You’ve given it a lot of thought, and have finally decided to join the ranks of those pursuing a nursing and healthcare career. Congratulations! Now that you’ve made your decision, the next step would be to decide on which nursing discipline to pursue. Currently, employment prospects are most bright for RN’s, or Registered Nurses; Licensed Practice Nurses (LPN’s) are also in great demand.
Registered Nurses have several degree options:
- Two years – Associates Degree
- Four years – Bachelor of Science Degree
- Person with a Bachelor’s Degree in another field – 3-4 years can earn a Nursing Doctorate
- Person with a Bachelor’s Degree in another field – 1-2 years can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) go to school for approximately 1 year. They typically perform nursing tasks under the supervision of a Registered Nurse. Some people choose to become LPNs with the intention of completing their Registered Nursing (RN) coursework later. Many schools grant advanced credit to LPN’s in their RN coursework.
Several factors may determine which degree you choose to pursue initially; the most obvious being what degree programs are available in your area. If you will be commuting or going to school at night, this is a big factor. For the most part, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the widely accepted standard. However, with the current nursing shortage, a 2 year Associates Degree in Nursing is quickly gaining acceptance. Whatever program you choose, make sure that that the program is an accredited one; the 2 organization that most recognized for the accreditation of nursing programs in the United States are the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Schools that have been accredited by these organizations are recognized as meeting the standards set forth for nursing training and education in this country. Nurses that have completed degree programs and the associated coursework will then be able to sit for licensure exams in the specific states where they wish to work.
In order to pursue your nursing education, of course you will start by completing high school and receiving your diploma. Some nursing schools require a pre-admission test called the National League for Nursing (NLN) Pre-Admission Exam (you can find out more about this exam from the NLN at www.nln.org).
Once you pass this Pre-Admission exam, there are several degree paths you can follow:
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS/BSN). A 4-year program offered at colleges and universities that prepare you to practice across all health care settings. Employment prospects and advancement opportunities appear to be the greatest for the BSN graduate. A BSN is required for entry into a Master’s Degree in nursing program that prepares you for leadership, management and more independent roles, such as clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, educator and researcher. A BSN is preferred and often a prerequisite for certain nursing specialties, such as military nursing, case management, public health nursing, forensic nursing and school nursing.
- Associate Degree in Nursing. (ADN). A 2-3 year program that prepares you to provide direct patient care in numerous settings. Most times offered at junior and community colleges; however some hospital schools of nursing, colleges and universities also offer ADN programs.
- Hospital Diploma. A 2- to 3-year hospital-based nursing program that prepares you to deliver direct patient care in a variety of environments. Many diploma schools are affiliated with junior colleges where you may also take basic science and English requirements, so the graduate may earn an Associate’s Degree along with the diploma in nursing.
Getting your Nursing License
Once you complete your chosen nursing degree path, you must then be licensed in the state in which you wish to work. RN’s, LPN’s and APN’s (Advanced Practice Nurse) must take the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN to become a licensed nurse. For more information on nurse licensure, see the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website at http://www.ncsbn.org/.
Nursing as a Second Career
If you already have a Bachelor of Science or Arts degree in another field, you may want to consider numerous academic programs specially geared toward college graduates like you. These programs are called post-baccalaureate, second degree or accelerated degrees. Post-baccalaureate programs (BA to BSN, or BS to BSN) recognize your previous education and build on it, without repeating it. There are many programs available for professionals in your situation; please feel free to search our listings for a program in your area
Advanced Degree Programs
There are several Advanced Degree Programs available to assist you in specializing in a specific nursing discipline. These may include, but are not limited to adult nursing, pediatric nursing, midwifery, learning disability nursing, mental health nursing. Etc. Please check in your area to see what is available.