Have you always wanted to work in nursing but never taken the leap?
If yes, then you have come to the right place.
While you may be worried about changing the direction of your career and having to start from scratch, becoming a nurse is not as difficult as it may appear.
Within the below blog, you will find out exactly what you need to do, one step at a time, to get the career in nursing you have always dreamed of.
Whether you want to become an advanced nurse practitioner, a nurse administrator, or a nurse educator, all you need to do is keep reading, and you will be advancing in your nursing career before you know it.
However, first, it’s important to take a look at what is a registered nurse and what this demanding role involves.
What is a registered nurse?
By definition, a registered nurse is a healthcare professional who provides direct care to patients in a wide range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient centers, and residential care homes.
Some of the daily duties you may carry out include:
- Carrying out patient assessments
- Recording patients’ medical history and symptoms
- Updating patient files
- Creating treatment and care plans for patients
- Administering treatments and medications
- Collecting samples such as bloods and urine
- Educating patients and their families
- Assisting doctors, physicians, and other healthcare professionals
A licensed registered nurse (RN) has completed the required education in nursing and has passed an exam to earn licensure in their state.
Registered nurses can choose to specialize in many different areas of nursing, including gerontology, oncology, acute and critical care, or pediatrics.
Once qualified as a registered nurse, you can also choose to pursue advanced nursing degrees to gain positions such as family nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist.
With the right qualifications in nursing, the sky is the limit. As is your salary potential.
Why become a registered nurse?
The main reason that people give for becoming a nurse is often their desire to help people. That being said, this is not the only benefit to becoming a registered nurse in 2022.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030. This equates to around 194,500 job openings for registered nurses each year.
Furthermore, job satisfaction within the nursing sector remains high despite the effects of the pandemic, with the majority of working nurses highly satisfied with their jobs and willing to recommend this career path to others.
Finally, the role of a registered nurse is both diverse and exciting. This is one job where no two days are the same, and you are guaranteed to never be bored.
Step 1: Determine your goals
The first, and arguably most important step, you need to determine your career goals. There is no point in applying for new positions or committing to further education if you don’t first know what you want to do with your life.
The best place to start is by thinking about where you see yourself in 5 years’ time.
Are you working as a family nurse practitioner in your own practice? Are you teaching the next generation of nurses? Or are you working on policy reform and affecting real change within the industry?
There are so many different areas of healthcare that you can choose to specialize in, including family practice, geriatrics, critical care, and so many more. Whatever you envision, you need to be very clear about your goals so that you can make accurate plans on how you can achieve them.
If you don’t know what you want to do, but you know you want to climb the career ladder, you might want to consider volunteering at a local hospital to see what areas of nursing you like and which ones you are suited to.
Step 2: Pursue a degree
Once you have established the type of nursing career that you want, you are now in a much better position to look into what qualifications you need to be able to practice in this role.
Most nursing degree programs combine classroom instruction with clinical experience to prepare graduates for working in a hectic healthcare environment.
If you already have a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, your best option is a fast-track degree program. There are many benefits of direct entry MSN programs including the ability to complete the majority of the course online and being able to qualify in as little as two years.
If you want to get started in your nursing career sooner rather than later, then this is the perfect degree program for you.
Of course, there are many other types of nursing degree programs available such as BSNs, ADNs, and DNPs, and you need to make sure that you pick the right one to fit your current lifestyle and commitments.
For example, if you are looking at on-campus programs, you need to factor in commuting or housing costs. You also need to be able to work to a strict schedule which may not be feasible for people with young families.
Step 3: Get your license
After you have obtained the relevant qualifications, you now need to get your nursing license. This allows you to practice and involves taking an exam to demonstrate your skills as a nurse.
Depending on the nursing position you want to practice, the exam and licensing requirements will differ.
If you want to be a certified nursing assistant (CNA), then you need to pass a state competency exam and earn a state license.
If you want to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN), then you need to pass a state competency exam, earn a state license and pass the National Council Licensure Examination.
If you want to become a nurse practitioner, you need to first complete your MSN, then pass a national exam set by a professional nursing organizations such as the ANCC and earn a state license.
Further requirements for more specialist nursing roles include a nurse midwife and nurse anesthetist.
Step 4: Find a job
Even with the highest level of qualifications, you still need to be proactive and even aggressive in your job search.
While there is a huge demand for nurses in the United States, there is also a lot of competition, particularly when it comes to finding a job in a hospital.
There are several ways that you can increase your chances of success when it comes to finding a nurse job, including:
- Making as many contacts as possible when studying
- Researching the market to see what the demand is in your area
- Signing up to relevant job sites and boards
- Visiting career centers such as those offered by the American Nurses Association
- Updating your LinkedIn profile
- Reading job descriptions carefully and using relevant keywords in your resume and cover letter
- Following up with prospective employers
- Prepping for interviews
As mentioned earlier, some healthcare facilities are more in need of qualified nurses than others. So if you are struggling to secure a position at a hospital, you might want to think about applying for jobs in other healthcare facilities such as private clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, nursing agencies, and home health care settings.
How to become a nurse FAQs
Can I become a registered nurse in 2 years?
Yes, you can become a registered nurse in 2 years if you already have a Bachelor’s degree and you sign up to a fast track, direct entry nursing degree program. This is typically full-time and can be completed online or on-campus. Clinical hours will also be factored into this timeframe.
What qualifications do I need to become a registered nurse?
To become a registered nurse, you need a degree in nursing and a license to practice in your state. You will also need to complete a set amount of clinical hours and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
Can I become a nurse without a degree?
No, you cannot become a registered nurse without a nursing degree. Although the role of a nurse is very hands-on and practical, it also requires technical skills and clinical analysis skills that need to be taught by a professional educator.
If you have your heart set on becoming a nurse, then don’t let anything get in your way of you achieving your dreams.
Even if you have never worked in the healthcare industry before, the United States is crying out for compassionate and qualified nurses who want to make a difference.
If you are worried about the further education aspect of training to become a nurse, then you needn’t be. Whether you want to graduate as soon as possible, study around your current commitments or enjoy campus life to the full, there are a whole host of accredited universities that offer excellent nursing programs.
So, what are you waiting for?
If you want to become a registered nurse, take action today. Start with step 1 and keep going until you have found your dream job!