So You Want to be an RN!

Picture of RN Nurse Program

Want to be an RN ? Perhaps you or someone close to you was helped by a nurse who knew exactly what suggestion to make to the doctor about pain management or a change in treatment. That suggestion made all the difference by bringing about a speedy and successful recovery. Perhaps you are attracted to the idea of working in a field that is both demanding and “in demand” in many areas. Perhaps you are a fan of House and love the idea of being in the medical world and working with a brilliant, crabby doctor - being the one nurse who earns his grudging respect. Whatever your reason for considering nursing as a career, you need to investigate the educational and training requirements of the field to make an informed decision. Nursing is a varied, rapidly changing field; yet, all nurses have pursued one of three paths to their chosen profession.

NR Degree Programs

To become an RN you will need to complete one of the three degree programs as well as the licensing requirements for nursing. The three programs are a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree program (ADN) or a diploma program. Offered at many colleges and universities, the BSN usually requires about 4 years to complete. The ADN takes 2 to 3 years to complete and is also offered at many schools. Diploma programs are offered at some hospitals and usually require 3 years to complete.

Choosing which program to pursue can impact your career. While it takes longer to complete, the BSN offers decided advantages for the aspiring RN. The additional college courses required by this program help to develop leadership, communication skills and critical and analytic thinking. These skills are needed in the complex environment facing today’s RN.

Another asset provided by the BSN degree is a wider job opportunity. While a licensed RN with a degree from any of these programs can usually acquire an entry level position, a BSN is often a pre-requisite for a position in the administration, consulting, research and teaching.

A thorough search will show scholarships and financing options available for the RN student. One option is to complete the associate degree program and then seek an employer who will help pay for the additional education required to complete the BSN program. This pay as you go approach is a help for many.

If you wish to change careers to work as an RN, there are degree programs that give credit for past college work. These accelerated BSN programs can sometimes be completed in 12-18 months. Master’s degree programs are another option for those who have a degree in another field.

Your educational experience as an RN student will fall into two main categories: classroom instruction and clinical experience. Classes will include anatomy, physiology, nutrition, biology, chemistry, psychology and other social sciences and liberal arts courses. Clinical experience will be supervised and include working in hospital departments such as surgery, pediatrics, emergency room and obstetrics. In all these areas, disciplining yourself to have an interest in each class or clinical will be a great help. Advice from students who have gone before you can be invaluable to ensuring your success.

Licensing: The NCLEX-RN

Major professions have a licensing exam, and nursing is no exception. Students who successfully complete a degree program must pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN. For details concerning the administration of the test and any other licensing requirements of your state, consult your State Board of Nursing. This exam is comprehensive. Learn all that you can about it as you obtain your degree. While you cannot study for particular questions, there are numerous prep courses and some free study guides. Take time to go through these. On some sites you can gain valuable information about the nature of the NCLEX without purchasing the course; but if you can purchase a prep course, do your research and purchase a good one. Here again, the advice of students who have recently passed the exam will help. Armed with this information plus your education, you have an excellent chance of passing the NCLEX.

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