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Are you determined to become a nurse? Have you set your sights on this educational goal and nothing else will be sufficient? Do you seem to excel in the areas of mathematics and science? There are several different levels of a nursing career that you can attain; you can become a licensed practical nurse, a registered nurse, or a nurse practitioner. Of course, your specific nursing title will be directly related to the level of education that you complete. Although your specific duties will vary slightly depending upon which level of nursing you pursue, you can expect to be responsible for evaluating assigned patients and their medical plans, implementing nursing care and documenting what you performed into a patient’s chart, performing medical tests, administering medication as directed by a physician, and assisting a doctor during an examination or procedure. Depending upon your specific place of employment you may also be expected to help patients and their families understand conditions, medications, or skills for self-care. Find your nursing training program below to start on your dream.

In order to enter the field of nursing you will need a minimum of an associate’s degree in this field of study. Within this degree program you can expect to be required to completed classroom based instruction and clinical work that will take place in a real world healthcare environment. It is important to note that all of the instruction that you receive will be directly related to preparing you for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Within an associate’s degree program you can expect to be required to complete classes like nutrition, psychology, microbiology, foundations of nursing, and math for nursing.A bachelor’s degree program will consist of courses such as: pediatric nursing, nursing leadership, health assessments for adults, surgical nursing, and psychiatric nursing. Should you decide to pursue a graduate level degree in nursing you can expect similar coursework on a more advanced scale; you may also have the opportunity to choose an area of concentration. Take a few minutes and check out the schools that are shown on our site. If you see any that particularly interest you, feel free to request that they send you a complimentary information packet that will detail what they have to offer you as you work towards obtaining your degree. Regardless of whether you have completed an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree it will be possible for you to seek employment in a school system, in a clinic or nursing home, in outpatient centers, hospitals, or doctor’s offices, or as a home health nurse. We have helped 1000’s find the right school to receive their nursing degree, we can help you. Request information below form any of the nursing schools you find interesting and talk to them directly about your career goals.

Career Paths to Become a Nurse

Thinking about becoming a nurse? You would be joining an industry that's projected to grow about 16% between 2014 and 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks in large part to an aging population and increased access to healthcare. A whopping 84.8% of licensed nurses are employed in a nursing profession. It can be some of the most difficult, and also some of the most rewarding, work an individual can do for a living. Nursing requires a lot of compassion and dedication. Nurses often act as advocates for patients, delivering important information between patients and health care professionals. It also requires a good deal of critical thinking and time management skills. Individuals with a strong interest in medicine and science should consider nursing as a possibility. In this article, we will discuss the education and career paths required to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and registered nurse (RN) with brief descriptions of what each occupation entails.

What Does a Nursing Job Require

Certified nursing assistants are sometimes referred to as nursing assistants or nursing aids. They typically find employment in long-term care facilities and hospitals. No matter where they are employed, certified nursing assistants have the same general duties, though some state-level restrictions apply. Those duties include, but are not limited to:

• Measuring and recording a patient's vitals (temperature, blood pressure, weight)
• Serving meals and helping patients eat
• Activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or using the restroom
• Monitoring, recording, and reporting concerns voiced by the patients as it relates to their care
• Examining patients for injuries or wounds, such as bruises or bloody urine
• Cleaning and sanitizing patient areas, such as changing bed sheets or restocking restroom areas
• Transporting patients and helping them get in and out of bed, wheelchairs, etc.
• Being available on call for patients

In 2016, certified nursing assistants made a median salary of $26,590 and they occupied roughly 1.5 million jobs. Most worked full time and the largest majority of certified nursing assistants worked in skilled nursing facilities. Certified nursing assistants have a higher risk of injury because of the physically demanding nature of tasks, such as lifting patients.

Educational Programs to Become a CNA

Becoming a certified nursing assistant does not require graduation from a bachelor or associate's degree program like most other professions in the medical field, so it has a low barrier of entry. It does, however, require formal education in the form of an award or postsecondary certificate. These can be earned from technical schools, vocational colleges, and most community colleges. Sometimes, healthcare facilities will also offer a portion or an entire program to become a CNA. No matter the specifics of your training, all hopeful certified nursing associate's must pass a state administered exam to gain entry onto the state registry before they seek employment. In addition to education and exams, most states also require criminal background checks and continuing education.

The certification requirements to become a certified nursing assistant requires three main components: classes about nursing principles, the CNA exam, and clinical work. These programs typically take between one and three months to complete. The price of these programs varies widely state by state, since there are different credit hour requirements per state, but typically they are between $1,500-$4,500. Organizations like Red Cross may offer programs at lower costs from time to time in an effort to keep up with demand for more CNAs in the workforce. Below, we will cover the specifics of each component.

Educational Requirements – Becoming a certified nursing assistant requires the study of certain nursing principles in certified courses about core medical subjects. These programs are usually taught in a classroom setting and subjects typically covered in approved CNA programs include physiology, geriatrics, pharmacology, and pediatrics. Common skills learned in these programs are: collecting and recording patient data, reading and accurately recording vital signs, basic nutrition, first aid training, ethics and legal issues pertinent to the nursing field, and disease and infection control. Enrollment for these programs typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent and some require basic skills assessments as a part of their application.
Clinical Training – In addition to coursework, most states require hands-on training under the supervision of a registered nurse instructor. This is referred to as clinical training. The time required can vary from as little as 16 hours of clinical training (the federal minimum) to 100 hours of clinical training and it varies state by state. Training must be completed at a approved facility, usually a long-term care center or a hospital. It is meant as a time to demonstrate that the student can put their knowledge into practice. During the first week, it is common for prospective certified nursing assistants to shadow another certified nursing assistant. After the first week, the individual is usually assigned to exclusively provide care for one or two patients in order to demonstrate basic skills like feeding patients, bathing patients, or controlling infections. This clinical training is meant to prepare potential certified nursing assistants for the potential levels of need that they may come in contact with at different facilities as well as reinforcing procedure rather than cutting corners.
CNA Exam – The final step to being registered in a state's certified nursing assistant registry is the CNA exam. The exam consists of two main portions: a standardized written exam and a practical examination. The written exam is a standardized test that will cover topics learned in the program's classroom setting. Following the written exam, a practical exam is performed in front of a licensed state proctor. The practical exam is an opportunity to physically demonstrate basic care on a patient, who is usually played by an actor. The exam measures performance in basic skills routinely used by certified nursing assistants. The individual being tested may be asked to demonstrate anywhere between 21 and 30 skills in categories such as the proper use of restorative devices, mental health needs, personal care, or general nursing skills. For instance, an individual may be asked to demonstrate how to wash a patient's hands, how to assist a patient with a walking aid like a walker, or how to interact with mentally disabled patients.

Tips for the Practical Nursing Examination

Many potential certified nursing assistants get stressed out or easily discouraged by the prospect of having to stand in a room and demonstrate basic skills for a test proctor. The skills required of a certified nursing assistant are varied and cover a somewhat large range of topics and the test taker will not know which skills they'll be asked to demonstrate until they are taking the test. It is a good idea to practice every single skill before the test as much as possible, but once the test begins there are a few things a tester can do to reduce stress and give themselves every opportunity to succeed. Some testers like to talk their way through the test, talking to the test patient through every step to make sure they don't miss anything and do it all in correct order. Hopeful nursing assistants may feel compelled to do every action as fast as possible because they are nervous and want to get the test over with quickly. It is better to take the time to make sure each step is done correctly and it's important to keep in mind that it is okay to stop and take a breath if stress is starting to get to you. Doing so will not deduct points from your overall grade.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can be employed in hospitals, nursing homes, in-home care, and medical offices. In rare cases, they can also be employed with health insurance providers to help answer inquiries about what health services are needed. Regardless of where they hold their position, LPNs typically have the same duties, though some states place restrictions on these functions. Those duties include, but are not limited to:

• Recording a patient's medical history.
• Administering immunizations
• Administering injections
• Wound care such as bandaging and cleaning open wounds
• Measuring and recording a patient's vitals (temperature, blood pressure, weight)
• Administering medicine as prescribed by a doctor
• Inserting catheters
• Basic patient comfort, such as helping a patient get dressed, eat, or bathe

In 2016, licensed practical nurses made a median income of roughly $44,000 a year and they occupied about 720,000 jobs. Four out of five work full time, including nights, weekends, and holidays and sometimes they are required to work in shifts longer than eight hours.

Educational Programs to Become a LPN

Licensed practical nurses are also called licensed vocational nurses in California and Texas. Becoming a licensed practical nurse usually takes one to two years and there are two educational programs to get there. You may earn a diploma, sometimes referred to as a certificate, or an associate's degree. No matter which path you take, the final step will be passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).
• Diploma Program– This is usually the quickest way to get into the position, but if you are seeking a position beyond a licensed practical nurse, you might be out of luck. The credits gained in a diploma course may not go towards further education and advancement in some instances. In others, the credits can be applied to an associate's degree, so be sure to do your homework before choosing a program. These programs are typically offered by community colleges or vocational schools. Courses include topics like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, leadership, dosage calculating, and specialized curricula geared towards the care of children. The overall cost of this program is typically $10,000-$15,000 including books and clinical fees.
• Associate's Degree Program– An associate's degree in nursing typically takes two years, though it can take three years at some schools. These programs are offered at most community colleges and vocational schools. On top of being eligible to take the NCLEX-PN and apply for licensure, you'll also get the benefit of taking courses that can help you bridge the gap between being a LPN and a registered nurse (RN). Courses include the subjects above, as well as subjects such as psychology, humanities, and communications. In general, an associate's degree will give you a broader skill set to bring to the work force. The price of an associate's degree can greatly vary based on a number of factors, such as attending a public school vs. a private school.

Choosing What's Right for You

Both of these options are just fine and, in general, employers don't show much preference for one or the other. You'll just have to make the best decision for your personal career goals. If your goal is simply to become an LPN, getting a diploma or certificate is going to get you into the workforce and making money much faster. However, if you are planning on becoming a registered nurse or pursuing a four year degree, an associate's degree is going to get you much closer to your goal. Keep in mind that there are many LPN to RN “bridge” programs available as well, that will take your educational experience from the LPN certification and bridge the educational gap to get you qualified to become an RN, but the curriculum varies by state and by institution, so consult an academic advisor to understand this path more completely. Even if you don't go this route, there are still plenty of opportunities to take on a supervisor role as an LPN, oftentimes supervising a team of certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

How to Land the Nursing Job of your Dreams

Employers are typically looking for a set list of traits when they interview candidates to be LPNs in their establishments. They are looking for compassionate individuals that really care for the treatment of others. They are also looking for individuals that are detail-oriented as medical care often requires a regimented care schedule that must be strictly followed. It is important for an LPN to be personable so that they are able to effectively communicate with both patients and other health care professionals. Remember, they often serve as the go-between for both parties. Being able to demonstrate patience will also go a long way, as taking care of sick or injured people can often produce a very stressful work environment. Employers may also inquire about physical ability, since the position can require being on your feet and walking more than other professions. Certain positions may require you to help move individuals who are immobile as well.

Registered Nursing Program (RN)

Registered nurses work in a wide range of facilities, serving in a large number of roles and specializations, but the majority (roughly 61% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) work in hospitals. Registered nurses are responsible for performing many of the same duties as LPNs and CNAs, but they have a much larger role in educating patients and the public about various health initiatives and procedures. Specialized registered nurses can perform a vast number of duties, but all nurses perform the following:
• Supervising and directing other nursing or healthcare personnel
• Preparing patients for examinations
• Recording and monitoring patient medical histories and symptoms
• Creating and updating patient healthcare plans
• Educating patients and the public about how to care for illness and injuries
• Administering medications and treatments
• Operating and monitoring medical equipment

In 2016, registered nurses made a median salary of roughly $68,000 a year and they occupied about 2.8 million jobs. Roughly five out of six registered nurses work full-time, and they are often required to work holidays, weekends, and nights. In some cases, usually in facilities that operate 24 hours, registered nurses are required to be on-call for a period of 24 hours. Registered nurses often work longer than 8 hours in a shift, but there are some exceptions, like nurses that work in offices or schools. Nurses can be prone to back injuries because of the necessity to constantly bend, walk, and lift.

Educational Programs to Become a RN

There are three paths to becoming a registered nurse: a nursing diploma, an associate's degree in nursing, or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Following education, all hopeful registered nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Following the examination, hopeful nurses must obtain a state license, and that process varies state by state.

• Diploma – This is the traditional path to becoming a registered nurse. Graduates of an approved diploma program for registered nurses do not receive a college degree, however sometimes these programs are offered through accredited colleges and universities, so college credits can be received for certain courses. The program may also be offered through a hospital. Subjects covered include biology, social science, chemistry, healthcare law and ethics, patient care, and nutrition. The diploma programs incorporate hands-on clinical instruction, as do the other options, but diploma programs typically provide more of this type of training. These programs can take anywhere between one and three years and, in general, they are cheaper options than associate's or bachelor's degree programs. This option is best reserved for those that want to get into the workforce quickly at an entry-level position, but advancement will require further education and training.
• Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) – Choosing to pursue an associate's degree in nursing will take a little more time than a diploma program in general, but it will provide more classroom learning. In addition to the subjects above, this route will include classes in medical administration, healthcare informatics, and more focus on the legal and ethical issues in the nursing profession. Associate's programs take 2-3 years to complete and they are most often offered by community colleges or similar accredited educational institutions. Upon completion of an associate's degree, aspiring registered nurses may find that employers prefer candidates with a bachelor of science in nursing degree, however there are many “RN-to-BSN programs” available to help holders of associate's degrees achieve a bachelor's degree as they continue to work. A certified ADN program will cost anywhere from roughly $6,000-$20,000+ depending on a wide range of factors, like attending a public or private school and the location of that school.
• Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – Earning a bachelor of science in nursing can lead to access to higher level and higher paying jobs than then the other options. Bachelor degree programs are offered through accredited colleges and universities and include all the above subjects as well as subjects regarding nursing theory, liberal arts, leadership, and critical thinking. Earning a bachelor's degree can prepare future registered nurses to take roles in consulting, teaching, and research. A bachelor's of science in nursing degree typically takes 3-4 years to complete, though there are accelerated programs available for people who already possess bachelor's degrees in similar fields. These programs can take 12-20 months to complete. A BSN degree can cost between $40,000-$200,000 on average. The large variance can be attributed to different costs associated with completing the program at a private or public institution and the state in which the program is located.

Nursing Specialization and Advancement

The nursing profession offers a ton of opportunity for specialization and advancement. Though many in the nursing profession are hired on as staff nurses, good performance can lead to promotions to management positions such as head nurse, charge nurse, and nurse managers. Further promotions can lead to titles such as assistant director of nursing, director of nursing, or vice president of nursing. In addition to being promoted on the job, there are opportunities to specialize through education. Just a small example of available specializations include certified nurse midwife, genetics nursing, dialysis nursing, critical care nursing, certified registered nurse anesthetist, and ambulatory care nursing. Continuing education programs are popular in nursing because of the vast areas in which registered nurses can specialize. These niche occupations often pay more than average, but most if not all require a BSN degree as a prerequisite.


Nursing Program Levels