How long does it take to become a registered nurse (RN)?

February 15, 2015 | 0

The time needed to become an RN or a registered nurse usually differs as per an aspirant’s chosen path of studies as well as the continuity and speed of education. The duration may become longer if one needs to meet additional state regulations and licensing policies. Varied institutions offer 2 and 4 year degree programs for beginning a career in the nursing profession.

Most students get a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree in nursing so as to become a registered nurse. Candidates can also go for three-year diploma courses provided by hospitals; these are however not so common. Applicants need to possess a high school diploma or a diploma similar to it to be able to gain admission to these programs.

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Educational qualifications to become a registered nurse

  • High school: In order to become an RN, aspirants need to begin preparing right from school. Applicants have to complete their high school with good credits in subjects like biology, English, and mathematics. It is important for the scores in the above mentioned subjects to be good because a majority of accredited and renowned nursing schools choose the aspirants as per these credits.
  • Entry-level training: The entry-level formal education programs and training courses last for one year. The programs offer practical clinical experience and lectures. They are the most basic qualifications needed for nursing profession; the program includes physiology, first-aid, and anatomy.

registered nurse

Diploma and/or degree in nursing schools: Diploma as well as degree holders can vie for the same nursing post. Listed below are the different degree programs for becoming a registered nurse:

  • ADN or Associate’s Degree in Nursing: It can be obtained at two-year community college programs as well as at four-year leaning institutions. It usually takes 2 or more years to finish ADN programs. They offer clinical practice in a healthcare environment and classroom lectures. Students will get to learn about the human anatomy, nursing skills, and assessment of a person’s health, etc.After the completion of the degree, candidates will be eligible to go for the licensing exam and after passing this examination, aspirants will be qualified to become a registered nurse.
  • BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing: Up to 4 years are needed to complete the BSN nursing degree. In the first year, students will study the Common Foundation Program which imparts onto them the main principles of nursing. In addition to gaining an education, students will simultaneously get to work in community settings and local hospitals, thereby allowing them to gain relevant experience about the profession. The usual courses offered in this degree program include healthcare, infant care, human development, and more. This registered nurse degree can also be availed/studied online.
    • It may be noted that even though the ADN program offers a faster access into the nursing field, a BSN degree comes with a more thorough training. Also, aspirants who finish the BSN program have better chances for career advancement as a registered nurse. Another USP is the fact that BSN students can also study for special health abnormalities and pathophysiology in addition to availing internships and clinical workshops.

Additional certification: There are several institutions and hospitals that prefer RNs with extra certifications in addition to a degree or a diploma. Such certificates are proof of the fact that candidates can work under special situations. RNs may obtain advanced certifications in varied fields of nursing or opt for different certifications offered by organizations like the National League for Nursing and the American Nursing Credentialing Center.

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The Nursing License

It is important to get a nursing license to be able to practice as a registered nurse. In the US, aspirants need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses or the NCLEX-RN examination to get a license for the state that they want to practice in. The exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and completed in a day. Candidates need to get at least 70 percent to pass this examination. Aspirants need to have a diploma or a bachelor’s degree in nursing along with 40 to 80 hours of clinical practice in different areas of nursing to be able to sit for this exam.

Candidates with a nursing degree from a foreign country have to pass the CGFNS or Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools certification examination. The certification examination is categorized into 3 sections, i.e., assessment of credentials, qualifying test to verify nursing knowledge, and proficiency exam in English language. The exam is conducted 4 times per year.

The questionnaire in both the above discussed exams test the students on their knowledge of the nursing fundamentals and practices, laws of the state, and clinical care rules. Students can join preparatory classes to get ready for these examinations.Aspirants who pass the exams may still need to accomplish some other state requirements to obtain their licenses.

Keeping the RN license: Job requirements

Registered nurses need to follow the rules of the state to sustain their license. A majority of states need the nurses to pursue higher education. For example, RN’s with a BSN will have to go for a master’s degree.

A registered nurse can specialize in a specific branch of medicine like pediatrics, oncology, psychiatry, woman’s health, dentistry, etc. Most registered nurses work in surgical and general medical hospitals in the US. Their average annual salary is about $70,000.

A registered nurse’s work primarily consists of looking after patients. RN’s will have to enquire about the patients’ health and illnesses, record the signs and symptoms, help technicians in performing diagnostic tests, and give treatments as advised by doctors.Other job requirements include supporting patients and their loved ones at the time of recovery and offering them essential information about the medications and precautionary measures.

Career advancement for RNs

Career advancement options for registered nurses include becoming a nurse practitioner, an advanced practice nurse, or a clinical nurse specialist. Such advancement can only be availed after obtaining a master’s degree in nursing.

  • MSN or Master of Science in Nursing: MSN program courses are specialized; hence certain colleges offer entry to only RN license holders. After completion of the course, students can opt for fully research oriented PhD programs.Another option is a DNP or a Doctor of Nursing Practice program which usually involves clinical practice.

Thus, it takes about 2 to 4 years after high school education to become a registered nurse.

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