If you’ve ever considered a career change to the field of health care, you’ve probably wondered how to become a nurse. Although no two paths are the same, there are some basic steps you’ll need to follow to begin a career in nursing.
1. Research the Profession
The first thing you should do is learn all you can about what it’s like to be a nurse. For starters, you can talk to family or friends who have become nurses to learn about their experiences. Or if it’s feasible, you can take a volunteer or paid position as a nursing assistant or patient care tech to get a sense of what it’s like to work in a clinical environment.
Nursing is a demanding job, both physically and mentally. As a nurse, you’ll have a great deal of responsibility. And it’s important to understand the personal characteristics that the position requires. Are you compassionate, patient and a good communicator? Do you have a desire to care for others? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you’re off to a good start.
Although nursing is challenging, some irrefutable perks come with the profession. First, nursing pays well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May of 2020, the annual mean wage for nurses in the U.S. was $80,010.
Another benefit of a career in nursing is relative job security. Due to the aging and associated health concerns of the baby boomer generation, the increase in chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and the retirement of a growing number of nurses, there’s a shortage of registered nurses across the U.S. The recent pandemic has only underscored the deficit. This means that the field of nursing will continue to see steady growth. According to the BLS, registered nurse employment is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
2. Select the Nursing Degree That’s Right for You
It’s possible to become a registered nurse with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, a growing number of hospitals are only hiring nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
Now, more than ever, registered nurses are taking on leadership roles, making important patient care decisions, advocating for patient care and collaborating within cross-disciplinary teams. These responsibilities require the comprehensive preparation that a BSN program provides. And numerous studies have shown that hospitals with a greater percentage of BSN-educated nurses yield better patient outcomes — including lower readmission rates.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report called The Future of Nursing, which called for 80 percent of registered nurses to hold a BSN by 2020. This goal hasn’t yet been met, but the profession is moving in that direction. Some states, including New York, have instituted legislation requiring RNs to earn a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure.
In 2018, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) conducted a poll of more than 600 nursing schools regarding the hiring preferences of nurse employers. They found that 45.6 percent of employers require new hires to have a BSN, and 88.4 percent strongly prefer applicants with a BSN.
It’s important to note that if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, or you’ve accumulated at least 60 college credits, it’s not necessary to start a BSN program from the beginning. You have another option. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs like the one at Averett University in Norfolk, Virginia, let you leverage your prior coursework to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.
Did you know?
The Averett University ABSN program is the only program of its kind in Virginia that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree for admission.
3. Apply to an Accredited Program
Once you’ve decided to pursue a degree in nursing, it’s essential to select an accredited nursing program. This means that the program has been evaluated for quality and integrity. The two organizations responsible for accrediting nursing programs in the U.S. are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). It’s also important that the program you select has the approval of its state-specific board of nursing.
The baccalaureate degree program in nursing at Averett University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), 655 K Street NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, (202) 887-6791. And the Averett ABSN program has the initial approval of the Virginia Board of Nursing.
So you’ve chosen a degree and been accepted into an accredited program; let’s look at the next steps in how to become a nurse.
4. Complete Your Nursing Degree
Nursing school is not easy. Irrespective of which program you choose you should be prepared to devote your full attention to your studies. Many programs, including the ABSN program at Averett, warn against working while in nursing school.
A traditional BSN program typically takes 4 years to complete. However, if you already have 60 credits under your belt, you can opt to enroll in an ABSN program like the one at Averett. Our accelerated program employs a blended learning model, including online study, hands-on skills and simulation labs and in-person clinical placements.
As an added advantage, the Averett ABSN program offers three start dates per year — in January, May and August — with no waitlist. So you can get started on your studies sooner.
5. Pass the NCLEX-RN®
Once you’ve graduated from nursing school, you’re required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse. The exam assesses your understanding of various nursing topics — from ethical issues to symptoms of disease. If you don’t pass the NCLEX on your first try, you can retake it after 45 days. For reference, the first-time NCLEX pass rate for Averett University’s traditional BSN program in 2019 was 100 percent, while the national average pass rate was 91 percent.
If you’d like further information about how to become a nurse or the Averett ABSN program, contact us today. We’re here to answer your questions and guide you through every step of the application and enrollment process.