Nurses are medical practitioners who typically work in a team with doctors and other practitioners. Nurses coordinate and administer care to patients while working in various health care settings such as doctor’s offices and hospitals.
The duties of a nurse include performing diagnostic tests, carrying out physical exams, changing bandages, maintaining records, ensuring the comfort of patients, administering medications, taking vital signs and providing health education.
Depending on their training and education, a nurse may be an APRN or advanced practice registered nurse such as a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner, an RN or registered nurse or an LPN or licensed practical nurse.
Required Training to Become a Nurse
The level of required training will entirely depend on the kind of nursing certification being pursued.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
This category of nurses is at least educated up to a master’s degree. Registered nurses who hold bachelor’s degrees, or even some with associate degrees, can select a specialized area of graduate studies. RNs can become midwives, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, or clinical nurse specialists. There is a variety of selections for specialized study even within these fields. For example, nurse practitioners can specialize in pediatrics, community health, acute care or psychiatry. Master’s degree programs concentrate on nursing leadership and research and include clinical placements and seminar study.
These nurses must complete a nursing program for a duration of two or three years and obtain an associate degree or a diploma. Registered nursing students also gain clinical experience via their programs.
Most states require only an associate degree from RNs; however, many practicing and prospective RNs have bachelor’s degrees. A bachelor’s degree could become the standard for RN training and education in the future. Besides, a number of employers currently require or prefer bachelor’s degrees. A BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is offered by many schools offer.
Licensed Practical Nurse
The least amount of training is required for individuals who want to become an LPN. A number of community colleges offer programs in LPN certification that can be completed in three semesters. Students take courses in physiology, human anatomy, psychology, pharmacology and the practice of nursing. In addition, they gain clinical experience in skilled nursing facilities and hospitals.
Licensure and Certification Requirements
In order to practice, the state must provide licenses for nurses. Additionally, each successive nursing practice step — LPN, RN and APRN – requires a new license. Education standards for licensure are set by the respective state. However, generally speaking APRNs should hold a master’s degree, RNs should have the minimum of an associate degree and LPNs should be certified in practical nursing. Furthermore, states may require specific training or coursework topics like child abuse identification and reporting and infection control.
Additionally, most nurses must pass certain examinations to become licensed. Prospective RNs and LPNs take NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN respectively, which are National Council Licensure Examinations. However, not every state requires APRNs to pass examinations to become licensed. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has called for every state to agree to uniform standards for APRN.
Length of Time to Become a Nurse
The length of time it takes to complete a nursing program depends on the educational choices of the individual. An LPN certification program takes roughly nine months or three semesters to complete. The duration of associate degree programs is between two and three years. It typically takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree program. The duration of a full-time master’s degree program could be only 18 months. However, many nurses pursue this degree while working and take longer to finish.
In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual salary for LPNs in the US was $41,540. In that same year, RNs received $65,470 on average and APRNs were paid a yearly average of $96,460. Nurse anesthetists were the highest paid APRNs, with an annual average wage of $148,460.
It has been projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that between 2012 and 2020 employment of all categories of nurses will grow rapidly. The quickest growth will be in the category of nurse practitioners. Before 2020, it is anticipated that over 130,000 more nurse practitioners will be hired. LPN employment is anticipated to increase by 25 percent. Over the next several years, RN employment is projected to increase by 19 percent.
This outstanding growth in the area of advanced nursing practice can be attributed to the need to take care of an aging population. An increased access to health care and health insurance will also contribute the growth. A number of health care providers are looking to reduce costs by providing primary care through nurse practitioners.
Long-term Career Prospects
LPNs and RNs have several opportunities to advance their careers if they are prepared to further their education. RNs can move on to supervisory and other senior positions and after pursuing graduate education, they can move on to advanced practice or management. Where treatment is concerned, APRNs are gaining more autonomy and authority to provide primary care services. Nurses who pursue doctoral degrees can work in health care administration, higher education and research.
Finding a Job as a Nurse
A licensed nurse can begin job applications. While hospitals are a usual setting for nurses, other health care settings can be considered as well. These include outpatient care centers, skilled nursing programs and rehabilitation, psychiatric and assisted living facilities. Even if your career does not start in an ideal environment, you can become a more attractive candidate by gaining nursing experience.
Clinical experience of nursing students is gained in different health care facilities. Those experiences and actual job working experiences can be used to create a network of professional contacts that can help during job search.
Additional Information Regarding How to Become a Nurse
The state’s board of nursing can be contacted to gain additional information about how to become a nurse. Additionally, you can get more information through websites of the National Student Nurses Association or the American Nurses Association.