It is safe to say that 2020 highlighted issues in the healthcare industry. Not relating to the dedication of the staff or their competence. But rather the lack of qualified staff, especially nurses.
Demand for nurses globally is at an all-time high. Simply because they are the backbone of any hospital ward and they also provide care for patients when doctors cannot.
Are you interested in nursing? Then you may be curious about the training and clinical requirements. These may vary depending on your state. In general, the route to becoming a nurse is universal and thus can be broken down into key steps.
So how exactly do you become a registered nurse in the US?
Earn a Nursing Degree
When you want to become a nurse, the first thing you need to do is get a formal qualification. Every position in the nursing profession requires a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have the time to commit to a full-time nursing course, don’t panic. You can do a part-time course. There are even accelerated BSN online programs you can enroll in.
There are also many types of nursing degrees. So, you may have to sift through them to choose the one for you. If you want to start as a registered nurse (RN) and specialize later, this is fine too.
Some of the most popular nursing degrees include a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). There is also a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and an Associate Degree in Nursing. Read each course outline carefully and choose the one that is best suited to your career goals.
Get a License
So, you’ve earned your degree. Now you need to pass the licensing exam.
Specifically, the National Nursing Licensure Examination or NCLEX. This is like the driving license of nursing. Without it, you cannot practice in this field. The requirements for this will vary based on your state and specialty as well as your current occupation. Newly trained nurses undertake more stringent tests. There are different types of licensing but don’t panic, your university nursing program should have helped to determine which one you need.
In the US, some of the more popular exams for nursing include-
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). In essence, this is a competency exam. For people who want to work as nursing assistants. This is an important job. But it has a limited scope of responsibilities. This exam is seen as straightforward.
- National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). This is required for Licensed Practical Nurses or LPN. As LPN’s have a broader range of responsibilities, it is a bit tougher than the CNA. LPN’s need to be able to administer medications. Alongside conducting medical tests. So, these duties and others are tested in this exam.
- National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). This is needed if you want to train as a registered nurse. Of the three exams, this one is the most in-depth as registered nurses have the most responsibilities and the broadest scope of knowledge.
Get a Job
Once you are licensed, you can seek out employment in nursing.
Between now and 2030, this area is expected to grow by up to 15%. It should be easy to find employment. However, consider that it is also a competitive area. Therefore, you may not get your desired role immediately.
There are certain areas of nursing that are also growing. With an older population, more RNs are needed in care homes. Similarly, there is a growing trend for nurses needed in mental health as well as midwifery. But these roles can be tougher than average nursing roles, so only pursue them if you have a passion for them.
There has also been a boom relating to the need for critical care nurses. This role and the aforementioned ones will need extra training. When choosing a nursing job, there are also different hours to consider. Some nursing roles offer night shifts, hospital roles can offer 12-hour shifts, others are performed 9-5. It is best to seek out a job that fits with your schedule.
A key attraction to nursing for many is the ability to specialize.
As mentioned before, specializing is a great way to play into your passions. But the requirements for these roles will vary based on the specialty and your home state.
There is also knowledge of different nursing types that are learned on the job. For instance, handling an elderly patient with dementia cannot be explained in a book. Nor can de-escalating a patient with paranoid schizophrenia. So, be prepared to learn some things that are not in any book!
If there are specialized exams, you will need to find time to study and potentially attend add-on or top-up courses, or even attend clinical placements. This is common in mental health relating to psychopharmacology and with dementia care.
So, specializing in nursing can, in the short term, be hard work. Though it is certainly worth it!
Develop Your Skills
This is not the same as specializing. After all, you cannot become a ward manager by training as a pediatric nurse.
For many, there is no need to develop. Some nurses are content to stay as an RN for their entire careers. But if you have a specific career goal in mind, you may be looking to develop your skills and advance.
Extra qualifications in nursing often open doors to senior nursing positions. It is worth noting that you will also need the experience to back up a senior role. These job opportunities are unlikely to appear after 2 years in your job.
The best way to develop skills is to work in different settings. If you have specialized in geriatric nursing, try to do a few shifts on a ward specializing in dementia. Then switch to a ward that supports elderly patients with physical health issues and so on. You can even opt to stay in one area and work extensively while also taking on more training.
Senior nursing roles are competitive, so you will need to choose the route that is best suited to getting the job you want.