September 9, 2020

How to Become a Nurse – Step by Step Guide

Anshika Awasthi

Beyond the extremely honoured reputation for compassion and dedication lies a highly specialized profession that is constantly evolving to encompass and address the needs of the society. From ensuring the most accurate diagnoses to the ongoing education of the general public about critical health issues, nurses are indispensable in safeguarding public health.

In the 21st century, nursing is one of the aspects that act as the glue which holds the patient’s entire healthcare journey together. Across the entire patient experience, whenever someone is in need of care, nurses work tirelessly to identify and protect the needs of the individual.

Who is a Nurse?

Nurses are trained professionals in the healthcare industry where you will be trained and prepared to care for both individuals and whole communities.

A nurse is a practitioner who has been professionally prepared to take care of people with illnesses, diseases and injuries. Usually, nurses accompany doctors and different healthcare employees in different medical organizations and hospitals, and their main role is to help people of all ages to feel better, stay fit and recover to health.

As a nurse, you will have to follow the patient’s treatment and recovery throughout, while also keeping a track of the patient’s progress and interests in mind. The care you will provide as a nurse goes beyond the administration of medication and therapy. You will be responsible for the holistic care of the patients, including psychosocial, developmental, cultural and spiritual needs.

Types of Nurses

TL; DR:

  1. 1
    Aspiring nurses must complete rigorous training & education.
  2. 2
    Must work directly with patients, their families and professionals.
  3. 3
    4 categories of nurses- certified nursing assistants, registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses & licensed practical nurses.

All aspiring nurses must complete a rigorous training, education and study, and work directly with patients, their families and communities using the core values of the nursing process. As of today, in the U.S.A, nursing roles can be divided into 4 main categories-

  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) – As a certified nursing assistant, you will be required to help patients with their daily tasks, bathing, feeding, answering patient calls, clean rooms and are responsible for recording and reporting issues to the nurses in charge.
  • Registered Nurses (RN) - Registered nurses form the backbone of health care provision in the United States. As a registered nurse, you will provide critical health care to the public, wherever and whenever it is needed. You will also have to perform physical exams and health histories before making critical decisions, administer medications and other personalized interventions, coordinate care in collaboration with other medical health professionals etc.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)- As an advanced practice registered nurse, you will treat and diagnose illnesses, advice the public on health issues, provide invaluable primary and preventive health care, manage chronic disease and engage in continuous education to remain at the forefront of any new development or advancement in medicine and technology.
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) - As a licensed practical nurse, also known as licensed vocational nurse, you will support the core health care team, and work under the supervision of an RN, APRN or MD. By providing basic and routine care, you will ensure the wellbeing of your patients throughout their health care journey.

What’s being a Nurse Like?

TL; DR:

  1. 1
    Nurses best placed based on their knowledge and areas of expertise.
  2. 2
    A combined effort of both fundamental human dignity as well as skills.
  3. 3
    Long working hours; workplaces may vary.
  4. 4
    Most trusted profession in the world.

In a field that is as varied as nursing, there is no one typical answer to the question. Responsibilities can range from making acute treatment decisions to providing inoculations in schools. The key in unifying every role is the skill and drive that it takes to be a nurse. Through the long-term monitoring of patient’s behaviours and knowledge-based expertise, nurses are best placed to monitor and take care of their patient’s wellbeing.

Nursing can be described as both art and science—a heart and a mind. At its heart lies a fundamental respect for human dignity and the intuition for a patient’s needs. This is supported by the mind in the form of rigorous core learning. Due to the vast range of specializations and complex skills, each nurse will have specific strengths, passions and expertise.

As a nurse, you might have to work long hours. Since hospitals and nursing homes almost always require round the clock coverage, overnight shifts can be given to nurses with less seniority and more vigour. It is assumed that nurses only work at hospitals, but there are other places of employment as well such as private practices, nursing homes, in-home health care, clinics and retirement centres.

Even though nurses only rate their careers 2.8/ 5 stars, putting them in the bottom 13% of the careers in the U.S, nurses have been ranked the most trusted profession for the 20th time, as of 2019.

How to Become a Nurse?

TL; DR:

  1. 1
    Solid educational background; associate’s/ bachelor’s degree.
  2. 2
    Background check and drug-screening test a must.
  3. 3
    License to practice as a nurse by taking exams accordingly.
  4. 4
    Further education to stay up to date/ rise to higher positions as nurse.

One of the first steps to becoming a nurse is to start with a solid educational background, whether you want to be an LPN, APRN or RN. Every state in the U.S. requires you to graduate from an approved nursing program in order to become a practicing nurse.

While an associate’s degree takes sooner to complete, allowing to join the workforce sooner, nurses with a bachelor’s degree are often preferred because of their in-depth education. However, nurses with associate’s degrees also go on to receive higher education with the help of tuition reimbursement from their employers.

Many university courses for a degree in nursing are demanding, involving several hours of studying and proficiency in subjects such as mathematics, biology and medical terminology. A background check and a drug-screening test are also done, as is the norm for anybody who wishes to be employed in the health care industry.

Once you have completed your education, you’ll need to take an exam to demonstrate your nursing skills and knowledge. Nurses have to be licensed before they can be allowed to practice; therefore the exams are a prerequisite to licensing. To become a licensed CNA, you’ll need to take the state competency exam; for LPN, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN); whereas RN and APRNs must take the NCLEX-RN to get licensed.

After you become a licensed nurse, you will need to continue your education to remain acquainted with the developments in your field. You may also choose to get certified in a certain specialization of your liking, which is completely optional. Earning a master’s degree etc. will qualify you for a higher position such as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife or certified nurse anaesthetist.

Nurse Qualifications & Training

TL; DR:

  1. 1
    Qualification varies depending upon the kind of nursing.
  2. 2
    LPN- One year program; LPN credits can be transferred to RN program.
  3. 3
    RN- 2 years for ADN, 3 years for diploma and 4 years for BSN.
  4. 4
    Education and license to be acquired from state you wish to practice in.Schools accredited by ACEN or CCNE.

The educational qualification for becoming a nurse varies greatly depending upon what kind of nurse you want to be. The education required for registered and licensed nurses differ greatly. So the first step ideally would be selecting the right path for you early on.  To start with, a high-school diploma is an absolute must.

To become an LPN, you must complete a training program for one year that combines classroom study with hands-on supervised clinical practice. This education is offered in community colleges, high schools, vocational schools and hospitals. Often, your credits from LPN can also be transferred to an RN program, should you change your mind.

RNs train between 2-4 years and earn a degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) after 4 years, or an Associate’s Degree in Science in Nursing (ADN) after 2 years, or a diploma in nursing after 3 years. You will receive classroom instructions and supervised practical training in hospital departments. Some schools offer RN to students with a BSN or even a master’s degree program in nursing to those with an Associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing.

Much like a lot of professions that require a license to practice, ensure that you complete your education and acquire a license from the state you wish to practice in. You should also consider looking up a nursing school that has been approved by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). ACEN accommodates smaller degrees like the Associate’s degree in Nursing, while more advanced degrees like a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree are accommodated by the CCNE.

Nurse Skills

No matter what your chosen field or specialty is, nursing has become a unifying ethos.  In assessing a patient, you will not just be considering test results; you will also be required to use your judgement to integrate objective data with subjective experience of a patient’s physical, biological and behavioural needs.

You must have the drive and the compassion to look after others. As a nurse, you will require the ability to remain calm during stressful times, be assertive and authoritarian when necessary, concerned about the welfare of others detail oriented, organized and have a positive outlook. You must also maintain an approachable behaviour and should be easy to talk to, for both the patient and their family.

Since nursing is a very demanding job and exertion is inevitable, you must be physically fit. You must also be adaptable enough to switch schedules if your job demands it. A criminal background history check and a drug-screening test are done before you can acquire your license for safety purposes. Most importantly, you must maintain proper hygiene at all times.

Nurse Pay

As of 2018, according to Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average annual pay for LPNs is $46,240, RNs is $71,730, whereas the average pay for those with a master’s degree is about $113,930.

The highest paying states for RNs, as of 2017, are California ($101,750 per year), Massachusetts ($89,060 per year), Hawaii ($88,910 per year), Oregon ($87,000 per year) and Alaska ($86,450 per year).

The highest paying states for LPNs are Connecticut ($55,720 per year), Rhode Island ($55,410 per year), DC ($55,200 per year), Massachusetts ($55,190 per year) and Alaska ($53,760 per year).

Challenges of Becoming a Nurse

Being a nurse is an extremely demanding job that will require you to remain extremely fit all the time. It can also be very emotionally demanding during stressful situations during your shift, while dealing with a stubborn patient or family. Balancing work and family life can be very draining when the burn-out from the job is added.

You will practically need to be on your feet for 12 hours a day and a lot of heavy-lifting might be required as well. Decisions that you make can have huge consequences, both positive and negative. You will also have to make a patient’s family understand the situation when it comes to a difficult situation.

Apart from that, as a nurse, you will have to continuously keep training and re-training yourself to keep up with any and every advance in technology and have access to the most current data about medication and treatments. You will also have to move beyond just traditional courses and combine your education with skill, with split-second thinking.

Despite all of this, it is one of the most respectful and emotionally rewarding jobs.

Nurse Outlook

According to the BLS, the job outlook for nurses, as of 2016-2026, is 15% which is faster than the average growth rate (for RNs), 12% for LPNs and a high 31% for nurse practitioners (those with a master’s degree).

Demand for health care is bound to increase because of the aging population, given that older people typically have more medical problems than younger people. Nurses will also be required to educate and care for patients with various chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, dementia and obesity.

Conclusion

Nurses are an integral part of our community. They pretty much provide expert care from birth till the end of life, and are woven into various sections of the population without any kind of discrimination. Nurses play a key role in the health factor of any nation. As a nurse, you can make a huge difference in the community and it often makes the difficulties worth it.

About the author

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.


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