry-level nursing
Entry-level nursing offers several career paths. Which one suits your goals?

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Job duties: CNAs help patients with daily tasks, such as bathing and feeding. They also answer patient calls, clean rooms, and are responsible for recording information and reporting issues to a nurse.
Degree needed: Post-secondary certificate or diploma (4–12 weeks)
Median annual salary*: $28,530
Become a CNA if: You want to join the nursing field quickly and gain valuable on-the-job experience.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Job duties: Under the supervision and instruction of an RN, LPNs—also called licensed vocational nurses in California and Texas—provide patients with basic care, including dressing, changing bandages, and bathing. Some LPNs are permitted to administer medication but this depends on state regulations.
Degree needed: Certificate or diploma (1 year)
Median annual salary: $46,240
Become an LPN if: You want to work in nursing sooner rather than later, but hope to become an RN one day. Many RN degree programs give credit for LPN experience.
Registered Nurse (RN)

Job duties: RNs coordinate patient care, administer medication, assist doctors with exams and surgeries, educate patients, promote wellness, and manage other nurses and LPNs.
Degree needed: Associate’s (2 years) or bachelor’s (4 years)
Median annual salary: $71,730
Become an RN if: You’re interested in a diverse work experience, potential career growth, and further educational opportunities.
Advanced nursing
Advanced nursing programs require students to hold a bachelor’s degree before enrolling. Many students earn their BSN from one school and attend a different school for their MSN. However, bridge programs allow students to earn 2 degrees at the same time from a single school. An RN-to-MSN curriculum is designed in a way that students receive their undergraduate education first and then move on to MSN courses.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Job duties: Nurse anesthetists work with patients before, during, and after medical procedures to ensure they’re free of pain. They determine the amount and type of anesthesia needed—general, local, or regional—as well as the method for administering anesthesia.
Degree needed: Master’s degree (2 years)
Median annual salary: $167,950
Become a nurse anesthetist if: You want to work as part of a team under the supervision of doctors, or independently, depending on the laws of your state.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Job duties: Nurse midwives provide prenatal, postpartum, and newborn care. You’ll guide and support women throughout their pregnancy. Nurse midwives also educate women and families about health and wellness. If major complications arise, you’ll refer women to a physician.
Degree needed: Master’s degree (2 years)
Median annual salary: $103,770
Become a nurse midwife if: You want to specialize in healthcare for women and infants.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Job duties: NPs serve as primary care providers to patients of all backgrounds. Nurse practitioners can diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication, but part of the job of an NP is to educate patients about preventative care as well.
Degree needed: Master’s degree (2 years)
Median annual salary: $107,030
Become a nurse practitioner if: You’re interested in providing more comprehensive care to patients.
Nursing Informatics

Job duties: Training other nurses on new technology is just one part of a nursing informatics job. You’ll also spend time on system development, quality control, and finding new ways to use data. Patient confidentiality is key as is efficiency in the workplace.
Degree needed: Bachelor’s (4 years) or master’s (2 years)
Median annual salary: $88,270 for clinical informatics coordinators, as part of the larger group of computer systems analysts
Become a nurse informatics specialist if: You want to combine your tech-savviness with an advanced nursing career.
Nurse Leadership / Nurse Administration

Job duties: From creating work schedules to managing finances, nurse administrators juggle many responsibilities. You’ll manage the nursing staff, but also analyze service, look for ways to cut costs, and monitor the use of resources.
Degree needed: Bachelor’s (4 years) or master’s (2 years)
Median annual salary: $99,730 for medical and health services managers
Become a nurse administrator if: You want to be instrumental in improving patient care while managing the business side of a medical f

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