Is becoming a nurse right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do nurses do?
Career Satisfaction
Are nurses happy with their careers?
What are nurses like?

Still unsure if becoming a nurse is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a nurse or another similar career!

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How to become a Nurse

There are several pathways to becoming a nurse:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): Individuals can enroll in an accredited ADN program, typically offered by community colleges or vocational schools. ADN programs typically take about two-three years to complete and provide a foundation in nursing theory, clinical skills, and patient care.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Individuals can pursue a BSN degree from a college or university. BSN programs typically take about four years to complete and provide a more comprehensive education in nursing practice, leadership, research, and evidence-based care. Many healthcare organizations and employers prefer hiring nurses with a BSN due to the broader scope of knowledge and skills obtained through a bachelor's degree program.
  • Diploma in Nursing: Some hospitals offer diploma programs in nursing, which provide a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Diploma programs are typically two-three years in duration and may be offered through hospital-based nursing schools or nursing consortia.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Regardless of the educational pathway chosen, individuals must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed to practice as a registered nurse (RN) in the US. The NCLEX-RN exam is a standardized test administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and evaluates the candidate's knowledge and competency in nursing practice.
  • Obtain State Licensure: After passing the NCLEX-RN exam, individuals must apply for licensure from the state board of nursing in the state where they intend to practice. Each state has its own requirements for licensure, which may include submitting an application, providing proof of education and passing the NCLEX-RN exam, undergoing a criminal background check, and paying applicable fees.
  • Consider Specialty Certification or Advanced Practice: After obtaining licensure as an RN, individuals may choose to pursue specialty certification or advanced practice roles in nursing. These advanced practice roles typically require additional education, training, and certification beyond the basic RN licensure (see below).

Nurses have the opportunity to pursue various certifications to enhance their knowledge, skills, and career prospects within specialized areas of nursing practice. Some common certifications for nurses include:

  • Certified Registered Nurse (RN) - Board Certification: Nurses can obtain board certification in their specialty area of practice through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Board certification demonstrates a nurse's advanced knowledge and expertise in a specific nursing specialty and may be required or preferred for certain nursing roles and positions.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Certifications: APRNs, including nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists, can pursue certifications in their respective advanced practice specialties. These certifications are typically offered by national certifying bodies such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for nurse practitioners, or the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) for nurse midwives.
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification: BLS certification is essential for nurses who provide direct patient care, as it trains healthcare professionals in basic life support techniques, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and relief of choking in adults, children, and infants. BLS certification is typically required by healthcare facilities and organizations and must be renewed every 1-2 years.
  • Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) Certification: ACLS certification is designed for healthcare providers who work in critical care settings or provide care for patients experiencing cardiac emergencies or life-threatening arrhythmias. ACLS certification teaches advanced cardiac life support algorithms, advanced airway management, and pharmacological interventions for cardiac arrest and other cardiovascular emergencies.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Certification: PALS certification is intended for healthcare providers who care for pediatric patients in emergency or critical care settings. PALS certification teaches pediatric assessment, recognition and management of respiratory and cardiovascular emergencies, and effective communication and teamwork skills in pediatric resuscitation scenarios.
  • Specialty Nursing Certifications: Nurses can also pursue specialty certifications in areas such as oncology nursing, psychiatric-mental health nursing, gerontological nursing, maternal-child health nursing, perioperative nursing, and rehabilitation nursing, among others. Specialty certifications demonstrate a nurse's expertise and commitment to providing high-quality care within a specific patient population or clinical setting.