Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is a rewarding and challenging career path. With a growing demand for healthcare professionals, nursing is a field with excellent job prospects and opportunities for advancement. However, the path to becoming an RN can be overwhelming.
This article will break down the process into five proven steps to help guide you on your journey to becoming a registered nurse. From understanding the educational requirements to obtaining the necessary licenses and certifications, these steps will provide the information you need to transition into the nursing field successfully.
5 Proven Steps to Make a Career as a Registered Nurse
Step 1: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
A bachelor’s degree in nursing is the minimum educational requirement for becoming an RN. This program typically takes four years to complete and includes classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience.
The curriculum covers various topics, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and patient care. The program also emphasizes critical thinking, leadership, and communication skills essential for nurses. A BSN program will also prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is required for licensure.
It’s worth noting that there are also options for individuals who already hold a non-nursing degree to complete an accelerated BSN program or an RN-BSN program. As a result, it can take less time to complete. These programs are designed for registered nurses who have an associate degree or diploma in nursing and want to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
There are also options for online accelerated BSN programs, which can be more flexible for those who work or have other responsibilities. These programs offer the same curriculum as traditional BSN programs, but the classes are offered online, and you can complete clinical hours at a local facility. You may complete this accelerated program in 12 months and receive your BSN degree.
Also, the pandemic posed a lot of challenges for nurses. According to a survey by AMN Healthcare, 50% of RNs reported the pandemic impacted their plans to continue their education. Thus, an online accelerated BSN program can play a huge role for those who want to continue their studies during tough times.
Additionally, obtaining a BSN also opens up more opportunities for advancement in the nursing field, such as management and leadership roles, and increases earning potential. It’s also been observed that employers are becoming more inclined toward hiring nurses with a BSN degree. It’s believed that they provide better patient outcomes than those with just an associate degree or diploma.
Step 2: Obtain Licensure as a Registered Nurse
The next step towards being an RN is to obtain licensure. According to Research and Markets, the US has a wide variety of healthcare institutions, including 21% government-owned, 21% for-profit, and 58% non-profit community hospitals. As a result, the industry and the potential for finding a job are enormous.
After completing a BSN program, the next step is to pass the nursing licensure examination NCLEX-RN. A standardized exam tests the knowledge and skills needed to be a safe and effective nurse. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the exam and is required for licensure in all US states and territories.
Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you can apply for licensure through your state board of nursing. It’s important to note that licensure requirements vary by state, so check with your state board of nursing for specific requirements.
Step 3: Develop Nursing Skills
Next, you need to develop nursing skills. While education and licensure are important, the skills you will need to be a successful nurse are developed through practice and experience. As a new nurse, it’s important to seek opportunities to learn from more experienced nurses and to take on increasing levels of responsibility as you gain confidence and expertise.
One way to develop nursing skills is through continuing education. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations offer continuing education opportunities to help you improve your skills and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.
You can also seek out specialized certifications in critical care, emergency nursing, and pediatrics, to mention a few. These certifications demonstrate your commitment to your chosen field and can help to increase your job prospects.
Another way to develop nursing skills is through on-the-job training and experience. Many new nurses start working in entry-level positions, such as staff nurses or charge nurses. As you gain experience, you can take on more responsibility and move into specialized roles such as case management, clinical research, or administration.
You can also seek opportunities to work in different clinical settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or clinics. It will give you a broad range of experiences and help you become a well-rounded nurse.
Step 4: Earn an Advanced Degree
While a Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is the minimum educational requirement to become an RN, many nurses pursue an advanced degree. These include a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to advance their careers and increase their earning potential.
According to BLS, between 2021 and 2031, the employment of registered nurses is anticipated to increase by 6% annually. Increasing emphasis on preventative care, rising prevalence of chronic illnesses like diabetes and obesity, and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom demographic are a few factors driving growth in the RN workforce.
Thus, supporting the above, an advanced degree in nursing can open up opportunities for leadership roles. Those may include management, administration, or education, allowing nurses to specialize in a specific practice area. Additionally, pursuing an advanced degree can help to increase your credibility and expertise in the field.
Step 5: Pursue a Specialty or Certification
After gaining experience as an RN, many nurses choose to specialize in a particular practice area. You can do it through certification or by earning an advanced degree in a specific study area. Specializing in a certain area can open up new opportunities for career advancement and increase earning potential.
One way to specialize is through certification. Many professional nursing organizations offer certification in various specialties such as pediatrics, gerontology, oncology, critical care, and many more.
These certifications demonstrate a nurse’s knowledge and skills in a specific area and can help to increase job prospects. Some certifications also require continuing education and re-certification, which helps to ensure that nurses stay current in their field.
Another way to specialize is through advanced education. For example, many nurses pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in a specific study area. Such as, a nurse with an MSN in Nursing Education can become a nursing instructor. And a nurse with a DNP in Health Systems Leadership can become a healthcare administrator, and so on.
Obtaining an advanced degree in a specific study area can open up new opportunities for leadership roles and increase earning potential.
The Journey to Become a Registered Nurse Is Both Rewarding and Challenging
Becoming a registered nurse is a rewarding and challenging career path that requires a combination of education, licensure, skill development, and professional development. However, following the five proven steps outlined in this article, you can successfully transition into nursing.
Remember that becoming an RN may be challenging, but you can become a registered nurse with dedication, hard work, and perseverance.