More About How to Become a Nurse

The shortage of nurses will not diminish due to the current recession. In fact, career opportunities for nurses will continue to rise. For many who have been laid off or face layoffs in the near future, the prospect of becoming nurses is offering hope in an otherwise dismal economic future. This offers a shred of hope to the nursing workforce which is being challenged by growing shortages.

Obstacles remain unchanged however. Nursing programs in most areas of the country are still impacted and long waiting lists will become longer. This does not have to be a barrier to hope for those looking for future stable employment opportunities nor to the stressed out corps of nurses currently working. However, applicants need to be aware of the stiff competition for nursing programs.

Many nursing programs require some experience in the medical field for admission to nursing school. One of the ways to earn this experience and to find employment while waiting and then while attending nursing school is to become a CNA. Certified Nursing Assistant programs are available through vocational schools, community colleges and adult education programs. These programs are usually low cost and take about one semester to complete.

While RN programs may be impacted, LPN programs (in Texas and California the term is LVN) may be open or at least have much shorter waiting lists. The Licensed Practical (Vocational) Nurse route can be a stepping stone to becoming and RN or it can be a lifelong career option. LPN programs typically take 12 to 18 months to complete. Then the candidate must pass the NCLEX-PN exam to become licensed.

LPNs are often referred to as bedside care nurses, but their role and scope of practice in many states has expanded greatly over the last few years. With additional training, LPNs can become certified in some aspects of IV care, pharmacology or long term care. The scope of practice varies widely from one state to another. Information about the duties of the LPN/LVN is available from the Board of Practical (or Vocational) Nursing. See the National Council of State Boards of Nursing at http://NCSBN.org/515.htm.

The LPN/LVN can advance their education and career by becoming an RN in a variety of ways. Online education programs are open to LPNs where as for non-nurses, a traditional brick and mortar school is required.

You cannot learn to become a nurse without hands-on experience. This is a requirement for the nursing program to be accredited and for the student to be able to sit for the board exam and become licensed to practice.

LPNs can bridge to RNs by taking an ADN route, a BSN route, or an even more advanced route to become an MSN. (These are an Associates degree, Bachelors degree and Masters degree respectively.)

Non-nurses can become RNs by taking a program through a community or junior college and obtaining an ADN. Most hospital diploma courses have been disbanded. Non-nurses can also enroll in a BSN program at a college or university. RNs with an ADN can also advance their degree to a BSN or an MSN through a faster track at colleges or universities.

To become an NP (Nurse Practitioner) you must now obtain an MSN with a focus on the area of practice such as pediatrics, oncology, women’s health, mental health or family practice.

For RNs wishing to specialize in clinical practice areas, certification education and examinations are available through the professional organizations devoted to these fields.

For individuals who already have a Bachelors or Masters degree, especially with a science emphasis, many schools now offer accelerated nursing degree programs which either provide a BSN or MSN. It is not necessary to become an LPN or to take an ADN program to become a nurse if you already have a college degree. However, this option is not prohibited, and if an accelerated program is not available or has a longer waiting list, this option may be preferred.

Nursing programs MUST be accredited. Always check with your state board of nursing.

Further reading:

The Everything New Nurse Book also has information about how to become a nurse, how to find financial aid and how to survive nursing school as well as your first years as a nurse. It’s available from Amazon.com. If you’d like a personalized signed copy, you can order one directly from me at kathyquan.com.

photo: Microsoft.com