Originally Posted: May 4, 2012
Last Updated: May 11, 2016
So you decided you want to become a nurse.... Now what?
Making the decision to become a nurse can be a difficult process. You know it’s a profession that is rewarding because you get to help people on a daily basis. You also know it’s a more technical path than some careers, and you’ll need to work hard to learn the information you need to know when you have people’s lives in your hands. The following steps show you how to become a nurse.
1. To know your academic path, know your career path
There are multiple schooling avenues that lead to becoming a nurse. You could go to school for an L.P.N. (Licensed Practical Nurse) degree and be done in a year. This path is the most basic and it means your job opportunities could be restricted to basic jobs. You could also go for an A.D.N. (Associate Degree in Nursing). This degree usually takes two years and is more advanced than the L.P.N. In many hospitals, you will have more jobs to choose from if you finish your L.P.N. degree. Lastly, you can get a B.S.N. (Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing). The B.S.N. is similar to many other four-year degrees and will open up even more job opportunities. Nurses with a B.S.N. are also eligible to continue with their education to become an advanced practice registered nurses.
This step is also the time to decide what school you will be attending. The factors that affect your decision can run from the type of degrees offered to the availability of scholarships for students. Each school should be evaluated to find out whether it fits into your overall education and career goals. When you have a list of acceptable schools, it is usually prudent to apply to multiple options in case you don’t get your first choice. When you hear back, you can decide which option is best for you to enroll in.
2. Study and determine your area of expertise
After you get into school, the work really begins. You will be expected to spend time learning about theory in the classroom, and you will also get time to experience the real-world aspects of nursing. It’s important to do well in your studies, just like any other school setting. This is also the time when you will be able to hone in on an area of expertise you want to focus on in your nursing career.
You will quickly learn what areas of medicine you like the most. You might find yourself enjoying your time with children, which means a career in pediatrics might be for you. Alternatively, you might be more interested in a more specialized area like psychiatric nursing. There are dozens of areas you could get into, and some of your classes will focus on helping you decide what’s right for you. Once you pick a focus, you can tailor your schooling to fit that interest to some degree.
3. Take the test and find a job
When you’re done with school you have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX. Much of your studying in school will be tailored to help you pass this exam. The exam is made of mostly (or all, in some cases) multiple-choice questions about various topics in nursing. Some versions also include long-form questions. Passing the exam is a requirement before you can become a registered nurse and get hired at a hospital.
Once you pass the exam, it’s time to find a job. You can start your search on boards like those available online. You can also visit the places you would like to work to find out about job openings from the HR staff or job board. Finding a job in nursing can be somewhat difficult, but it’s actually an area where jobs are growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow 26% from 2010 to 2020. This is much faster than the expected growth of 14% for all occupations on average.
4. Get to work
It might take some time, but eventually you’ll get some interest from the jobs you applied for. You will go through an interview process to make sure the job is a good fit. This is your time to ask any questions and find out about things like benefits and salary. When you’re ready, it’s time to formally accept a job offer and get to work!
Entry-level nursing jobs can come in many different forms. You might work the night shift or in a high-volume area before you can move your way up into some more senior positions. Whatever you do, be prepared to work hard. As Minority Nurse reported in this article, general turnover rates for new nurses are between 35% and 61%. Nursing is a difficult career choice, but it’s rewarding for the people who stick around.
The path to nursing can be difficult, but with the right plan, you’ll meet your goals before you know it.