A registered nurse (RN) is an individual who has completed the two-year ASN program or achieved a higher level of education from a recognized college or university that offers an accredited 2 – 4 year nursing program and has successfully passed the national licensing exam for registered nurses (NCLREX-RN) which must passed in order to receive their registered nursing license and begin working as a registered nurse.
Individuals and students who have decided to begin nursing school to in order to become a registered nurse are able to apply for one of several degrees.
These degrees are the associates (ASN), bachelors (BSN), masters (MSN) or doctorates (DNP) degrees and the types of degrees that are available to students depends on the school they apply to and the nursing schools they offer.
In many cases a student may decide to become a licensed practiced nurse (LPN) before continuing their education to become a registered nurse, because it’s much easier and faster to receive LPN/LVN certification and gives potential registered nurses an early glimpse into the field of nursing.
The higher a registered nurses education is the more opportunities he or she will have when it comes to applying for better nursing positions which can lead to increased pay, better benefits, additional career paths to choose from and more freedom/responsibility.
While the associate degree in nursing allows individuals to quickly enter the nursing field most health care organizations want to hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree for anything beyond an entry-level position, so it’s a good idea for RN’s to continue their education after the two-year program and earn their bachelors.
How to become a registered nurse
If you have a strong desire to help others overcome their injury or illness and enjoy interacting with people on a normal basis then becoming a registered nurse may be a great career choice for you.
Now more than ever registered nurses are playing a central role in health and the high standard of living for millions of people.
Those who are interested in becoming registered nurses are required to follow a process which includes finding a nursing school, beginning their education, receiving a degree, earning their license as a registered nurse and finding a job at a health care facility or hospital.
To give you a clear idea of what is required and how to get there here are six steps you can take to become a registered nurse.
1) Get your GED or Diploma
The first step towards becoming a registered nurse starts with earning your GED or Diploma since most colleges and universities require students to have a general education development certificate or higher before the school will accept students for enrollment.
If you are currently going through high school you may want to see if your school offers any programs related to registered nursing as this may help you transition into the nursing program once you complete education and earn your certificate or degree.
Upon earning your GED or Diploma you will be able to move onto the next step.
2) Apply to an accredited college or university that offers a nursing program
The second step towards becoming a registered nurse is to find an accredited college or university that offers a nursing program.
Depending on the school you choose to go to you will be able to take one of four nursing degree programs which are the associates of science in nursing degree, bachelors of science in nursing degree, master of science in nursing degree & doctor of nursing practice degree.
The most popular degrees for new students are the associates and bachelors degrees.
Each advancement in degree offers nurses more job opportunities, better pay & additional benefits.
While the associates of science in nursing degree allows rn’s to enter into the nursing field quickly it is often limited in terms of the number of jobs that will be available to nurses with an associate degree.
Those who are serious about nursing and want to have more opportunities within the nursing field usually go back to school to earn their bachelors.
In fact many of the career choices that are available to registered nurses require that they have a bachelor’s degree in order to get hired since the work involved requires additional training and education that is not offered in the associates program.
3) Take the necessary prerequisites
Each school and nursing program requires students to take a number of prerequisite courses and maintain a certain GPA average before accepting students into the nursing program.
Some schools are extremely competitive and passing all of the requirements may not be enough, so your best option is to sit down with a guidance counselor when you first begin taking your prerequisites to find out what your best options for getting accepted into the program are.
For example a nursing program may require students to achieve a GPA average of 3.4, however because of the level of competition you face you may need to bring in a higher GPA average of 3.7 in order to be competitive with other students trying to enter the program.
In fact many of the schools use the prerequisite courses as a measure for a students level of interest and dedication towards passing the nursing program and becoming a registered nurse because there are often more students applying for the nursing program than there are seats available, which means schools have to limit the number of students they can accept into the program.
While some of the prerequisites may vary the most common ones required by schools offering nursing programs are:
- English 101
- Anatomy & Physiology I & II
- Intro to Psychology or Psychology 101
- Intro to Sociology or Sociology 101
In order to have the best chance of getting accepted into the nursing program its a good idea to sit down with a guidance counselor to find out what they are looking for when deciding whether or not to accept a student into the nursing program, especially when the nursing program has a limited number of seats available per enrollment period.
By understanding the deciding factors you’ll stand a much better chance of getting into the program.
While the prerequisites change from school to school most colleges and universities require students to take similar prerequisite courses before accepting students into the nursing program.
Here you can find a list containing some of the prerequisite courses you may be required to take before you can gain acceptance into the nursing program: Nursing prerequisites
4) Enter and pass the nursing program
Upon successful completion of your prerequisite courses and gaining acceptance into the nursing program you’ll be required to spend the next several years in the nursing program learning about anatomy, physiology, medicine and proper patient care.
While in the program it is recommended that you find a dedicated study group to help you study and perform at your highest level.
By having a good study group you’ll be able to share your collective knowledge to answer complex questions and be able to bounce your theories and ideas around with a group that can help give you the constructive criticism and critiquing you need to be a successful student.
During your course study in the nursing program its important to not overwhelm yourself by taking on more coursework than you can handle.
A common mistake students often make in school is overloading themselves with more work than they can handle.
As a student just starting out it is very easy to underestimate the amount of work that is required to be successful in a given class, so be careful when agreeing to take on additional projects and/or classwork that you don’t have to if you’re not sure whether or not you can handle the additional workload.
It’s also a good idea to gain as much field experience as you can early on.
You can do this by looking for volunteer work at a local hospital or doing an internship program while you are attending school.
By gaining early field experience you’ll be able to have a better understanding of the nursing field and it may also help increase your chances of getting a job once you complete the program and earn your licence.
In the end all of the studying and training you’ve received while in the nursing program will be used to prepare you for taking the National Counsel Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses.
5) Pass the National Counsel Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses
The final step towards earning your rn license is to pass the National Counsel Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, which is provided by your state.
The National Counsel Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses will test all of the education and training you’ve acquired since entering the nursing program and is vital for being able to get a job in the nursing field since you cannot legally work as a registered nurse without your license.
Upon successful completion of the exam and after you’ve paid your licensing fees you can now begin applying for jobs as a registered nurse!
6) Find a job in the registered nursing field
Congratulations you are now a registered nurse and are able to start look for a job in the registered nursing field.
When you first start out looking for a nursing job it may seem a bit overwhelming at first.
Where to start, what to do, how to prepare a resume and what your options are for finding the perfect nursing career opportunities.
To make your search for the perfect job easier we have included links to additional resources so you can get to your dream job faster.