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How to Become a Registered Nurse

By Ajoke Aminu

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Are you considering becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) for that healthcare hero experience? However, like any heroic role, this profession comes with significant responsibilities and impacts lives. Becoming an RN entails meeting educational and licensing requisites. Prepare to launch your heroic journey through this article, as nursing is more than a job—it’s a calling, and we have the recipe for success in this path.

Career Summary

Registered Nurse Salary

Registered Nurse Salary

Not only is the job of a Registered Nurse (RN) an honorable one, but these healthcare heroes are also rewarded handsomely for their priceless contribution to society and humanity at large. Below is a breakdown of the registered nurse salary range based on professional levels:

  • Entry Salary (US$88k)
  • Median Salary (US$122k)
  • Executive Salary (US$152k)

In comparison, this pay range is considerably above the national median income, which is estimated to be around $60k annually.

What does a Registered Nurse do?

A Registered Nurse (RN) provides patient care, administers medications, and collaborates with physicians and other healthcare professionals to coordinate and evaluate patient health needs. They also educate patients and their families on medical conditions and treatment plans, as well as provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families. To be a nurse is to possess a mental fortitude to navigate the most heart-wrenching events.

Registered Nurse Career Progression

  • Entry-Level Registered Nurse: Following graduation from nursing school and obtaining licensure, this marks the official starting point for any aspiring RN. Entry-level registered nurses often work under the supervision of more experienced nurses and receive hands-on experience in patient care.
  • Specialty Nursing Roles: With experience, registered nurses can seek certifications and additional training in nursing specializations such as critical care, pediatrics, cancer, anesthesiology, and perioperative nursing.
  • Charge Nurse or Nurse Supervisor: This is more of a senior role as some RNs may progress into leadership positions as a charge nurse or nurse supervisor. In this position, they oversee a nursing unit, manage staff schedules, and act as a resource for other nurses.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): This category of professional nurses having attained a level of advanced practice, focuses on specialized areas of patient care, while equally providing expertise and guidance to healthcare teams.
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): NPs are advanced practice nurses who can diagnose and treat patients, prescribe drugs, and provide primary and specialty care in a variety of healthcare settings.
  • Nurse Manager or Director: RNs with exceptional leadership and management abilities may advance to positions as nurse managers or directors. They are in charge of entire nursing departments and are in charge of coordinating patient care services.
  • Chief Nursing Officer: In larger healthcare institutions, RNs may pursue careers in healthcare administration, working in roles such as Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) or other executive positions.
Registered Nurse Career Progression

Pros:

  • RNs relatively enjoy more job stability compared to an average employee in the U.S.
  • These professionals are provided with a handful of opportunities to volunteer and give back to society.
  • Since the health industry is rapidly evolving, RNs are provided with diverse opportunities for professional growth and advancement.
  • As healthcare heroes, RNs enjoy competitive remuneration put side-by-side with other high-end career paths.
  • Considering that the majority of RNs are passionate about saving lives and humanity, they tend to enjoy more job satisfaction than merely carrying out their duties.

Cons:

  • Depending on the specialization, RNs tend to undergo an unusually high level of stress especially when working in a fast-paced environment like an emergency room or critical care unit.
  • Long hours of shift could pose a major health risk if not well-managed.
  • RNs, although are healthcare heroes, are not necessarily immune to illness, especially contagious diseases which increase their risk of infection.
  • Most RNs possess an unusual mental fortitude, albeit, they sometimes undergo emotional strain resulting from them having to constantly deal with a patient’s pain, suffering, or loss.

Useful Skills to Have as a Nurse

  • Clinical Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Time Management and Organization
  • Empathy and Compassion
  • Stress Management and Resilience

Registered Nurse Specialties

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Registered Nurse 5 Steps to Career

Path to Becoming a Registered Nurse: Education Requirements

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Registered Nurse?

The simple answer is Yes! The requirements to become a Registered Nurse (RN) can vary depending on the country and jurisdiction you are in. In some places, a degree in nursing is not always mandatory to become an RN, but it typically helps in advancing your career. However, the most common educational path to becoming an RN in most regions is to earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program.

Unlike ADN and BSN, Diploma in Nursing (DIN) is a less threaded path, albeit, it’s still an option to consider as it equally offers relevant knowledge in the field. In fact, some hospitals still offer diploma programs in nursing. While they still exist in some places, they are less common than ADN and BSN programs.

Regardless of the education pathway, an aspiring nurse will also need to pass the globally-recognized  National Council Licensure Examination, (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed RN and start earning that big registered nurse salary! 

It is also important to note that while an associate degree and a diploma are valid pathways to becoming an RN, the healthcare industry is increasingly recognizing the benefits of a bachelor’s degree. Many healthcare organizations and hospitals prefer hiring BSN-prepared nurses, and some even require it for certain roles.

Aspiring nurses therefore should research the specific requirements and preferences of the healthcare institutions and regions they plan to work in to make informed decisions about their educational pathway. Additionally, keep in mind that the healthcare field is continuously evolving, and having a higher level of education can often open up more opportunities for career advancement and specialization.

The Importance of a Degree to a Registered Nurse

Obtaining a degree in nursing is crucial for several reasons, as it equips you with the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to excel in the nursing profession. Here are some key reasons why getting a nursing degree is important:

  • Quality Patient Care: Nursing is a highly complex and dynamic field. Formal nursing education provides you with a strong foundation in medical sciences, evidence-based practices, and clinical skills. This knowledge enables you to deliver safe, effective, and compassionate care to patients, promoting better health outcomes.
  • Professional Licensure: To become a Registered Nurse, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which is a requirement for licensure in most countries and states. A nursing degree ensures that you are eligible to take the licensure exam and become a registered and legally recognized nurse.
  • Diverse Career Opportunities: While there are other entry-level paths to nursing, a degree in nursing, whether ADN or BSN, opens doors to a broader range of career opportunities and advancement. Many nursing leadership positions, research roles, and specialized areas typically require a BSN or higher.
  • Professional Development: Nursing degree programs include clinical experiences, allowing you to practice in diverse healthcare settings. These experiences provide hands-on learning, exposure to different patient populations, and an understanding of interprofessional collaboration.
  • Credibility and Respect: A nursing degree lends credibility to your expertise and professionalism as a nurse. It demonstrates that you have undergone rigorous education and training, earning the respect of patients, colleagues, and other healthcare professionals.

Generally, obtaining a degree in nursing is not just a formality; it is a transformative educational experience that prepares you to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients and the healthcare community. It equips you with the necessary knowledge, skills, and values to excel in this rewarding and noble profession.

What is the Duration for Earning a Degree in Nursing?

The time it takes to earn a degree in nursing can vary depending on the type of nursing program you choose and your individual circumstances. The two primary types of nursing degrees are the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ADN program typically takes about 2 to 3 years to complete. These programs are often offered at community colleges and focus on providing students with the essential nursing knowledge and skills needed to become a registered nurse.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A BSN program is a four-year degree offered by colleges and universities. It includes a more comprehensive curriculum that covers a broader range of topics, including leadership, community health, and nursing research.
  • There are also accelerated BSN programs available for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. These programs can usually be completed in 12 to 18 months.
  • Diploma in Nursing (DIN): A DIN program typically takes around 2 to 3 years to complete. The duration may vary based on the program’s structure and other conditional factors such as whether it includes prerequisite courses.

What is the Cost of Studying Nursing at a University?

The cost of studying nursing at a university can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the type of degree program, the university’s location, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student (for public universities), and additional expenses such as textbooks, uniforms, and clinical fees.

It’s essential to research and compare the costs of different nursing programs and universities before making a decision. Here are some general cost considerations:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): ADN programs are typically offered at community colleges, which tend to be more affordable than four-year universities. For a two-year program at a public institution, students might face costs ranging from $8,000 to $22,000, depending on the institution and location. A private institution could charge between $30,000 and $50,000. These estimates can increase significantly for students coming from out of state.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): BSN programs are offered at universities, and their costs are generally higher than ADN programs. At a public institution, a four-year BSN program might cost between $40,000 and $80,000, whereas private institutions might charge from $60,000 to $120,000. For those from out of state, these expenses can see a significant rise.
  • Accelerated BSN Programs: If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field and pursue an accelerated BSN program, the cost will vary similarly to regular BSN programs. Accelerated BSN programs are often shorter in duration but may be more intensive.
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships: Many students pursuing nursing degrees receive financial aid or scholarships to help offset the costs. Scholarships and grants are available from various sources, including universities, government agencies, nursing organizations, and private foundations.

In any case, be sure to check with the specific universities or nursing schools you are interested in for the most up-to-date and accurate information on tuition and related expenses. Many universities provide detailed breakdowns of tuition costs and financial aid options on their websites or through their admissions offices.

Can I Become a Registered Nurse through Online Education?

Are you wondering if you can become a Registered Nurse (RN) through online education? Absolutely, you can! There are several reputable and accredited online nursing programs that offer either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These programs allow students to complete their coursework and clinical requirements through online platforms, making it a flexible option for those who cannot attend traditional on-campus classes.

When considering an online nursing program, it’s essential to verify its accreditation status. Accreditation ensures that the program meets the required educational standards and that graduates are eligible for licensure as Registered Nurses. Additionally, some online nursing programs may have certain in-person clinical requirements, so it’s important to check the program’s specific details and ensure they align with your needs and location.

While online nursing education offers flexibility, it also requires discipline and self-motivation to stay on track with coursework and clinical requirements. With dedication and commitment, you can achieve your goal of becoming a Registered Nurse through online education.

Web Resources to Learn and Master Nurse Skills

There are numerous web resources available to help you learn the skills and knowledge required to become a Registered Nurse. These resources offer a wide range of educational materials, practice exercises, and interactive tools to enhance your nursing skills. Here are some valuable web resources to consider:

Nursing Organizations and Associations:
  • American Nurses Association (ANA): Otherwise known as Nursing World, the American Nurses Association’s official website with resources, publications, webinars and information on nursing practice and policies.
  • National League for Nursing: NLN offers webinars, publications, and teaching resources for nursing educators and students.
Nursing Websites and Portals:
  • RegisteredNursing.org: This website provides nursing career guides, information on nursing schools, and articles on various nursing topics.
  • Nurse.org: A comprehensive website with articles, guides, and resources for nursing students and professionals.
Nursing Forums and Communities:
  • Allnurses: An online community where nurses share experiences, discuss nursing topics, and seek advice.
  • StudentNurse: A forum specifically for nursing students to connect, ask questions, and share resources.
Medical Databases and Journals:
  • PubMed: A vast database of medical research articles and publications that can deepen your understanding of nursing topics.
  • CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature): A database for nursing and allied health research.
Virtual Simulators and Skill Practice:
NCLEX Review Resources:

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Nurse Practicum: The Role of Experience in Your Career Development

Embarking on the adventure to become a Registered Nurse (RN) is like diving into a captivating novel, where each chapter brings you closer to being a healthcare hero. But what’s the secret ingredient that turns you from a novice to a nursing maestro? Practical experience is the game-changer—the wisdom gained from hands-on encounters is unbeatable!

Nursing Internship Opportunities

If you’ve ever dreamt of stepping into the fast-paced world of nursing, these internships are your golden ticket to hands-on education. From bustling hospital floors to the hushed halls of clinics, this is your chance to turn textbook knowledge into life-saving action. Nothing prepares you for the real world like internship opportunities. Become a nursing intern with any of these paths:

  • Hospital Internships: Many hospitals offer internships or residency programs for new graduate nurses. These programs provide comprehensive training and exposure to different nursing units, allowing nurses to develop skills in areas such as medical-surgical, critical care, pediatrics, and more.
  • Specialty-Specific Internships: Some healthcare facilities offer specialized internship programs for specific nursing specialties, such as labor and delivery, oncology, emergency medicine, or perioperative nursing. These internships allow nurses to gain in-depth experience and expertise in their chosen field.
  • Nurse Residency Programs: Nurse residency programs are structured to support new graduate nurses’ transition into practice. They typically include mentorship, clinical training, and ongoing professional development opportunities.
  • Home Health Care Internships: Home health agencies may offer internships to train nurses in providing care to patients in their homes. This experience involves assessing patients in their living environments and managing their care in a home setting.
  • Long-Term Care Facilities: Nursing homes and long-term care facilities sometimes offer internships for nurses to work with elderly residents, gain experience in geriatric care, and learn about managing chronic conditions.
  • Public Health Internships: Public health departments and organizations may offer internships for nurses interested in community health, health education, and disease prevention initiatives.
  • Clinical Research Internships: Nurses can also find internships in clinical research settings, assisting in research studies and data collection related to healthcare interventions and outcomes.
  • Military Nurse Internships: The armed forces offer internships and training programs for nurses interested in pursuing a nursing career in the military healthcare system.
  • International Health Internships: Some organizations offer international health internships, allowing nurses to gain cross-cultural experience and contribute to healthcare initiatives in developing countries.
  • Nurse Educator Internships: For nurses interested in teaching and education, some nursing schools offer internships or assistantship opportunities to work alongside nurse educators.

Essential Nurse Skills

Nurses must wield a spectrum of skills that blend compassion, knowledge, and hands-on mastery to create a masterpiece of patient care. From the art of communication that weaves empathy into medical interactions to the precision of clinical procedures that mend lives, these skills form the foundation of nursing excellence. Each of these nurse skills contributes to the vibrant tapestry of modern healthcare:

  • Clinical Skills: You will learn how to perform various clinical tasks, including taking vital signs, administering medications, dressing wounds, inserting IVs, and conducting physical assessments.
  • Patient Education: Educating patients about their conditions, treatments, and self-care is an essential aspect of nursing.
  • Technology Proficiency: As healthcare technology advances, nurses must stay updated on electronic health records, medical devices, and other technological tools used in patient care.
  • Critical Thinking: Nurses need to think critically to assess patient conditions, analyze data, and make quick and effective decisions to provide the best care possible.
  • Problem-Solving: Nurses encounter diverse patient situations, requiring them to think on their feet and find creative solutions to address patient needs.
  • Time Management: Nursing can be fast-paced, so you’ll learn to prioritize tasks and manage your time efficiently to meet patient care demands.
  • Organization: Keeping patient records, managing medications, and coordinating care all require strong organizational skills.
  • Communication: Effective communication is crucial in nursing to interact with patients, their families, and the healthcare team. Good communication ensures clear understanding and helps build trust.
  • Empathy and Compassion: These skills are vital for connecting with patients on a human level and providing emotional support during challenging times.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Nurses work closely with other healthcare professionals, and learning effective teamwork ensures seamless patient care.
  • Cultural Competence: Nurses learn to provide care that is sensitive to diverse cultural backgrounds and individual beliefs.
  • Adaptability: Healthcare is dynamic, and nurses must adapt quickly to changing circumstances and patient needs.
  • Emotional Resilience: Nursing can be emotionally demanding, so nurses develop resilience to cope with challenging situations.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Registered Nurse?

The work-life balance of a Registered Nurse (RN) can vary depending on several factors, such as the nursing specialty, the type of healthcare facility, the number of hours worked, and individual preferences. Overall, nursing is known for offering a relatively good work-life balance compared to many other professions in the healthcare industry. Some factors that can influence the work-life balance of a Registered Nurse may include specialties, shifts, workloads, whether they work full-time or part-time, and other personal preferences such as lifestyle choices.

Beyond these factors, it’s important also to note that while nursing can offer a reasonable work-life balance, there may be times when the profession demands more of a nurse’s time, especially during busy periods or when there is a need for additional staffing. However, many nurses find ways to manage their schedules effectively and maintain a healthy work-life balance through proper time management, self-care, and support from their healthcare teams.

Ultimately, the work-life balance of a Registered Nurse can be manageable and rewarding, as nursing allows you to make a meaningful impact on the lives of patients while also having time for personal pursuits and family life.

What’s the Career Outlook for Registered Nurses?

The nurse job outlook is expected to grow by 6% annually from 2021 to 2031. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, this matches the average growth rate for all occupations in the United States. The projections also suggest that approximately 200,000 job openings for registered nurses are expected each year until 2031.

Some factors that contribute significantly to this growth include the growing healthcare industry, retirement of current nurses, advancement in medicare solutions, nursing shortages in selected regions, advancement in nursing specialties, and general focus on preventive public healthcare among others. Ultimately, the career outlook for Registered Nurses (RNs) in the USA is highly promising and from obvious indications will remain positive over the coming years.

Registered Nurse Popular Career Specialties

Perfect Job Opportunities For a Registered Nurse

Whether you’re drawn to the intensity of emergency care or the nurturing atmosphere of pediatrics, get ready to uncover the exciting roles where your RN journey could lead. If you’ve ever wondered about the myriad career paths a Registered Nurse (RN) can tread, you’re in for an enlightening journey. The realm of nursing is vast and diverse, offering a multitude of roles that cater to different passions, talents, and aspirations. Here is the spectrum of possibilities:

  • Hospital Nurse: Work in various departments, such as medical-surgical, critical care, emergency, labor and delivery, and more.
  • Clinic or Physician’s Office Nurse: Provide care in outpatient settings, assisting doctors with exams, treatments, and patient education.
  • Home Health Nurse: Deliver care to patients in their homes, focusing on those who require ongoing medical assistance.
  • School Nurse: Promote health and safety within educational institutions, addressing student health needs and emergencies.
  • Nursing Home or Assisted Living Nurse: Care for elderly residents, managing their medical needs and ensuring their well-being.
  • Pediatric Nurse: Specialize in caring for children, from infancy to adolescence, in various healthcare settings.
  • Oncology Nurse: Offer support and treatments to patients battling cancer, managing symptoms and providing emotional care.
  • Operating Room Nurse: Assist during surgeries, ensuring a sterile environment and patient safety.
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse: Care for critically ill patients, utilizing advanced monitoring and treatment techniques.
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse: Support women during childbirth, providing prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care.
  • Psychiatric Nurse: Work in mental health settings, providing therapy, medication management, and support for patients with psychological disorders.
  • Travel Nurse: Take short-term assignments in different locations, experiencing diverse healthcare environments.
  • Flight Nurse: Provide medical care during air transportation, often for critically ill or injured patients.
  • Research Nurse: Assist in clinical trials and medical research, ensuring patient safety and data collection.
  • Nurse Educator: Teach aspiring nurses in educational institutions, sharing your knowledge and expertise.
  • Telehealth Nurse: Offer virtual healthcare services, providing medical advice and guidance via phone or video calls.
  • Case Manager: Coordinate patient care, collaborating with healthcare professionals and ensuring comprehensive treatment.
  • Public Health Nurse: Focus on community health, promoting wellness and disease prevention through education and interventions.
  • Informatics Nurse: Combine nursing knowledge with technology, managing electronic health records and healthcare data.
  • Legal Nurse Consultant: Assist legal teams in medical cases, providing expertise and insights related to healthcare.

Company Types Hiring Registered Nurses

Registered Nurse skills are in high demand across an array of industries. From traditional healthcare settings to unexpected realms, the need for nursing expertise knows no bounds. Whether you’re envisioning a bustling hospital or exploring non-traditional avenues, these options eagerly seek your care, compassion, and clinical excellence:

  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities
  • Clinics and Outpatient Centers
  • Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities
  • Home Health Agencies
  • Schools and Educational Institutions
  • Government Agencies
  • Insurance Companies
  • Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Research Organizations
  • Occupational Health and Industrial Companies
  • Telehealth Companies
  • Travel Nursing Agencies
  • Nonprofit and Community Organizations
  • Medical Device and Technology Companies
  • Cruise Ships and International Organizations.

Should I Become a Registered Nurse?

Choosing to forge a career path in the nursing field goes beyond having a passion to save life and the fairytale of being a healthcare hero. The job requires grit and dedication to stay on course, two of several elements that an aspiring RN must possess to make it to the top of the nursing career ladder.

If you have read up to this point, you definitely have all the facts and figures as your guide in deciding whether this is the right calling for you. However, don’t get carried away by the facts alone, as other elements such as life experience, personal interest, and passion may play an instrumental role in influencing your decision.

Now, you don’t have to make up your decision on the spot. However, you can bookmark this page so that whenever you finally decide to thread this path, you can use this guide as your torch. Ultimately, choosing to be a RN is a personal decision, and should be taken from a place of self-evaluation.


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Ajoke Aminu

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