How to get into nursing

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With its focus on caring for others and helping people regain their optimum health, nursing is one of the most fulfilling career paths for you to take. You might have been inspired by tales of the strength and courage displayed by nursing staff during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. In addition to this, the Census Bureau 2018 predicts that there will be a 28% growth in nursing jobs between 2018 and 2028, making now the time to embark on a new career in nursing. Here is a short guide for how to become a nurse.

Know what type of nursing you want to do

If you are interested in entering the nursing profession, there are two basic branches of nursing you can go down: a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN), also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVP). Each path offers different job roles, educational requirements, and salary expectations.

The most entry-level nursing position you can have is as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). In this role, you will provide the most basic care to patients, such as cleaning rooms and helping a patient eat and go to the bathroom. The required training can be completed in as little as four weeks; due to this, a CNA role is a good option if you want to try out nursing to see if you would like to invest in it further as a career.

An LPN (known as a licensed vocational nurse in Texas and California) is the first step up from a CNA. In this role, you will work under the supervision of the doctor and RN, assisting them in providing basic nursing care and ensuring the comfort of the patient. This often includes tasks such as measuring vital signs, assisting doctors and RNs with procedures, and helping a patient with his or her daily activities. However, duties will often vary depending on the specialization of your ward or hospital: an LPN in a maternity ward, for instance, will help to coach a woman during childbirth. The main role of an LP is to ensure patient comfort; as such, it is a good career path if you enjoy building relationships with people and prefer hands-on nursing to more supervisory, paperwork-based roles. LPN jobs are not just restricted to hospitals—in fact, nursing homes and residential care facilities are the most common employer of LPNs in the US.

An RN is a step up again from an LPN. They assist the doctor and other nurses in providing critical care to the patient and supervise the LPNs and CNAs. Clinical roles include running and analyzing diagnostics tests, administering medication, and dressing wounds; however, they are also involved in public-facing roles such as educating the patient in a healthy lifestyle, providing support to patient and families during emotionally fraught procedures. An RN will also carry out duties specific to their specialization or ward, for example, neonatal, psychiatric, and infectious disease. An RN can build on their specialization by studying a master of science in nursing to become an advance practice nurse. Although many RNs work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, it is a varied role. As such, it is possible to have a career outside of the traditional settings as, for instance, a school nurse, forensic nurse, or faith community nurse.

Education and training

Becoming CNA requires the least amount of formal training with a CNA certification, taking approximately four to twelve weeks to complete. You will learn health care basics in a wide variety of topics, enabling you to work in a range of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and providing home care to patients.

To become an LPN, you need only do a year-long training course. Make sure that you choose a program that is accredited by the AACN or NLN: that way, you can use the credits earned through an accredited program to transfer to a higher nursing degree in the future. LPN courses are available at technical schools, vocational schools, and community colleges, and involve both classes and hand-on learning at a hospital or clinic. You will learn healthcare basics in anatomy, physiology, first aid and nutrition.

An RN, on the other hand, requires an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) at the very minimum. Courses are more in-depth than an LPN program, common modules including anatomy, nutrition, medicine practices, and adult care. A Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) is becoming increasingly more common as a qualification for RNs, providing you with a thorough base knowledge of nursing theory and practice before becoming licensed as an RN.

After having completed a BSN, you can go on to complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. If you are a registered RN with an ADN rather than a BSN, you can still study an MSN; however, you may be required to prove extensive clinical experience to be accepted to programs. An MSN will enable you to specialize in a particular branch of medicine; for instance, if you would like to work with patients from of a range of backgrounds and ages, you can become a family nurse practitioner. By doing an MSN, you will become an advanced practice nurse, specializing in your chosen field of patient care. Some MSN programs require at least two year’s work experience, meaning that you will have to be a licensed RN before applying for an MSN degree program. Online nurse practitioner programs will allow you flexibility, letting you fit your degree around a full-time job.

State licensure

Both LPNs and RNs need to earn state licensure after graduating from a degree or training program. This involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination for either Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) or Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). This is a national standard, but different states might require additional licensure criteria. A nurse must provide continuing education credits to renew his or her license, ensuring that nursing care is kept at a high standard for patients at healthcare facilities throughout the USA.

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