Registered nurses (RNs) are in high demand in many healthcare organizations across the U.S., and this is expected to continue as the U.S. faces a shortage of skilled and qualified nurses. Hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities are combating this problem by offering top wages, full benefits and other incentives in an effort to recruit RNs to work for them. That is why now is the perfect time to consider a career in this niche and learn how to become a registered nurse.
Find a Nursing School
Check out the website of the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) to learn what nursing schools exist in your local area. Generally these are community colleges, technical schools and four-year universities. Understand that RN programs can award either an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Earning an ADN takes approximately two to three years while students obtaining their BSN spend four to five years in school. Both degrees offer the education needed to obtain an RN license, but it's beneficial to get your BSN if you plan to take additional education and become a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
Complete Pre-Requisite Courses
All colleges and universities require students to complete some pre-requisite courses as these ensure you have the basic skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the nursing program. Since each institution sets their own requirements for these courses, it's important to check with an academic adviser or nursing faculty member to learn what you need to do for your specific nursing school. Most institutions require at least English composition and human anatomy and physiology, although some also require speech, college algebra, biology and chemistry. It's also important that you check to see if a grade requirement exists for pre-requisite courses since many require a 'C' or better in all courses to be admitted to the nursing program.
Learn About Admission Requirements
Meet with an admission's counselor or nursing faculty member to learn what the admission's process is for the nursing school. Find out how many spots exist as well as the number of applicants expected. Spots in nursing programs are limited so the admissions process can be quite competitive. In fact it is highly recommended that you apply to at least two or three other schools to ensure you get accepted in a program.
Apply for Admission
Complete the admission application for the college as well as the actual nursing program. Provide copies of your transcript showing proof you've completed the pre-requisite courses as well as achieved the minimum grade point average (GPA) required by the nursing program for admittance. Write a personal essay if required detailing your interest in the nursing profession as well as your career goals and aspirations. Complete an interview with nursing faculty members if required to secure your spot in the program. Make sure you submit all the application materials by the deadline to ensure your application is given full consideration. Know that late or incomplete applications may only be reviewed if spots still remain in the program.
Attend the Classroom Portion
Begin the nursing program as a student in the classroom. Attend lectures that teach you the fundamentals of nursing and the skills needed for the profession. Participate in labs that allow you to practice what you're learning in lecture on other students or mannequins.
Participate in Clinicals
The clinical experience allows nursing students to get experience providing nursing care to actual patients in real medical organizations. These occur later in the program as you near graduation and have many of the nursing skills mastered. Your nursing program will arrange the clinical experiences, generally with nearby hospitals, nursing homes or assisted living centers. Most programs use large facilities since this allows multiple students to be working with patients at the same time. Expect clinicals to occur in different specialty areas such as OB/GYN, pediatrics, internal medicine, etc. This gives you more experience which can help you secure an RN position upon graduation.
Apply for Your License
As soon as you've completed the clinical experience and graduated from your nursing program, submit an application to your state nursing board to get your license as an RN. To find the website or contact information for the nursing board in your state, visit the website of the National Council for State Boards of Nursing. When applying for a license, be prepared to submit an application, transcripts from your nursing program, a licensing fee and consent for a criminal and abuse background check to be performed on you. In addition, some programs require references, photographs and other documents. It's important these are submitted if required since license applications aren't reviewed until the board has received all materials and the application is complete.
Take the Licensing Exam
If you want to become a registered nurse in the U.S., you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN, which is the national licensing exam for RNs. Each state requires passing this as the final step in the licensing application process. Most schools and nursing programs help students prepare for the licensing exam, which often eases the stress. This is done since NCLEX-RN pass rates are often looked at by prospective students when deciding which schools to apply to. It's important to remember that there are not a standard set or number of questions for the exam. It is completed on a computer, and the next question presented is related to your answer of the previous questions. Taking the test can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes depending upon how you answer. Taking a long time or getting done relatively quickly isn't an indication of how you did.
Search for a Job
After you receive your nursing license, begin looking for a job as an RN at local healthcare organizations. Use popular career websites to conduct job searches while also viewing the website of major healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities. Talk to family and friends employed in the healthcare field as well as your instructors from your nursing program to learn which companies are currently hiring RNs. Submit an application and interview well to secure the job and begin working as a registered nurse in the healthcare field.