If you walk into a hospital or clinic and observe the nurses in action, chances are you won’t be able to tell how each became a nurse. All nurses have their own story that led them to a career as a nurse. Some may have a parent who is a nurse and inspired them to follow in their footsteps. Others may have always dreamed of working in healthcare. Yet more may have had a great first-hand experience with a nurse that led them to decide to follow the same path. And just as each has a different reason for pursuing nursing, there are many different education paths available to start in this high-demand healthcare career.
When you are researching how to become a registered nurse, you’ll find that there are many different options available to you. It’s important to understand the available options so you can decide where you want to start in nursing, what path you want your career to take, and what opportunities you want to have along the way.
How to Become a Certified Nurse Assistant
Certified nurse assistants, or CNAs, work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). Much like a registered nurse, CNAs work in a variety of clinical settings. Duties include working closely with patients on a daily basis and helping in day-to-day living tasks such as bathing and eating, as well as recording vital signs for the registered nurses and physicians.
How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed practical nurses, sometimes referred to as licensed vocational nurses, also work under the supervision of a registered nurse. LPNs have similar duties to registered nurses, including monitoring vital signs, administering medications, and documenting patient care. However, LPNs are unable to administer intravenous fluids and medications, although some states will allow this with additional training and education.
Both CNAs and LPNs can start their nursing careers with a year or less of education. LPNs must complete a year-long program and pass an exam, and CNAs must take a CNA program that lasts about six weeks and pass an exam. It’s important to note that opportunities for growth as an LPN or CNA are limited.
How to Become a Registered Nurse
If you want to pursue a career as a registered nurse (RN), you can choose from a variety of paths, depending on what you are looking for in an education and your career.
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Diploma Program
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- LVN 30 Unit Option and Military Corpsmen
All of these programs allow you to start a nursing career as a registered nurse, but you may find certain programs are better suited for you.
Associate Degree in Nursing
Earning your Associate Degree in Nursing will require between two and three years of schooling. Your education covers the technical aspects of nursing and prepares you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Although you are able to start a career sooner with an ADN, you will find that you have less opportunities for advancement. Higher education programs, such as master’s programs, require at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Additionally, most hospitals require BSNs to land a leadership role.
Diploma programs can take up to three years to complete, after which you will take the NCLEX-RN. Diploma programs are typically offered through hospitals or hospital-based schools of nursing. Although you are qualified to take the NCLEX-RN once you complete the program, you may find that fewer employers are hiring RNs who earned licensure through diploma-based programs. You will also find that you won’t have as many opportunities for growth as nurses with a BSN.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
You can earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, in a variety of ways. First, you can go through a traditional four-year nursing program at a college or university. In these programs, you will take basic collegiate courses, such as English composition, a foreign language, and mathematic classes prior to starting your nursing courses. You will also complete clinicals at local hospitals and medical facilities, in which you will work with real patients.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are looking to switch careers, you can earn your BSN through an accelerated nursing program, such as Roseman University’s 16-month Accelerated BSN program. Through accelerated nursing programs, you can earn your BSN in 12 to 24 months, depending on the program. Because you already have a bachelor’s degree, you will be taking mostly nursing-specific courses.
While ADNs, diploma programs, and BSN programs all prepare you to successfully pass the NCLEX-RN, you will find that a BSN program prepares you for more critical thinking and leadership roles as an RN. BSNs also allow you to take on leadership and managerial roles, as well as go on to earn a master’s degree or other higher-education opportunities.
Baccalaureate-educated nurses are highly sought after; more hospitals and medical facilities are seeking registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Some states are even considering laws that require nurses to earn their BSN within 10 years of initial licensure. Additionally, through accelerated BSN programs, you can earn your BSN in the same time or less than it would take to earn an associate’s degree in nursing.
LVN 30 Unit Option and Military Corpsmen
These two programs are both available in California. The LVN 30 Unit Option is meant for licensed vocational nurses (LPNs) to pursue a career as a registered nurse. It’s important to note that this program does not end with a degree, and other states will not issue an RN license to graduates of this program.
The Military Corpsmen program allows military corpsmen to take the NCLEX-RN so long as an RN-level education has been completed.
How to Become an Advanced Practice Nurse
Once you have earned your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you may decide you are happy to work as a bedside registered nurse for the entirety of your career. However, there are more options if you decide you would like to specialize in more advanced nursing fields. Advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs, must earn either a master’s or doctorate degree in order to pursue certain careers. These roles consist of:
- Nurse Practitioners (NP)
- Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
- Certified Nurse- Midwives (CNM)
- Nurse Educators
Not only do these roles allow you to specialize in advanced medical care, but you will also hold more responsibility and will have more opportunities for financial growth. The need for APRNs is growing throughout the country, specifically for nurse educators. Most master’s programs take about two years to complete and include clinical components alongside of didactic courses.
Want to learn more about earning your accelerated BSN degree? Contact an admissions advisor today.