How to Become a Nurse

Despite their significant roles in the world of healthcare, nurses don’t often receive the credit or acknowledgment that they deserve. The fact of the matter is that you would be hard-pressed to find an area of healthcare that is not supported or even managed by qualified and experienced nurses. Furthermore, nurses can achieve so much more in their careers than registered nurses (RN) in a hospital setting.

If you have decided to become a nurse, you might find yourself overwhelmed at the start with the variety of options available to you when it comes to becoming a nurse. You might even be surprised to learn that you don’t have to become an RN to start working as a nurse in a hospital setting.

Every nurse has taken a unique path to get where they are today, and your own path into the world of nursing will be just as unique. Before you can start on the road to becoming a nurse, however, it is important to consider a number of factors that will play significant roles in your decision-making process.

Personal circumstances, your current level of education, and your particular career aspirations will come into play as you make your decisions regarding how you become a nurse. Once you have considered such things, you can then decide what route is best for you to become a nurse.

To assist you in this part of the process, here are the various ways you can become a nurse and some ways in which you can take your career in nursing to the next level.

Decide on the Type of Nurse You Want to Be

Although becoming an RN is by far the most popular choice for entry-level nurses, it isn’t the only type of nurse that is out there. You might decide to become a certified nurse assistant (CNA), a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), or a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

While these are viable options to consider when becoming a nurse, it is important to note that your opportunities for career advancement might be more limited if you opt for one of these certifications as opposed to becoming an RN. Your roles and responsibilities will be less, and you won’t be able to pursue advanced degree options unless you first earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. 

That being said, options like CNA, LVN, and LPN can be an excellent way to get your career as a nurse started quickly and efficiently. In some cases, you can find yourself comfortably employed as a nurse after one year and a successful NCLEX examination.

If you have determined that you would like to pursue a BSN on your path to becoming an RN, you have even more options to consider. You can enroll in a traditional four-year program at a university or choose to earn your degree part-time. There are also some excellent online accelerated BSN programs for non nurses that you can consider.  Such programs can help you waste as little time as possible as you work to become an RN.

Obtain Your Nursing License

Once you have finished your training or degree program, your next step on becoming a nurse will involve obtaining your nursing license. Without your nursing license, you won’t be legally permitted to practice as a qualified nurse in the state in which you live.

The type of nurse you have trained to be will dictate the licensing process you will need to undergo. You will certainly need to pass a particular exam to demonstrate your competency for the job. Those who want to be licensed as a CNA have a specific certification exam that they will need to pass for their state licensure.

LPNs have a different exam that they must pass to obtain their license. Theirs is called the NCLEX-PN and is more of a national certification exam. Although similar, the type of exam you will need to pass to be licensed as an RN is a bit more challenging and comprehensive. This exam is called the NCLEX-RN. Bear in mind that if you fail to pass your NCLEX, you will need to wait at least 45 days before you can take it again.

Bear in mind that if you decide to take your career to the next level and pursue a specific nursing role, such as a nurse practitioner or nurse-midwife, you will need to obtain additional licensing by passing further examinations down the line.

Once you have successfully passed your required exam and fulfilled all of the other requirements dictated by your state board, you can apply for your state license. With this in hand, you can seek employment as a fully qualified nurse.

Maintain Your License

You will need to remember as you carry on your path to becoming a nurse because obtaining your license does not mark the end of your efforts. You must work throughout your career to maintain that license as well. This is the case for most healthcare professionals as well.

The fact of the matter is that healthcare is a field that is in constant development and advancement. Because changes are happening in healthcare all the time, you must stay current on the latest practices and recommendations to maintain your license to practice. This can be done through continuing education.

Each state is going to have its own requirements regarding continuing education credits that must be earned. Failure to gain the required number of credits can result in a lapse in your license, so it is imperative that you take the time to make yourself aware of the requirements dictated by your state.

Taking the time for continuous professional development is a great way to help with this, as it is a way to increase your knowledge, your practical working hours, and keep you up to date with the latest developments in your specialty. There may be some mandatory training that you have to regularly have updates on, such as basic life support, or moving and handling, depending on your state regulations and where you work.